a close up of a mans face

Health and Wellbeing

Coping with stress during the COVID-19 outbreak

By Adrian 11 Mar 2020

It's normal to feel sad, stressed, confused, scared or angry during a crisis. These feelings might seem even more difficult with social distancing measures in force, or if you're required to self-isolate, which can also add in feelings like boredom and frustration.

But there are some simple things you can do to help you cope. The UK government has published COVID-19: Guidance for the public on mental health and wellbeing; and Mind, the mental health charity, has also published some really helpful information about Coronavirus and your wellbeing.

Another resource you might want to try is this Moodle course: Coping during the pandemic.

In this article, we've drawn together lots of different ways you can look after your wellbeing in general, but with specific reference to the coronavirus outbreak.

Reframe the situation - look through a different lens

These pages discuss coronavirus in ways that you might not have considered:

A mindful approach to COVID-19

We've written a whole new article about discovering mindfulness and taking a mindful approach to the pandemic.

Stay connected

  • At times of stress, we work better in company and with support. Talking to people you trust can help.
  • Contact your friends and family. You may have to keep in touch with them via email, phone, or social media, if you are self-isolating.
  • Know that others are experiencing emotional reactions as well. Be patient with yourself and others.
  • If you would like to talk with someone who is outside of the immediate situation, we recommend contacting London Nightline. Nightline is a confidential and anonymous listening and practical information service run by students for students of the University of London and beyond. You can talk to them about anything – big or small – in complete confidence.
  • The NHS has a list of recommended mental health helplines HERE.
  • In our intercollegiate halls, you can also speak with your Hall Warden or a Resident Advisor. If you're in self-isolation, they can arrange a time to speak with you on the phone or by Skype.

Maintain a routine

  • Create a daily routine that prioritises looking after yourself. You could try reading more or watching movies, having an exercise routine, trying new relaxation techniques, or finding new knowledge on the internet.
  • Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle - including proper diet, sleep, exercise and social contacts.
  • Our EnergyBase fitness team are creating a series of home exercise videos and offering free Skype-based personal training sessions: https://www.studentcentral.london/energybase/whoarewe/movemore

Explore online learning, culture, and creative activities

Learn something new in the extra free time you have on your hands - explore some of these resources:

Plan ahead in case you need to self-isolate

  • Plan ahead and think about what you will need in order to be able to stay in your room for the full 7 or 14 days.
  • Identify one or more "bug buddies" who could help you if you need to self-isolate. They could help with tasks like shopping and collecting deliveries, and also keep in touch with you to make sure you're doing ok.
  • It might be helpful to plan in advance what 7 or 14 days of self-isolation might look like - maybe on a makeshift calendar, scheduling in times each day for self-care, speaking with friends and relatives, and some light exercise within your room.
  • If you have hobbies that you enjoy, do you have a supply of any items you need for them?
  • Do you have enough medicines?

During self-isolation

  • Self-isolation may seem like a daunting prospect. It will help if you can see it as a different period of time in your life, and not necessarily a bad one, even if you didn’t choose it. It will mean a different rhythm of life, a chance to be in touch with others in different ways than usual.
  • Try and rest and view this as a new if unusual experience, that might have its benefits.   
  • Be in touch with other people regularly on social media, e-mail or on the phone, as they are still good ways of being close to the people who matter to you. You could even arrange group calls with your friends.
  • Take the opportunity to catch up on some reading or watching movies and box sets that you never got round to.
  • Make sure your wider health needs are being looked after such as having enough prescription medicines available to you.

Public Health England advise:

Think about things you can do during your time at home. People who have not minded staying at home for a week have kept themselves busy with activities such as cooking, reading, online learning and watching films. If you feel well enough you can take part in light exercise within your home or garden.

Many people find it helpful to remind themselves why what they are doing is so important. Hopefully, none of your family will suffer more than flu-like symptoms. But some people are badly affected by coronavirus, and particularly the elderly and those with certain medical conditions. By staying home, you are protecting the lives of others, as well as making sure the NHS does not get overwhelmed.

Try to avoid unhelpful coping styles and strategies

  • Don’t use smoking, alcohol or other drugs to deal with your emotions.
  • For some ideas of more positive coping strategies, visit Every Mind Matters and Good Thinking.

Remember what's helped you before

  • Draw on skills you have used in the past that have helped you to manage previous life challenges and use those skills to help you manage your emotions during this outbreak.

Get the facts

  • Try to avoid speculation and look up reputable sources on the outbreak. Rumour and speculation can fuel anxiety.
  • Having access to good quality information about the virus can help you feel more in control.
  • Gather information that will help you accurately determine your risk so that you can take reasonable precautions.
  • You can find trustworthy information in this article here on CampusLife.

Consume and create content wisely

  • Limit worry and agitation by lessening the time you spend watching or listening to media coverage that you perceive as upsetting.
  • It’s best that you don’t avoid all news and that you keep informing and educating yourself, but limit your news intake if it is bothering you.
  • If you are sharing content on social media, try not to sensationalise things: only share information from trusted sources, and remember that your friends might be worried too.
Adrian profile picture

Adrian is a medical doctor and a Member of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine; Student Health & Wellbeing Manager at the University of London; and Warden of Connaught Hall. He is a Mental Health First Aid instructor and a trainer for Student Minds. Adrian is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine; a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA); a Member of the Association of University Administrators; and an Associate Member of the Academy of Medical Educators. He is passionate about advancing equality, diversity, and inclusion. Adrian's interests include fitness, nutrition, mindfulness and insight meditation, medical education, social psychology, and human factors / crisis resource management.
View All Posts