Coping with Pandemic-Related Stress Amidst the Uncertainty

Stories, know-how, and guidance from the experts in educating boys.

Coping with Pandemic-Related Stress Amidst the Uncertainty
Dr. Dan Martin, Clinical Psychologist at Avon Old Farm School

Coping with Pandemic-Related Stress Amidst the Uncertainty 

Unfortunately, things remain uncertain for the upcoming months. This can lead to a variety of emotions including anxiety, depression, indecision, and limited coping resources. Please realize that most people are pretty stressed right now and may have short fuses. 

There was an article published this spring by the American Psychological Association that discusses coping with COVID-19-related stress as an undergraduate and graduate student, but I think all of us can benefit from some of these suggestions. 

Here are the main points from the article with changes made specific to our community at Avon Old Farms, the private CT school for boys, and the current situation. 

You are getting ready to return to school—either on-campus or online. Many things remain uncertain. You are trying to adjust to the new normal that changes daily. You are probably feeling anxious, sad, and uncertain. These feelings are normal. And there are ways to lessen your stress.

1. Practice self-care

Basic self-care will keep your immune system strong and your emotional reserves full. Get enough sleep. Exercise regularly. Eat well. Try mindfulness apps or practice mindfulness with Avon Old Farms' own Mr. Custer at our virtual vista setting.

Find activities that engage different parts of yourself. Do something physical like working out. Occupy your mind with puzzles. Look for tasks you can postpone or simply eliminate from your to-do list.

2. Find ways to focus 

You might feel unmotivated now. Recognize that the current circumstances are hard for everyone. Don’t judge yourself; just do the best you can.

Establish a routine. Get up, go to bed, and do your work at the same time every day. Frequent breaks can help you re-engage in your work.

Try to create a separate workspace, although you should reserve your sleeping area for sleeping. 

3. Seek out social support 

Continue to reach out to others to decrease feelings of isolation. Have social distancing meetings with family and friends. 

4. Help others cope 

Others are anxious, too. You don’t have to fix their problems. It’s enough to let them know they’re not alone.

5. Find ways to manage disappointment 

Many important events may not happen in the upcoming year. 

Grieve those losses, then reframe how you think about these life events. Think about how you can honor what you’ve achieved. Find new ways to celebrate. Consider recreating important events once it’s safe.

6. Limit your media consumption

Of course, it’s good to stay informed, especially about what’s happening in your area.

But too much news — especially social media — can add to your anxiety. To avoid being overwhelmed, set limits on your media consumption and smartphone use. Cut through misinformation by relying on reputable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

7. Focus on things you can control 

Others may be disobeying the rules about physical distancing or doing other things that add to your stress.

While modeling good behavior and staying safe yourself, recognize that you can’t control what other people do. You can only control your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Another thing you can’t control? The uncertainty about what comes next. Instead of worrying about our ambiguous future, focus on solving immediate problems.

About the Author

Dan Martin

Clinical Psychologist