Self-care is difficult during the time of Coronavirus. From both a personal and a professional perspective, it’s especially challenging to stay mentally fit in the face of such an existential foe. Here, then, in no particular order, are 14 tips on how to manage the stress we’re all facing and still contribute positively at work and to the world at large.

#1: Meditate, meditate, meditate.

Sometimes the best way to start a new day is with intentions for calm and peacefulness—a mindfulness meditation. A study from Yale University found that this kind of deep thinking decreases activity in the part of the brain responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts. You can meditate on your own or with the help of any number of apps, such as Shine, Headspace, or others.

#2: Limit news consumption.

While everyone should stay abreast of what’s happening regarding the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, too much news can be a bad thing. One famous study indicates our anxiety levels stay heightened even after a brief newscast. Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, said it can be helpful to set aside a certain amount of time to watch the news. “You might decide one 30-minute segment is plenty,” she said. “Then engage in a relaxation activity when you’re done.”

#3: Practice self-compassion.

You are not a robot, you’re human. This means sometimes you will fail. Many psychologists believe that recognizing this and embracing it is an act of self-compasison. During the pandemic it basically means forgiving yourself for not keeping up with pre-Coronavirus routines.

#4: Breathe deeply through stressful times.

It’s easy to get caught up in stressful moments—especially during a global pandemic. One of the best ways to rise above this anxiety: Deep-breathing. Deep, or yogic, breaths help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which works to relax your body. According to the Mayo Clinic, this may help ease symptoms of stress-related disorders and mental health conditions such as anxiety, general stress, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

#5: Focus on just one thing.

With so many bits and pieces of information vying for our attention at any given time, it’s hard to fight the inclination to do more than one thing simultaneously, or to multi-task. Yet neuroscience research demonstrates that doing multiple things at once is rarely efficient or emotionally satisfying. To overcome this tendency, deploy strategies such as checking email in batches, sign off Slack, or hide your phone for periods of time. Especially while you’re working from home, establishing these boundaries can be critical to get important tasks finished.

#6: Give your body what it needs.

Even if you’re sleeping more than you usually do, listen to your body and give it what it’s craving. Nerina Ramlakhan, Ph.D., a sleep therapist and author of Fast Asleep, Wide Awake, said sheltering-in-place is, in a sense, recalibrating our routines and could be prompting our bodies to require more rest.

#7: Try to avoid screens at night.

We’re all spending more time on screens now that we’re living at home full-time. While this can help us feel connected, the blue light from the screens can create problems. Some studies suggest a link between exposure to this light and some types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. A recent report from Harvard Medical School said even dim light can interfere with a person’s circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion. A mere eight lux—a level of brightness exceeded by most table lamps and about twice that of a night light—has an effect, notes Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher.

#8: Keep score.

Checking in with yourself about how you’re feeling physically and mentally is always a good idea. Jessica Carroll, director of programs at Positive Images, a support, advocacy and education organization that supports a LGBTQIA+ community in Northern California, suggests starting each day by taking stock of your “P.I. Levels.” These self-rating readouts quantify on a scale of 1-10 how you are doing physically (the P) and internally (the I). Think of them like a numerical status update that can help you understand what to expect from yourself every day.

#9: Seek newness.

With everyone working from home and repeating the same experience day after day, it is easy for even the most well-adjusted among us to get into a rut. One strategy to avoid this? Embracing something new. According to Sarah L. Hagerty, a research affiliate at the Stanford University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, anything to break up a routine and introduce a new reward will spark excitement. “Whether you set up workstation in another location of your house or take a new street on your evening walk, you’ll appreciate something different,” she said.

#10: Change your critical self-talk.

One way to stay calm and focused during difficult times is to recite words of encouragement you’ve devised for these very occasions. Dr. Kristin Neff, co-founder of the Center for Mindful Self Compasison in Austin, Texas, has advised patients to cultivate a coping voice when times get tough, and to recite positive mantras to stay centered. The mantras can be simple: “I am strong, I am human, I am OK.” She has said it doesn’t matter if you write down these mantras or if you recite them in your head—so long as you go through the process of creating them.

#11: Seek help from the experts.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently approved COVID Coach, a new app that seeks to help make things a little easier for those currently struggling with stress, anxiety and depression related to the pandemic. The app features a variety of mental health resources including mood trackers and advice on how to manage financial stress and balance parenting with other responsibilities. It was designed by a quartet of researchers out of Northern California, and is available for free download for both Apple and Android operating systems.

#12: Minimize alcohol intake.

Reports over the first six weeks of the pandemic indicate that alcohol sales have skyrocketed. This is concerning. While alcohol use can temporarily relieve negative feelings, it also can lead to increased anxiety and depression the next day. Carmen Schmidt Benedetti, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Northern California said it’s important to focus on what you can control. “The only thing you can truly control is your own actions and behaviors,” she said. “You will not able to help others if you are not taking care of yourself.”

#13: Embrace the EAP.

There is growing popularity of stress and wellness programs at companies around the world, but few address issues such as stigma and company culture. A recent study from the American Psychiatric Association’s Center for Workplace Mental Health indicated utilization rates of common resources like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are as low as 4.5 percent. Many of these programs offer free or discounted therapy. If you’re lucky enough to hold on to your job during this trying time, inquire about your firm’s EAP and what sort of benefits are available to you.

#14: Find personal space.

Getting alone time during this pandemic can be difficult, especially if you’re sheltering-in-place with a partner and/or family. Yet research seems to suggest alone time can be beneficial for sparking creativity and re-establishing a sense of self. A private space, whether it’s a bedroom with a door or a quiet corner in the living room, allows us to be more creative. In addition to boosting creativity, solitude also skyrockets productivity. Other studies indicate people perform better when they have privacy.

Last Updated: Apr 29, 2020