Coping with Covid-19

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Article composed by Fran Exley, LPC. Clinical Case Manager at the Georgia Tech Counseling Center. Sources cited below. 

The contents of this article are drawn from an existing outreach presentation, which has been shared with various Georgia Tech groups, both staff and students- both undergraduate and graduate. As parents of Georgia Tech students, we hope that this information will be both informative and encouraging to you as you seek to support your student. The Georgia Tech Counseling Center, along with the other myriad mental health and well-being resources on campus are here to assist during this challenging time. 

Stress is inevitable but not an inherently bad thing. Any effort to completely eliminate stress in our lives will be futile. But stress can be motivating. And in fact, there are two types of stress: eustress and distress. Eustress is short-term and perceived as within the scope of our coping abilities; it can even feel exciting and motivate us to act and has the potential to improve our performance. Distress, on the other hand, causes anxiety and concern and is perceived to be outside the scope of our ability to cope. It may be either short- or long-term, but regardless of its duration, it feels unpleasant and does not spur us toward improved performance. Distress can lead to mental or physical problems. 

As COVID-19 is a physical illness itself, it is inherently stressful. When we are feeling less than 100% whether due to a virus, infection, flare-up of a chronic illness, or an injury, our mental health may suffer. This is understandable and normal. 

Most of us do not have data from similar past experiences to draw on to inform our decisions at this time. So there is space to give ourselves mercy; it is ok that we do not know exactly how to handle this situation. We shouldn’t necessarily know because we don’t have a precedent. We will not all experience stress in the same way or need to cope in the same way. What I find stressful, you may not, and vice-versa.

As we think about how to mitigate risk and how we will operate in this current environment, we may do well to shift our perspective. We often think about safety as an all-or-nothing issue. Each decision we make to reduce risk helps. Each time we wear a mask, we’re adding to the cumulative efforts to decrease risk. When we socialize outside instead of inside, stay six feet away from others, wash our hands, and avoid large gatherings we contribute to increasing safety and reducing risk for others and ourselves. Every decision we make towards safety and away from unnecessary risk matters. 

For those of us who have made a commitment to reduce risk, we may find ourselves angry with those we feel are not contributing to a culture of safety. We may rage against those who resist wearing a mask. But do we take time to be grateful for all of those people who do wear one.

Managing stress is truly a practice – you wouldn’t show up to a sports game when the stakes are higher and there’s extra pressure without having practiced. The more you practice skills like deep breathing (which triggers the parasympathetic nervous response to decrease heart rate and respiration rate) when you aren’t stressed, the more reliable they are when you encounter a stressful moment. Practicing makes a difference!

Steps to manage stress in times of uncertainty:

  • Acknowledge the uncertainty itself. Uncertainty is uncomfortable, but when we acknowledge that there is much we do not know, we can feel less pressured to have everything figured out and more able to adjust when the situation evolves or changes.
  • Establish a routine or rhythm and stick to it. Routine can help reduce stress levels by providing structure, helping us manage our time better, and maintaining healthy eating and sleep patterns. 
  • Make time for solitude. Solitude allows you to reboot your brain and recharge; improves concentration and productivity; provides time for deep thinking. 
  • Reach out to others to increase emotional connection. Social connection is critical for our survival, especially in a time when we are more physically isolated. Isolation can be a risk factor, so maintaining significant relationships and spending time with others in a safe and healthy way has the power to bolster your mental health. 
  • Meditation/Mindfulness. To live mindfully is to live in the moment and reawaken oneself to the present, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. To be mindful is to observe and label thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body in an objective manner. Mindfulness can therefore be a tool to avoid self-criticism and judgment while identifying and managing difficult emotions. 
  • Avoid information overload
    • With news and social media, create parameters for yourself. If you know that mindlessly scrolling headlines or Twitter can lead to feelings of exhaustion or upset, limit your time. 
  • Move your body. Studies show that exercise is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function.
  • Reject the idea that you are at fault or that you could have done more to prepare. Believing we could have done more to protect ourselves from our current financial or emotional predicament is very likely false 
  • And ask for help when and where you can. Take advantage of the resources that your community and Georgia Tech have to offer you. 

Works Cited

Schwartz, T. & Pines, E. (2020, March 23). Coping with Fatigue, Fear, and Panic During a Crisis. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

HuffPost Editors. (2020, April 9). Dealing with Coronavirus Anxiety? Here Are Some Ways To Cope With The Stress. HuffPost. Retrieved from

Gupta, A. (2020, March). COVID-19 Lockdown Guide: How to Manage Anxiety and Isolation During Quarantine. Retrieved from

Neary, M. (2020, March 27). Using technology to mind your mental health during COVID-19 epidemic. The American Institute of Stress. Retrieved from

Rosman, K. (2020, March 22). Some Tips on How to Stay Sane in a World That Isn’t. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Carroll, Aaron E. (2020, August 28). When It Comes to COVID-19, Most of Us Have Risk Exactly Backward. The New York Times. Retrieved from



  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: tbarker30
  • Created: 11/05/2020
  • Modified By: tbarker30
  • Modified: 11/05/2020


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