Coronavirus anxiety and stress

16 March 2020
Antonia Svensson, PhD | Head, Department of Psychology Head, Student Counselling Service New York College
Coronavirus anxiety and stress

The need for control is one of our most fundamental human needs. In times such as these, the world is a lot less controllable and predictable that we would like. We are being told to self-isolate or quarantine, for an unknown length of time. Whilst this advice is extremely important and it is essential we follow it in order to contain the virus, this type of advice can also make us feel helpless, negative and uncertain about the future.

We tend to worry more about new risks than familiar ones. The vast majority of us are concerned, and some are beginning now to experience symptoms of stress. So what can we do to get back our sense of control and order, and maximise our physical and mental health?

The Ten Commandments of daily life to cope with Coronavirus anxiety:

  1. Get up at the same time and get ready for the day ahead, as you normally would. Eat breakfast, shower and get dressed!
  1. If you don’t already have a home office consider moving your furniture around and creating a designated study / work space at home. Decorate your workspace with photographs, plants and objects that make you feel positive.
  2. Listen to music that helps you feel good.
  1. Structure each day by scheduling your daily duties online (attend meetings, classes etc).
  1. Exercise indoors for at least 30 minutes per day using fitness, yoga, pilates, or dance videos.
  1. Eat well and take regular short breaks from your study / work, to enhance your concentration and circulation. Get your daily dose of vitamin D from the balcony!
  1. Prioritise getting enough sleep and relaxation time. Most people need at least 7 hours to function well.
  1. Reconsider your short-term and long-term goals. Maybe now is the time to start that new hobby you have been meaning to try and never found time for. And who knows? You may actually find it easier to achieve those high grades you are capable of if you now have more time available for study than usual (most people save about 2 hours of travelling time per day by working from home).
  1. Limit the amount of time you spend on social media and watching the news. It’s important to keep up dated, but perhaps one or two short ‘sessions’ a day is enough? Especially if you find that you feel more anxious or stressed afterwards.
  1. Last but not least, keep things in perspective. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that most people who contract COVID-19 will only experience mild symptoms and will make a full recovery. 

Fear and anxiety about an illness can be very overwhelming. Everyone reacts slightly differently to stressful situations. Our reaction depends upon our background, personality and upbringing, our previous relevant experiences and our culture. But beyond this there are some people who we know are likely to react more strongly to the stress of the current crisis:

  • Older people and those with underlying chronic diseases
  • Children and teens
  • First responders such as health care providers and carers of family members ill with Coronavirus
  • People who have existing mental health difficulties

Perhaps the most important fundamental human need is the need to belong. Loneliness is a serious health risk that has long-term implications. Especially for the elderly. Call up your elderly family members and neighbours. Helping others with practical tasks such as shopping for food and coping with stress can make you feel good, and can make our community stronger.

So, meet up regularly with friends, classmates and colleagues for coffee breaks and a chat online. Talk about how you are feeling and share ideas for keeping positive and focused. Knowing you are not alone can go a long way towards combating mental health issues. We can provide support to each other from afar. 

If you are currently using the NYC Student Counselling Service your regular weekly session will now take place online, starting from today. 

Any NYC student or faculty member can request an online consultation by emailing

Let us remember that it is through difficulties that we discover our strengths.


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