44 Experts Weigh In On COVID Anxiety & How To Cope With Stress During The Pandemic

Photo: Getty
woman wearing face mask

As COVID-19 rages on, it's not uncommon to feel stressed and anxious about moving through the world.

COVID anxiety is very real and makes you feel like things will just continue to get worse all around. Even if life is getting back to "normal," you still worry about your family, friends, and yourself. 

Despite the existence of the vaccine, you can't help but wonder if there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

Luckily, there are ways to stave off the stress and anxiety we're all feeling.

RELATED: How To Release The Social Stress & Anxiety Of Getting Back To Normal, Post-Vaccine

44 experts weigh in on COVID anxiety & stress as the pandemic continues.

1. "The sense of isolation created by the pandemic means we need each other more than ever. I recommend two things. First, find a time every single day to check in with your family members about how you can best support each other’s emotional well-being. Second, reach out to at least one friend every day to offer support and companionship."

Kara Hoppe, MFT

2. "One way to cope with Covid anxiety and stress during the Pandemic is to create an organized and peaceful feeling at home. Remove things from your home that you no longer need, use, or believe to be beautiful. You will feel less stressed and anxious when your living space is not cluttered."

3. "Right now during these times of lack and loss and threat, it becomes critical that we focus on the good things we have with honest and true gratitude. Being thankful for what we have keeps the focus off what we can not change right now. The easiest way to stop the anxiety of all the horrible possibilities, is to change those thoughts to the comfort of what we are grateful for in the moment."

— Valerie Valentine, LPCC

4. "Simplify! Before the pandemic started, many people were already operating in their lives like a juggler on a unicycle. Then COVID threw additional balls and unknown objects into our worlds. In order to reduce COVID anxiety, it helps to simplify and remove some of the unnecessary balls in the air, in order to better manage the 'new normal' balls that have been thrown our way."

— Melanie Gallo, Ph.D

5. "We must make a conscious shift away from relying on others for our safety. This begins with taking care of our own physical and emotional health. If you feel that you must be vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you’ve had COVID, get tested to know the levels of your natural immunities. Many are discovering their immunities are lasting longer and staying stronger. Find this out for yourself. That is the only way to know for sure."

— Larry Michel

6. "I recently contracted COVID-19. Although food was left at my door, I didn’t eat for nearly two weeks preferring the odd piece of fruit when I could muster up the energy to get up. At this stage, my real food became a wisdom sandwich — positive thoughts and the words of some of the great philosophers and Masters. This is what sustained me through my ordeal."

— Dadhichi Toth

7. "To ward off overwhelm, give yourself some compassion and a proactive time out. Get physically grounded with a daily walk, create a habit of meditating for 5 minutes at a time throughout the day, close your door and journal out your feelings, and get to bed early and visualize your happy place so you have the resilience to begin anew tomorrow."

— Lisa Petsinis, ACC

8. Allow yourself to be 'lazy.' If you feel that you need to sleep in or stay in your PJ’s 'til noon, do it without guilt. Treat yourself to an energy healing session. If you can’t go in person, there are many Reiki practitioners that do distance healing. Spend time in the forest. You will soon forget that the world seems to be spinning out of control and the smell of fresh pine, damp leaves, moss, and crisp air will reset your nervous system."

— Marla Martenson

9. "Pause, breathe, acknowledge the anxiety, and then continue to do what you’re doing with appropriate hygiene practices in place. The key thing to remember is to not stop what you’re doing just because you feel anxious because that will make it so much harder to do these important things the next time."

— Judith Pinto

10. "When dealing with difficult people, make an active effort to choose peace over being right. Being intentional about how you respond will give you a sense of control, which can keep you from spiraling."

— Amy Bracht

11. "A nourishing self-care routine can be extremely beneficial right now because when life has so many new stressors and unknowns, consistent simple pleasures can be healing and reassuring to your nervous system, mind, and heart. Also, slowing down to decompress after a long day helps you be present with yourself and others."

— Sarah Jones

12. "Many couples have described differing levels of stress and anxiety during the last 18 months of the pandemic. Your partner may not share your concerns, so it’s vital that you share how you feel with them. The goal is to work towards mutual support and behaviors that suit each of your needs. Avoid the temptation to label your partner's preferred way of handling things as over or underdone."

— Mary Kay Cocharo, LMFT

13. "To thwart pandemic anxiety, shift focus immediately by just saying, 'Stop it.' Then, fill that emotional energy drain with a positive image or review of good experience that brings joy, hope, or at least healthy distraction."

— Ruth Schimel, Ph.D.

14. "COVID may be with us for a long time; therefore, learn to live with it just like we have learned to live with H.I.V. Know how to stay safe and be consistent. Cope by keeping your life structured and organized, stay physically active, and nurture your relationships."

— Rob Woodman, Ph.D.

15. "Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally before you take care of your loved ones and definitely before venturing out into the world even if it’s via social media. Remember, your health in your hands. As long as you are healthy, you are truly wealthy. Stay away from anything that gets you stressed. Practice and become an expert in noticing any anxiety or stress creeping up in your consciousness. Say no to all negativity and live peacefully."

— Keya Murthy, M.S.

16. "Take the time to go within, even for just a few minutes per day, as it helps the body and mind relax, releasing stress from our system over time. Often, anxiety and stress build up over time because we don't have a release for the excess emotions and pent-up energy. Journaling really helps you get the stress and frustration out of your system and onto paper, externalizing the pressure."

— Cassady Cayne

17. "Our lives were consumed by the pandemic but we learned to live with uncertainty and turn adverse situations into opportunities. Just like a GPS, we learned to recalibrate and pivot our strategies for surviving and living on a daily basis. Our resilience and ability to think out of the box helped us cope with the anxieties and stress of the pandemic and develop a new way to live, that of the New Normal."

— Ellen Kamaras

18. "To achieve peace and serenity, stay out of your past where depression exists because the past never returns. Stay out of your future where anxiety exists because the future never arrives. Stay in the moment because it's reality and write a gratitude list that creates your 'attitude of gratitude.'"

— Jack Kinney

19. "Dealing with anxiety during a pandemic only differs from what one would normally do, in how one minimizes exposure to the pathogen and complies with mandated restrictions. The best first step is to determine what past anxiety relief one can do at home unless home is the source of the anxiety, then an outdoor option could suffice. Usually, exercising, listening to music, meditation, yoga, virtual reality programs, virtual activities, and creating things, relieves anxiety and can easily be done at home."

— Parthenia Izzard, CNHP

20. "Being in a 'for or against' position with the vaccine, or mask-wearing or anything Covid-related is a catch-22. We have our opinion, but the moment you go against someone, notice how our anxiety and stress rise. Our choice depends on a sense of freedom we all want based on our own health and understanding."

— Carolyn Hidalgo, CPCC

RELATED: How To Deal With Anxiety Over The World Opening Up Post-Coronavirus

21. "Frame every challenge you meet as an opportunity to increase your resiliency, deepen your inner toolkit, and expand your ability to find peace in the midst of difficulties. Changing our mindsets and the way we approach problems changes our experience of hardships, inviting us to grow rather than crumble in the face of adversity. Every seeming problem is an invitation for greater liberation and self-transformation when we approach it from the inside out."

— Brooke Sprowl, LCSW

22. "While in the shower, imagine the water washing away stressful thoughts and replacing them with self-loving thoughts and positive affirmations."

— Dr. Ava Cadell

23. "My first, best, and easiest solution: breathe. That may seem overly simple; it’s likely something you don’t give much thought. But consciously taking slow, deep breaths will reduce tension, calm and center you almost immediately."

— Dona C. Murphy

24. "One of the easiest and most productive methods for mitigating stress and anxiety attributed to COVID-19 is to simply turn off all news sources and choose to feed the mind more edifying information."

— LeNae Goolsby

25. "Stress is often caused by our thoughts. One way to reduce stress during the pandemic is to change your focus from what you can’t do to what you can do. Consider taking one small step in the direction of what you can do and embrace what you now have as a result of it."

— Patricia Bonnard, Ph.D

26. "Give yourself permission to not be OK. Give your partner permission to be tired, grumpy, 'off,' or basically, 'not OK.' Give your waiter, bus driver, kid’s teacher, and the person in the cubicle next to you permission to be slow, sad, mistaken, or 'not OK.' That’s it, very simple and extremely difficult at the same time. No one is OK right now — make more room for it."

— Ashley Seeger, LCSW

27. "Fear is about stuck-ness and if stuck for any period of time, it whips up to anxiety and if still stuck, like a whirlwind into a panic. There is no such emotion as stress. Stress is a sensation felt in the body whilst fear is a cognitive process, thought-based, and in the head. If we have fearful thoughts, chemicals are produced in the brain which runs around the body and manifests as a sensation. The healthy use of anger energy (not aggression), is the antidote to fear. To take healthy action."

— Stefan Charidge, BACP

28. "It’s important to stay connected to people and not isolate yourself. If you can’t connect with people in person, find like-minded groups online and attend virtual events. Connection is key! Get outside and enjoy nature."

— Angela N. Holton

29. "Stay self-aware and listen to your inner voice, your reactions, your feelings. Sometimes you need to rest, other times to get out of the house, make a phone call, buy a treat, or zone in your pajamas for a day. Think like you are your own parent, guardian angel, and personal Fairy Godmother."

— Barbara Becker Holstein

30. "Don't push against the anxiety with your mind, because that will create more stress, but do let your body clear it out. Meet it with acceptance by dropping any idea that you shouldn't feel anxious or stressed because you do, and instead, let the wave of anxiety pass through your body. Breathe in and out as you follow the sensation of anxiety in your body and within 60-90 seconds the wave will be done and you can think more clearly."

— Michelle Thompson

31.  "As a collective culture we have an underdeveloped soothing system. Our emotional regulation focus tends to be drive and threat response. Now more than ever we need to overcompensate by focusing mainly on nervous system soothing and regulation."

— Dr. Ivy Loney, DBH

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Hey You! Want more of YourTango's best articles, seriously addictive horoscopes and top expert advice? Sign up to get our free daily newsletter!

32.  "I find the best approach to anxiety during COVID is by articulating my anxiety into a question and bringing it to my favorite deck of oracle cards. The question is often half the battle to a solution and I feel a sense of relief as soon as I am able to write the problem down. The resulting imagery and wisdom from the cards help me to get a bird's eye view of the situation and formulate my next steps."

— Cyndera Quackenbush

33.  "Stress increases the more you ruminate about past events; anxiety, or worry, sets in when you try to control the future. To overcome either of these you must focus on the present moment and create some sort of action for your mind to experience. Once you convince your mind that there’s more to your life than problems, you’ll feel more in control and content."

— Christine Hourd, ACC

34.  "Activities that allow us to be in nature are one of the best antidotes to pandemic lockdown and its accompanying anxiety. Find something beautiful to appreciate and share, and remember to be grateful for small gifts."

— Linda Schiller, LICSW

35. "When you can do nothing else, you can be grateful, which is only a thought shift from what you are stressed about or don't have to what you are thankful for and do have. Writing it down amplifies this mindset shift and helps you focus more on the positives that exist, increasing your ability to cope with those that do not."

— Ann Papayoti, CPC

36. "How much news are you consuming? A steady diet of a newscaster's somber-sounding stats around case counts heightens your stress response, leading to anxiety. Resolve to start with one day where you consume zero media and do something you enjoy instead."

— Brent Roy, PCC

37. "My best advice is to relax. Seriously, the calmer and more rested you are the better you will be able to handle the multiple stresses coming your way. As much as you can take time for all forms of relaxation including sleep, play, time in nature, and creative activities."

— Lisa Newman, MAPP

38. "COVID anxiety has many forms. From fears related to contracting the virus itself to stress related to navigating socializing and family visits, learning how to manage stress related to the pandemic is a practice, not a light switch. Developing a habit of self-compassion and meeting yourself where you are at any given moment can lead to less suffering."

— Christine E. Vargo, LCSW

39. "We are experiencing what I would call ‘forced awareness’ of our frailty. We are ‘forced’ by events to ‘force’ our psychic mechanisms to defend us and to confront us with our fears. I think of our minds as labyrinths we all must enter and from which we inevitably emerge transformed. In the labyrinth, we may also have an encounter with ourselves."

— Luca Caldironi, M.D.

40. "During this time of unprecedented uncertainty, we must be super-kind to ourselves and everyone else. We’re all doing the best we can. Tune into yourself by taking long, deep, slow breaths to calm your nervous system, then relax into the energy of love, not fear."

— Marilyn Sutherland

41.  "In unprecedented times, make your response to COVID anxiety unprecedented as well. Notice what your mind chatter is saying to you and how it is negatively impacting your body. Choose to tell yourself better thoughts that are more empowering and feel better. Breathe deeply to calm your nervous system and take back your power from your fears."

— Michele Molitor, CPCC

42.  "The lockdown of COVID has created a pressure cooker environment for couples. During this time, instead of being stressed out and fighting with your partner, decide as a couple to learn ways to bring out their best, see the good, be kind and loving, bring back the passion, and rebuild and strengthen your relationship."

— Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC

43. "Does your boyfriend, best friend, mother, or boss not agree with you about vaccination? What you can do is to begin a conversation with them, as difficult as that may feel, because the alternative of trying to cut those you care about out of your life, adds another level of trauma to what we are all experiencing. Ask about their fears, share yours, be calm, tell them you care, let the love you have for them become the bridge upon which you travel to connect with them about this terrifying moment in our lives."

— Patricia O'Gorman, Ph.D

44. "Rather than focusing inward on what’s wrong, put your attention outside of yourself. Literally, go outside and notice the sky, the trees, the sounds and smells around you. Move your body, walk, hike, ride a bike or climb a rock, and keep your attention on your environment. Connect with another person or animal with curiosity, care, and compassion and keep your attention on that person or animal. Now, bring your attention back to the situation that was bothering you before and notice how you feel about it now."

— Dr. Wendy Lyon

Tips and tricks for living stress-free during COVID. 

Now that you've heard from the experts, you can rest easy.

Remember that you're not alone, everyone is going through COVID anxiety. The pandemic may not be ending anytime soon but you can cope and live easy with a few expert tips. 

What matters is how you deal with those feelings so you can live with peace of mind in the new normal. 

RELATED: 5 Expert Tips On Managing Coronavirus Anxiety For Highly Sensitive People

Caithlin Pena is a writer and editor for YourTango who enjoys books, movies, and writing fictional short stories as a hobby.