Top Three Tips For Handling Coronavirus Stress

By Jamie Sussel Turner ~

There’s no question that Coronavirus is stressing us out. At times it feels like this ever-changing situation is one big stress test!

Fear, uncertainty, and worry are infecting us—way ahead of the virus.

As the virus spreads, I see a new form of cancel culture emerging—the canceling of our plans. Whether it’s a long-awaited trip, joyful wedding, semester abroad, professional conference, sporting event, or large group gathering nearly everyone is faced with deep disappointment.

This adds a whole new meaning to the term “cancel culture” which currently refers to boycotting public figures due to various objectionable behavior.

It feels like we’re canceling life with all of these changes.

So, what does it take to maintain some measure of peace and calm—and still joyfully live our lives—during this pandemic?

Here are my top three tips to help you stay calm and carry on:

Tip #1: Spot and Shift Stressful Thoughts: Think of your mind like one big stress-catcher (like those Native American dream-catchers). As each stressful thought arises spot it, pause and choose a calmer way to think. Here’s an example:

    • My original thought: Oh no, I just had dinner with a friend who learned a coworker’s daughter tested positive for the virus.
    • My calmer thought: I took every precaution possible. We sat far apart in a relatively empty restaurant. While transmission could happen, it’s not likely. And if I do get the virus I have excellent medical care available.

Tip #2: Manage Your Decision-Making Stress: Making decisions can really ramp up our stress. My husband and I just postponed a long-awaited river cruise. We’ve been back and forth on whether or not to go for a few weeks. Now that the decision is made, as disappointed as I am, I feel a greater sense of calm. Here are a few more tips:

    • Don’t put off your decision. The longer your decision lingers the more stress you will experience as you sit with uncertainty.
    • Don’t look back. You may or may not get it right. But, remember you’re doing the best you can with the information you have. So try not to ruminate or second guess yourself.
    • Manage your disappointment. Your happiness will likely take a hit with your canceled plans. When it comes to vacations, according to a study done in The Netherlands, the largest boost in happiness comes from the act of planning a vacation. Anticipating a vacation boosted happiness for eight weeks! This study showed that we derive more happiness from planning a trip than from the trip itself. So, look ahead and plan something fun, even if it’s a day trip to a park or other outdoor space. Make sure you have something to look forward to.

Tip #3: Practice Gratitude: There is a growing body of research on gratitude which shows many positive benefits. In one study with college students, researchers found that students who were higher in gratitude were less stressed and less depressed. Here are my gratitude tips:

    • Keep your gratitude practice simple. Practice gratitude every day. You could even think of one thing you’re grateful for each time you wash your hands!
    • Jot your gratitude. Writing about gratitude has been shown to be especially helpful. Use your phone or small notebook and pick the same time each day to capture your thoughts. This will help make gratitude a consistent practice.
    • Here’s an example. Even though I’m feeling disappointed with the cancellation of my river cruise here’s what I’m also grateful for: I’m grateful that I may have avoided being quarantined on a cruise ship. I’m grateful the cruise company is giving us an opportunity to reschedule our trip. I’m grateful that my husband is our in-house “travel agent” and taking care of these changing plans.

In addition to these tips, remember that laughter helps us release stress hormones. So, here’s one of my favorite videos from the band OK Go, along with a powerful message for these trying times. Enjoy!

As we all face Coronavirus, it’s my wish that we continue to joyfully live our lives. I’m getting outside every day for some fresh air and a walk or bike ride. The outdoors always helps maintain my sanity and relieves my stress. I’ve stocked up on some great reads and am about to dive into Gray’s Anatomy on Netflix. During my years as principal I never had time for this show. I’m also scheduling video chats in place of in-person visits.

Mostly I’m over-focusing on what I can control (hand washing etc..) and under-focusing on what I can’t control (whether or not I’ll get sick).

And don’t forget that our immune systems function better when we are less stressed.

So, I’d say that by catching and shifting your stressful thoughts, managing your decision-making stress, and practicing gratitude you can choose to keep the Coronavirus from infecting your life. What would you say?

Less Stress Life front cover NEWJPGFor more tips on living with less stress now is a great time to check out my award-winning  book (currently on sale on Amazon): Less Stress Life: How I Went from Crazed to Calm and You Can Too

And don’t forget my first book: Less Stress Business: Your Guide for Hiring, Coaching, and Leading a Great Team