Just Breathe: 9 Tips for Managing Stress During the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 13, 2020 Lynne Levy

3-minute read

woman looking at water

We are all walking on eggshells. I can feel the tension in myself, and in my colleagues and family. The COVID-19 pandemic is on everyone's minds. It is becoming difficult to focus with constant uncertainty and a rapidly evolving news cycle.

When we are in this anxious, stressed mode, it becomes more challenging to make informed decisions. Being in a constant state of fight or flight impacts your health and reduces the effectiveness of your immune system.

For today, let's focus on how we can start to manage the stress and anxiety plaguing our workplaces and communities.

Here are some ideas:

Express gratitude. It sounds so simple, but appreciation for the good things in our lives is one of the keys to managing stress. Each morning, express gratitude for three things. Make sure the expressions are specific. For example, be grateful for the hilarious joke your son told last night. Write it down in a notebook, and when things get stressful, read your moments of gratitude.

A daily gratitude practice can boost the immune system, improve mental and physical health, and create a sense of calm during stressful times.

Play some music. Music is an amazing tool to help calm the mind. Put aside work for a few minutes and lose yourself in music. For some, quiet music is the answer. Others need more upbeat tunes. I prefer some good old ‘70s rock.

Meditate. I know this might not be the easiest time to start a new meditation practice. For now, spend about 2-3 minutes on a guided meditation when you start to feel the stress and negative thoughts take over. The Calm app is a great place to start. It has a free version and some fabulous quick meditations to quiet the mind.

Give back. Giving back is another tool that has been shown to reduce stress. Consider ways to pay it forward. For example, when you're at the drive-thru window, you can pay for the car behind you.

Get outside for a walk. Many companies in our area have asked employees to work from home. It's hard to stay at home with no social interaction. Get outside for at least a 10-minute walk and take in the wonders of spring.

Schedule a virtual coffee. Working from home can make anyone a bit stir-crazy. Set up a few virtual coffee dates where you can meet with a colleague and have a light conversation.

Remind yourself of your shared purpose. Connect to your organizational values and mission. Remember the greater good that your organization is serving.

Share kindness. Many are going through the day worried about their own health and the wellness of their family and friends. Assume positive intent if a colleague becomes a little cranky. Share kindness by showing up for those who need extra support. Even a simple “How are you?” can show people you care.

Detach from media. Have periods of your day away from media, so you aren't marinating all day in negative news. Instead of watching the news, find a feel-good movie or series to catch up on.

Let’s all take a collective deep breath (myself included). We will get through these challenging times. Practice gratitude, get yourself out of fight-or-flight mode, and you will be able to tackle whatever challenges come your way.


New Findings on Stress, Trust, and Gratitude at Work

The New Science of Stress

The Importance of Gratitude in Creating Human Workplaces

About the Author

Lynne Levy

Lynne Levy is a Workhuman evangelist who lives and breathes helping organizations build cultures that bring out the best in the employees. Her mantra is “do what you love, love what you do.”

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