Strategies to manage stress

  • Take care of your physical health. Maintain proper handwashing hygiene, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly at home if you are well. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • If you are ill, stay at home and be mindful of contact with communities that are more at risk.
  • Have empathy and compassion for yourself and others. We are here in this together globally, and it's important to make kind and wise choices.
  • Take care of your spiritual well-being. Perhaps visit SFU's Interfaith Centre online.
  • If you are experiencing higher levels of stress and feelings of being overwhelmed, you can access free 24/7 counselling and support through MySSP by phone (1-844-451-9700 or 001-416-380-6578 outside of North America) or through the downloadable app. There are options for chat, phone and video sessions with a counsellor as well as multi-session support.

Why am I feeling stressed, worried or anxious?

All of these are normal reactions to a global pandemic that brings uncertainty and may impact the health of you or your loved ones. You may also have concerns regarding how this will impact your school, work, and life in general. Everyone reacts to stressful situations in their own way. Use your concerns in a positive, proactive, and helpful way. 

If you find yourself in a worry cycle, try exploring the steps in the RAIN exercise:

  • Recognize what’s going on: Observe your thoughts and try to label what you are feeling. 
  • Allowing, taking a pause: Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. Allow the experience to be there - just as is - even if it’s unpleasant. 
  • Investigate with kindness: With curiosity, openness and non-judgement, try to inquire about what is coming up for you.
  • Natural awareness: Understanding that any limiting emotions, sensations, or stories are not identified with who we are.

What are some strategies I can use to minimize stress and anxiety?

Managing stress and anxiety can help you maintain positive mental health. Try these strategies and tools to support your mental well-being:

Staying informed through trusted sources

  • Be aware of what to look out for and what steps to take if you or someone else starts to show symptoms. You can use BC’s COVID-19 Self-assessment Tool
  • Inform yourself about COVID-19 using trusted sources
  • Limit social media usage as it may induce worries

Practicing mindfulness

Exercising self-compassion

  • Make space to acknowledge and address your emotions instead of ignoring them. Try to challenge thoughts that may be irrational or unhelpful.
  • Remind yourself that you’re doing everything you can do in this situation. Practice compassion and kindness towards yourself and others. It is okay to take time to focus on supporting your mental and emotional well-being. You can use tools and exercises to help you such as self-compassion journals.
  • Build your capacity for resilience and stress-management skills with Bouncing Forward: Online Resilience Course on Canvas and receive CCR recognition upon completion.

Connecting with others

  • Call or send a text to a friend or family member 
  • Call or text a counsellor through the MySSP app

Staying active

  • Stay physically active by doing yoga, body weight exercises, martial arts, or dance. 
  • Create and maintain a regular routine that includes time for work, leisure, chores, meals, outdoor activity and sleep.

How can I maintain my focus and motivation?

  • Make a list of priorities. You likely still have responsibilities, course requirements to meet, and other things to accomplish, so try to focus on accomplishing those things.
  • Minimize distractions while you are listening to lectures, doing school work, studying, and working.
  • Schedule 1-2 hours of working alternating with 10-minute breaks. Set reminders to hydrate, eat, stretch and take screen breaks.
  • Utilize your most productive hours to your advantage.

How can I continue to stay connected to avoid total social isolation?

While the recommendations to distance yourself may disrupt your usual social and physical interactions, it is important to maintain social connections with those that you care about and those that you need to connect with during your studies.

To avoid feeling isolated, virtually reach out to someone who brings you joy. Spend time with the people you care about - it can make a world of difference in feeling less alone during tough times.

Stay connected with the following:

  • Have virtual lunch dates
  • Study virtually with others
  • Check up on loved ones through call or text
  • Video call a friend and to workout together
  • Watch a movie together using video chat or Netflix Party

I have a friend or family member who is constantly talking about COVID-19 and it’s impacting my well-being. How can I deal with this?

Even though sharing our thoughts and feelings with others can be helpful, it is important to be mindful that everyone reacts differently to stressors. If this happens, use strategies and activities which are helpful for you to decrease your stress levels, get your information from trusted sources, and encourage your family member or friend to do the same.  

Resources consulted:

Action for Happiness. (2020). COVID-19: How to respond constructively. Retrieved from https://www.actionforhappiness.org/news/covid-19-how-to-respond

Bracci, A. (2020). Fear can be contagious. Here are some ideas for keeping calm. Retrieved from https://news.northeastern.edu/2020/03/10/fear-can-be-contagious-here-are-some-ways-to-protect-yourself/

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Keeping Hands Clean. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/hand/handwashing.html

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Mental Health and Coping During COVID – 19. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/coping.html

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2014). Coping with Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks. Retrieved from https://store.samhsa.gov/system/files/sma14-4885.pdf

World Health Organization. (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

Brach, T. (2019). Feeling Overwhelmed? Remember "RAIN". Retrieved from https://www.mindful.org/tara-brach-rain-mindfulness-practice/

CAMH. (2020). Mental Health and the COVID-19 Pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-health-and-covid-19

Canadian Mental Health Association. (2020). Pandemic pushing your anxiety buttons?. Retrieved from https://cmha.bc.ca/news/managing-anxiety-covid-19/