Information, References and
How to cope with COVID-19

The coronavirus outbreak is disrupting most people’s daily behaviors and becoming a major source of stress and anxiety. What are the best ways for us to live our lives? Although social scientists have never studied large-scale social disruptions caused by pandemics, there is some research that can is relevant.

Here are some general recommendations and resources that may be helpful.

Social Connections with Others

Humans have a basic need for human contact, especially during times of stress. Being socially connected with others is one of the most powerful social and psychological boosts most humans get. Conversely socially isolation can be a major life stressor. Given the new social guidelines to combat the spread of COVID-19, finding and maintaining friendships may be difficult in the weeks ahead.

Consider some of these approaches if you are not getting the social stimulation you might need:

  • Call, email, text, or use social media to connect with others. There’s a good chance that your old friends or distant family members are as isolated as you.
  • Set up video calls using Skype, Google Hangout, Zoom, FaceTime, or other video connections. Don’t know how to use these systems? Call someone who does and they can walk you through the setup. It’s usually quite easy and often free.
  • Schedule online coffee, lunch, or dinner dates where you and friends pretend you are at a restaurant and enjoy a drink or a meal together even though you are in different locations.
  • Want to meet and talk with new people? There are a mind-boggling number of online forums, discussion groups, and other chat opportunities that you can access from your computer or smart phone.
A nice overview of the research on social connections .

Here is a comprehensive list of online forums and discussion groups. Note that most are probably NOT what you are looking for: Internet Forums

For an overview of some of the problems of social distancing, check out this blog by Professor Marlone Henderson at the University of Texas at Austin.

Dealing with Coronavirus Obsession

Yes, the COVID-19 outbreak is stressful. Yes, it’s good to know if there is something new you can do. But don’t overdo it! Watching or reading too much news about the coronavirus is bad for your health. Several studies on large-scale disasters find that the more you watch, read, or expose yourself to disaster-related news, the more upset you become. In fact, becoming obsessed with the latest news about a disaster can increase the odds of your getting symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. What to do?

  • Limit yourself to watching/reading information about the coronavirus to 30 minutes a day – maybe 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the early evening.
  • When your friends have talked about it for more than 15 minutes, simply point out that you have reached your daily limit and change the topic.

Click here for: The Trauma of the violent news on the internet
Video summarizing Professor Roxanne Silver’s work on coping with upheavals: Click Here

Developing Health Habits

One reason that the coronavirus is a threat to mental health is that it disrupts almost all of our daily routines. For most of us, we have spent months and years building up patterns of daily habits. We get up in the morning, brush our teeth, make coffee and breakfast, maybe check email, go to work, meet the usual group of coworkers, have lunch with the usual group, and so on. Day after day after day.

And then, out of nowhere, all of these routines are disrupted. We have to start over.

Welcome to your new life. Check out the recent book by Dr. Wendy Wood, Good Habits, Bad Habits, concerning the power of habits and how to build new ones. The science behind it is to begin with a new set of daily behaviors that you find healthy and meaningful. Some suggestions:

  • You know what is healthy and what isn’t. Start with relatively simple healthy and meaningful routines – maybe just a few minutes each day. You also know what’s not good for you. Gradually reduce the time you spend on the bad behaviors. You are reconstructing your life and it won’t happen overnight. Most habits don’t become ingrained for weeks.
  • We get into routines because they make our lives easier. We don’t have to think or make decisions once part of our lives become more structured and routine.
  • Because the coronavirus is causing so much social disruption, be sure and add scheduled social engagements into your routine. Set up telephone or video lunches or coffee each day. Check in with people via text, email, Instagram, Snapchat, or Tik Tok
Other Resources

Dealing with Anxiety and Distress

Feelings of anxiety, distress, and depression are quite common when we are faced with overwhelming threats over which we have very little control. There is now a substantial literature on ways to combat common forms of anxiety or depression. Mental health professionals are now seeing a surge in people who are quite stressed out by the coronavirus. If this is of concern to you or someone you know, a good place to begin is the website for the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC

Additional tips with dealing with general anxiety and depression: Click Here
For substance abuse issues: National Helpline

If you feel that you are incapacitated by anxiety, depression, or unwanted thoughts, please call a mental health hotline: NAMI-Helpline

Finally, if you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call 911.

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