Updated October 30

Coping with the Pandemic

Our world and day-to-day lives have changed dramatically since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic continues and we move into the darker, rainy months, our feelings of well-being may become fragile or frayed. 

Now more than ever, it’s vital to prioritize our mental and physical health. Below you’ll find suggestions for how to care for ourselves and each other. 

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Self-Care: Taking Care of Yourself Mentally and Physically

Give yourself extra care and attention during this tough time. You might feel okay one day, but anxious, scared, or angry the next. This is normal. 

Here are some things you can do every day to take care of your mental and physical health. 

Mental health

  • When you feel stressed or just need a moment, pause and take deep breaths. You might also try meditation, yoga, or thinking about something you are grateful for.

  • Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself: “I am doing the best I can.” Graphic image that lists examples of things I can control versus what I cannot control

  • Take breaks from upsetting content, including the news and social media.

  • Take regular breaks from screens.

  • Some people need to be by themselves once in a while to recharge. Take some alone time when you need it.

  • Reach out for support if you are turning to alcohol and drugs to make you feel better. 

  • Connect with others. Staying socially active can be hard right now; consider online groups or activities.

  • Connect with your community and faith organizations. Many are having virtual get-togethers right now.

  • Get into nature. Going to a park or green space can lower stress, elevate mood, and support better sleep.

  • Recognize what you can and cannot control. Try to accept or let go of what you can’t control. Focus on the things that you can control.

Physical health

  • Have a regular schedule. Routines can help us to feel better when life is uncertain.

  • Eat regular meals and snacks. Nourishing meals can help you stay healthy and manage stress. If you live with others, sharing meals and cooking together can help reduce feelings of isolation. 

  • Drink water throughout the day. Being well-hydrated can improve sleep quality, cognition, and mood.

  • Move your body, whether that’s exercising, stretching, going for a walk, dancing to music, or another favorite activity. Try taking a new class online!

  • Try to get enough sleep. Sleep can improve mood and immune function.

  • Make time to relax. Do some activities you enjoy. Unplug, meditate, relax, enjoy a bath, or just sit.

Additional Ideas for Coping

Here are some more ideas for coping through the pandemic and this season:

  • Try to get outside each day during daylight hours for the natural light, even if it’s cloudy. LImage of feet with bright warm socks, a warm drink, and booksight can help regulate sleep and can ease symptoms of some forms of depression, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

  • Some benefit from creating a calming corner in the home with comforting objects such as soft blankets and pillows, books, magazines, and soft lighting. This can be a place to retreat to when things feel extra hard.

  • Try to remember that there is always hope.

  • Another way to help reduce stress and anxiety is by planning ahead. If you or someone in your home gets sick, it can be a very scary and confusing time. Knowing ahead of time what you’ll do if or when the time comes can give you a sense of control over a difficult situation.

  • Practice gratitude. Write a thank you note to someone or keep a gratitude journal. Sharing and reflecting on gratitude can help you be more resilient and can also help improve mental health, sleep, self-esteem, and more.

Coping with loss and grief

You may be experiencing loss and grief—be gentle with yourself. The loss of a loved one, family member, friend, job, home, or even way of life can be a source of grief and sometimes trauma. The COVID-19 pandemic might also be reminding you of loss or something traumatic in the past, bringing all kinds of different emotions. 

Everyone experiences grief differently. You might feel intense sadness, anxiety, fear, rage, hopelessness, or another emotion. It may be hard to feel anything at all. You may find it hard to sleep or you might want to sleep all the time. You may not feel hungry or you may feel hungrier than usual. 

Take care of yourself and know that it is also okay to take time to feel better. We all experience healing at our own pace.

As you grieve, it’s important to:

  • Try not to judge yourself or others for what they are feeling, or how long it takes to feel better.

  • Pay attention to your feelings.Black and white image of connected hands

  • Allow yourself to cry.

  • Use phone calls, text messages, video chats and social media to stay in touch with family and friends who are positive and supportive.

  • Reach out for support. See the resources below.

Helping Others Cope

Studies have shown that helping others increases our own well-being. 

We all know people who are struggling right now, yet it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer need in our community. The reality is that we’re all balancing much more than usual, and we may need to rethink how much we can do. 

If you feel like you have the capacity to help, here are some ideas:

Drop off a care package. Run an essential errand for someone. Provide a meal. Do some yard work for a neighbor. Donate blood. Donate to a food bank. Many organizations in our community are seeking volunteers who can provide support from home or by driving errands, for example.

Helping Youth Cope

Help your children or the young people in your life cope with the pandemic as well as deal with peer pressure they may be experiencing around things like mask wearing and socializing. See the COVID-19 Youth & Families Guide for tips, resources, and information.

Seek support if you are overwhelmed or unsafe

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Find more Mental Health and Recovery Support resources>>

More on this topic

CDC: Stress and Coping

UCSF: Emotional Well-Being and Coping During COVID-19