Managing Stress and Fear about the Coronavirus

Amidst the coronavirus outbreak, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, stressed and even fearful. There are many ways to manage these emotions during these uncertain times. Below are several tips from Maryville’s Counseling Center to support your mental health during this challenging time.

“It’s particularly important that we all focus on our wellness right now because everything feels uncertain and we are dealing with huge changes in our day-to-day lifestyles,” said Jennifer Henry, director of the Counseling Center. “By focusing on keeping ourselves healthy and positive, we can avoid becoming depressed or isolated.”

Only Use Trusted News Sources
Social media sites can breed misinformation that can lead to unnecessary worry. Many headlines are based on speculation, not facts. Instead, rely on trusted sources such as the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. Maryville has created a webpage with accurate information about the University’s response as well answers to frequently asked questions at maryville.edu/coronavirus.

Take News Breaks
Checking the news about the virus repeatedly throughout the day will likely increase your anxiety. Instead, designate a short time (5-10 minutes) twice a day to read the news. Disable push notifications so that you only see the news when you are prepared for it.

Focus on What You Can Control

Focusing on things you cannot control, such as transmission rates or reports on the severity of the illness, will increase your stress. Instead, focus your mind on the steps you can take to promote your wellness. These include:

  • Washing your hands.
  • Staying home when you are sick.
  • Avoiding close contact with sick people.
  • Maintaining supplies of essentials such as your daily medications.

Use Healthy Coping Skills
Healthy coping skills will lower your stress level and promote your wellness. Examples include: exercise; meditation and deep breathing; talking to supportive friends and family; and music, art, and crafts. Don’t forget to visit the Counseling Center’s Virtual Relaxation Room at www.maryville.edu/relax for numerous meditation and relaxation exercises, a four-part stress management workshop series, peaceful music and many other resources to help your through this stressful time within the safety of your homes.

Create a Schedule
As human beings, we need structure to our day or we can become lethargic, depressed and lose motivation. Create a schedule for your day, even if it’s just to get dressed every morning or schedule a walk around the block during lunchtime. You can also set a small goal each week, like trying a new recipe or writing a letter to a loved one.

Spend Time Outside
There are numerous studies showing that being outdoors and being exposed to nature enhances our happiness. Spend time outside each day, even if it’s only for a few minutes. You can go for a walk around your neighborhood, play with your dog outside or go hiking at a local park.

Avoid Mindless Snacking and Drink Plenty of Water
When we’re stressed, we tend to turn to comfort food and eating more frequently throughout the day. Instead, set a time for eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. Limit any mindless snacking in between. Also make sure you’re drinking enough water and not getting dehydrated. You should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.

Connect with Others
Social connection improves physical health and psychological well-being. Reach out to your friends and family and schedule weekly Zoom calls or talk via Facetime. You can also schedule a time to watch a movie at the same time on Netflix and chat during the movie.

Practice Gratitude
There’s a saying that “whatever you look for you will find”. Now is the time to be mindful about what we look for. Focusing on what we’re grateful for can help balance out the negative things happening in our lives. Each night before bed, think of two things you are grateful for and write them down. It can be something small like how the sun came out today. But keep the list going and look at if often when you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or fearful.

Get Help if You Need It
If you feel like you’re stuck or if you feel like the support system you have in place isn’t meeting your specific needs, it’s time to reach out for help. Maryville’s Counseling Center offers several resources.

  • The Counseling Center Support Line is always available to address your counseling needs. You can reach a counselor anytime, 24/7 by calling (314) 529-6630.
  • The Counseling Center has arranged to offer phone sessions (teletherapy) to already established clients who are in the state of Missouri at the time of the phone call. Students who meet these criteria can reach out to their counselor to schedule a teletherapy session.
  • The Counseling Center can also assist students in locating support resources that will work for them based on their geographic location and needs. Students can email Jennifer Henry, director of the Counseling Center, at jhenry@maryville.edu to discuss.

“Now is a time to reconnect with our own health and our loved ones,” Henry said. “In the normal hustle and bustle of life, we tend to live mindlessly. For the many students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends who’s lives have changed so drastically over the last few weeks, being quarantined can help us appreciate the slower pace of life and learn to be still. It’s okay to mourn how things have changed, but we must move forward in our own ways. We are all in this together.”

Jennifer Henry, director of the Counseling Center, was also featured on the Maryville University Alumni Facebook page. She was interviewed by Margaret Onken, vice president for development and alumni relations. Watch the full conversation below.


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