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COVID-19: More Essential Coping Strategies

Published on Apr. 30, 2020

Healthy food coping COVID-19 Munson Healthcare

Isolation from loved ones. Canceled events and outings. Working from home — or perhaps working less or not at all. Fear of contracting an illness that ranges from mild to dangerous. The COVID-19 crisis has affected all of us in some way, and it’s nearly impossible not to feel some form of stress.

In part one of our Essential COVID-19 Coping Strategy series, we explored the importance of acknowledging your stress, followed by six essential ways to cope. Hear from Dr. Lucido of Munson Healthcare for some important coping strategies.

Below, we include six more coping strategies, developed with the help of Scott Wagner, MSW and Executive Director of Behavioral Health at Munson Healthcare.

Feed Your Body Good Foods

Adding in some more nourishing foods to your diet can make a surprising impact on the way you cope with stress. “Support your body so that it can support you,” says Tara Rybicki, a registered dietitian and our Community Health Coordinator at Munson Healthcare. Certain essential nutrients can feed our brains what they need to function optimally, which also means an improved ability to manage stress. Those essential nutrients include:

  • Omega-3s (think salmon, sardines, tuna, flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts)
  • Magnesium (add more pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, avocados, almonds, bananas, beans and lentils, and leafy greens)
  • B Vitamins (include more whole grains, meat, eggs, dark green veggies like broccoli, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, like sunflower seeds)
  • Zinc (meat, shellfish like shrimp, eggs, beans and lentils, nuts like peanuts and almonds, potatoes, dark chocolate)
  • A probiotic and/or prebiotic. If you are able to add either a probiotic, prebiotic, or both do your daily “dos”, these can work wonders for gut health and help regulate any digestive upset you may be experiencing due to stress.

Reach Out to Others

One feel-good way to take your mind off of your own worries is to reach out and connect with someone else. And there’s a special emotional bonus if it’s someone you know is in need of some extra social time, such as an elderly loved one or neighbor, someone you care about who isn’t plugged into social media and other technology and could use a nice phone call, or maybe a friend or relative you haven’t had time to connect with in a while.

Some advice before you reach out: avoid the temptation to text this person, advises Scott. A text can be a quick way to indicate you are thinking about someone, but a phone call or video chat is much more personal, in part because you will likely share more through talking than by texting. Calling or connecting via video (such as Zoom, Facetime or Google Hangout) also naturally promotes real-time connection between people rather than a text which can go unanswered for hours or days.

Plugged-in Parenting

If you’re a parent working from home or spending more time at home during the shutdown order, embrace the extra time you have with your children. Kids may be feeling just as stressed or scared as we do, so focusing on connecting with them is really important. One way to connect is by engaging in more active kids’ activities — rather than focusing solely on more passive pastimes like movies or mobile device games. These meaningful activities can include reading books, coloring, playing games or doing puzzles, throwing a ball around the backyard, or riding bikes if you can safely social distance yourselves.

As for talking about COVID-19 around your kiddos, it’s okay and even recommended to be upfront with your children in an age-appropriate way about our current reality. Scott reminds us to consider the important role we play in our children’s eyes. “Remember that kids are watching us adults and will take cues from our attitudes about COVID-19.” he says.

As you talk with your children about any questions or worries they may have, give reassurance that you are here for them. One way to really reinforce that point is to focus on the new things you have time for rather than expressing frustration about the things that you may be unable to do, Scott shares.

“If they directly ask about frustrations, such as reduced hours at work, reassure them that these are all problems that can be worked through,” Scott says. “For example, it may be age appropriate to share that parents save money along the way so that if they are out of work, there is still money for important things.”

Take Deep Breaths

Taking in slower and more thoughtful breaths is so simple — and accessible from anywhere, any time — that it might seem trivial. But breath is an incredibly powerful way to feel calmer.

“Even just 30 seconds of breathing in and out can make a significant difference,” says Scott. “Breathing like this does a couple of things. One, we have to pause to do it. By pausing, we are making a break from our anxiety of the moment instead of letting it build and build. In addition important core body measures like heart rate and blood pressure have been shown to decrease by taking deep breaths.”

Get Moving

If movement isn’t typically a part of your daily routine, you might consider adding it to your list of things to do. After all, moving as opposed to sitting or lounging just makes you feel better!

Scott suggests making a goal to move around twice daily. Establishing a set time each day can be helpful in keeping you motivated. Maybe this means squeezing in a walk or bike ride before lunch each day, or setting the clock for 15-20 minutes to do some chores around the house.

“Even just the act of pausing from COVID news or the daily email onslaught stops the buildup of stress, at least for a time,” Scott says.

If you can’t get outside, you can still move around. Maybe you revisit your old exercise DVD or VHS collection and reminisce with old workout pals like Jane Fonda or Abs of Steel. There are many free fitness videos available on YouTube, through channels like FitnessBlender’s, that can keep you motivated. Or, get inspired with these 10 Home Workout ideas.

Find the Silver Lining

If you like to find meaning behind life’s circumstances and curveballs, take some time to explore any personal lessons you can find in the situation. For example, maybe spending more time with your children or partner has helped you to realize how much you cherish this time and need to make space for it once life returns to normal. Or perhaps staying home has inspired you to realize that solitary or home-based hobbies are incredibly important and something you vow to have in your life moving forward.

Taking some time to reflect on any positive discoveries you may have made can help you to make the most of this crisis and even find a sense of peace. 

Show Your Support

Staying home is playing a huge role, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Your sacrifice helps slow the spread.

There are many other ways to help out from home if you’re feeling inspired. This can include supporting local businesses through online purchases or pick-up orders, checking in (via a phone call, email, or maintaining a safe six-foot distance) with elderly neighbors or people who live alone, or sending a heartfelt thank you to a local hero. Check out some of the many ways to show your support for our heroes at Munson Healthcare, whether thanking our healthcare workers or sharing a kind note with a patient.

As hard as it may be to imagine life returning to normal, this crisis is a temporary one. ­As best as you can, stay focused on things you can control –­­ such as moving more, reaching out to others, and taking deep breaths – rather than letting the uncertainties consume the majority of your thoughts. Incorporating some of these expert coping strategies may even enrich your life in ways you would have never thought otherwise, both now and in the future.

Help is Available 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free, confidential, 24/7 emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Call or text 988 and speak to a counselor today.