Stress and the Coronavirus

Stop. Breathe. Think.

How to deal with stress when you’re stuck at home and the TV keeps sending in more and more scary images?  Stop. Breathe. Think.

Our brains are hardwired to deal with threats by the primitive fight or flight response.  Adrenaline flows, higher thinking goes offline, emotional and bodily responses take over, blood pressure goes up and you are generally well prepared to run away from a tiger or fight it off.

Modern life not being well-equipped with real tigers, these physical responses to stress do not help us in the least.  While we are forced to sit at home, the fight or flight response just makes us more stressed out and less healthy.

Stop. Breathe. Think.

Be aware of how your body is feeling.  Notice when you start sweating, breathing shallowly, or otherwise being triggered.  Slow your breathing down and focus on a pause for regrouping.  Stressors encourage us to think of all the terrible things that “could” happen, and to create fantasies of even worse disasters.  Stress interferes with clear thinking, causes panic and makes us feel stuck; and on top of all that, it weakens our immune system, just when we need it most.  When stress attacks, it’s harder to stop and be aware of what the stress is doing to us, and that feeds a self-reinforcing cycle of more and more stress.

Concentrate on your body and what your senses are telling you

To break the cycle of stress and more stress, listen to your body.  Smell the air, look at the real objects around you, listen to the sounds in your immediate environment.  Feel your breath going in and out.  Feel the pulse of blood in your veins. Suck on a small piece of candy or squeeze a stress ball.  Gradually your thinking mind will retake control from the primitive, emotional centers and you will be able once again to make rational decisions.

Turn off the screens

You do not need constant updates, and they just add more stressors to an already heavy load.  Use the television for entertainment and the internet for keeping in touch with loved ones and people who just need a “hello, I’m thinking about you”.  Constant media input reduces your ability to think carefully and clearly about where you are and where you are going.  Read a book, write a poem, or just look out the window for a while.



Melanie Greenberg.  Five ways to rewire your brain to deal with coronavirus stress. Psychology Today. Posted March 15, 2020.