Mental Health During COVID-19: Tips to Manage Stress and Fear

Two of the most paralyzing emotions we face with actionable items to best manage them

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Photo Credit: The VIBE Mindset
Photo Credit: The VIBE Mindset

In this article we will provide a brief overview of the dramatic impact COVID-19 has had on our mental health, the emotional challenges we face, and recommend action items to best manage two of the most paralyzing emotions our nation faces.

The Dramatic Impact of COVID-19 on Our Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic is set to have the biggest impact on modern day mental health.

A study conducted in late June 2020 revealed over 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse.

This article will discuss how to best manage the emotions all of us have felt ,at one point or another, during the pandemic.

Let’s discuss the two most paralyzing emotions felt during the pandemic, offering simple, yet effective strategies to best manage each of them.

Tips to Manage Stress During COVID-19

Helping manage the stress of family members can make it difficult for us to focus on managing our own stress.

“You can’t help others, until you help yourself.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic this statement holds true.

Use the tips below to feel less anxious, and be better prepared to help those around you.

Action Item #1 to Manage Stress – Shift your attention

Where you place your attention is where you place your energy.

If you place your focus on news, death tolls, and infection rates, it’s almost impossible to not feel stressed.

Limit the amount of time you consume this information to 15-30 minutes per day.

Shift your attention to things you often thought about before the pandemic.

Here’s how to do it.

Set hourly phone reminders – Set an hourly reminder that displays one simple question.

“Whatcha thinking about?”

Pondering your response is the easiest way to become aware of where you’re actively focusing your attention.

Focus on thoughts that serve you such as:

  • “What’s a great meal I can cook tonight?”
  • “Who can I send an uplifting message to?”
  • “What’s been the highlight of my day?”

You control where your place your attention, shift it to where it serves you best.

Action Item #2 to Manage Stress Elevate your emotional state

Focus on feeling more enjoyable emotions than the one’s you’re feeling now.

Joy, excitement, and gratitude are great feelings to choose.

Since your body (where feelings exist) doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined, let’s put your imagination to good use.

Start by activating the acronym, “VIBE.”

For example, choose the feeling of happiness and use the “VIBE” mindset to shift your emotional state:

  • V – Verbalize it!“I’m becoming overwhelmed with happiness.”
  • I – Imagine it!“I see this weekend so vividly in my mind.”
  • B – Believe it! “I’m feeling happy just thinking about it.”
  • E – Experience it! “I feel so happy right now!”

Using the power of “The VIBE Mindset” you’re able to quickly shift your emotional state to a more favorable one in less than 1-3 minutes.

Tips to Manage Fear During COVID-19

The fear of what could happen when faced with a new disease, such as COVID-19, is very powerful and can paralyze those without a strategy to combat it.

Fear is an emotion which can take over control of our lives.

“The most effective way to manage fear, is to shift your perspective on it.”

Dr. Jay Cavanaugh

The tips below offer powerful strategies to overcoming the tremendous fear COVID-19 has brought into the homes of us all.

Action Item #1 to Manage Fear Choose concern over worry

Let’s start by defining the small, yet powerful differences between worry and concern.

  • Worry – Thinking about the unknown many times a day, replaying the same thoughts over and over with no significant change in the thought.
  • Concern – Thinking about the unknown thoroughly on one occasion and only revisiting the thought when new information or ideas arise.

Worrying about the same exact thoughts time and time again is what fuels feelings of stress and anxiety.

Shut down the fuel line, and you shut down your stress.

Shifting your mindset to that of concern, acknowledges the issues in front of you while devising the best plan to manage them.

Action Item #2 to Manage Fear – Choose faith over fear

There are two lenses to choose from when thinking about your future.

Be aware of the lens you choose to look through and always shift to the lens of faith.

  • The Lens of Fear “I’m unsure what my future holds, yet I believe things will go wrong.”
  • The Lens of Faith“I’m unsure what my future holds, yet I believe things will go well.”

You can’t predict your future so why not think more positively about it?

Your thoughts carry energy so place them on a brighter future.

If you need immediate help dial 911 or call Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Hotline: 1-800-985-5990.

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