15 Strategies for Coping with COVID-19 Anxiety

Young man displaying anxiety

These are challenging times. The ongoing sense of uncertainty and insecurity caused by COVID-19 is having a big impact on our mental health, which is an important part of our overall health.

I want to help people avoid making things worse for themselves and their families.

To that end, I have put together an in-depth resource in the form of a 55-minute video to help people understand and reduce their anxious distress around COVID-19.

In the video, I distill my knowledge and experience from 30 years of helping people cope with and, at times, even overcome their anxiety and self-defeating behaviours.

I explain anxiety and practical things viewers can do to feel and behave in more mentally healthy ways. I offer strategies on how to cope.

Topics covered in the video include:

  1. Mental health issues associated with COVID-19 anxiety
  2. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Model (CBT): Understanding what anxiety is and how it affects us
  3. Safety behaviour: How we can make ourselves feel worse
  4. How to cope with anxiety more effectively using CBT
  5. Compassion for ourselves and others
  6. Focusing on what is in our control
  7. Changing what we think
  8. Changing what we do
  9. Practical things to try for coping with COVID-19 anxiety
  10. Summary

15 coping strategies that I discuss in the video include:

  1. Start with self-compassion and compassion for others
  2. Practice acceptance and recognize that things are uncertain and difficult
  3. Understand what is in our control — our thoughts and our behaviour
  4. Tips for changing our thinking:
    – Change focus and perspective
    – Stop dwelling on the worst-case scenario
    – Separate actual facts from emotional interpretations
    – Move away from emotional reasoning
    – Consciously choose to focus on the positives
  5. Thought-stopping and replacement:
    – Substitute a negative obsessive thought with a positive obsessive thought
    – Compete with the worry thought
    – After saying STOP, immediately distract your attention to something else
    – Consciously refocus back on the task you were doing when the anxious thoughts began
  6. Practice gratitude:
    – Keep a gratitude journal
    – Write thank you notes
  7. Tips for changing what we do:
    – Interrupt self-defeating behaviour
    – Get and keep active — take action
    – Break down behavioural goals into manageable pieces i.e. S.M.A.R.T. goals
    – Use the 5-minute rule — try an activity for 5 minutes
    – Choose activities that: captivate interest; are pleasant or entertaining; provide a sense of accomplishment; fit with your values
  8. Stay connected with others:
    – Choose people you feel safe with
    – Check in on those you are concerned about
  9. Limit time spent on media and reduce access to bad news
  10. Consume COVID-19 information only from credible sources
  11. Get as much sunlight, fresh air, and nature as possible
  12. Set up a routine
  13. Make space in your head and body — breathe, meditate, relax
  14. Be creative
  15. Use humour

Additional Resources

In these uncertain times many people are stepping up to help make things better. This video is my contribution honouring the efforts of many others, especially those who are on the front lines of our health care system, as well as others who are keeping us safe, teaching our children, sustaining our daily needs, and entertaining us. Thanks, as well, to those of you who are being heroic in your home, on the phone, and online.

Take good care of yourselves and those you care about. Wash your hands, practice social distancing, and embrace self-compassion for your mental health.

We are not alone. We are all in this together.

Mary Thomson, MSW, RSW, RP, is a registered psychotherapist and social worker in Toronto, Ontario. She has 30 years of professional experience helping distressed clients overcome anxiety and cope with other mental health issues.

Photo by Fernando on Unsplash


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