Breathe in, breathe out: How to manage COVID-19 stress

By Natalie Robison and Evy Smith

Nowadays, it seems the only thing people are talking about is the coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Whether surfing social media or turning on the news we can’t seem to escape it. This topic brings up a lot of strong feelings of worry and anxiety. Especially as we all practice social distancing, we need to find new and different ways to manage our stress. Below are a few tips we suggest to improve your well-being.

6 tips to reduce stress and anxiety

  1. Take a few moments each day for meditation or quiet reflection. It doesn’t have to be long – five to 10 minutes makes a huge difference. Inhale through your nose and out through your mouth slowly. You can inhale and count 1-2-3-4, hold 1-2, and exhale 1-2-3-4-5-6, hold 1-2 and repeat for a few rounds. You can even add in a cognitive behavioral technique called affirmation by stating, “I am relaxed” or “I am at ease.” Or,add calming music or aromatherapy, such as lavender oil, to your meditation sessions.
  2. Take some quiet time for yourself by taking a bubble bath, reading, or doing something that you find relaxing.
  3. Write down your emotions in a journal or on a piece of paper. If you have a lot of thoughts going through your mind that are making your head spin, getting them on paper can be a stress reliever. Write down a negative emotion, then rip up the piece of paper and toss it away.
  4. Listen to music. Whether you prefer rock, hip hop, jazz, country, or any style of music, your favorite tunes can bring back a happy memory or give you the urge to get up and dance! Who doesn’t feel better after “busting a move?”
  5. Limit news and tune into the quiet. Become aware of how peace-filled the quiet can be. It is in this state that meditation, prayer, or reflection activate the relaxation response, which brings ease to our bodies as well as our minds.
  6. Laughter is so important during difficult times. A smile can go a long way, especially if you or someone is having a rough day. Call a loved one. FaceTime with friends near and far. You never know when you will make someone’s day.

We hope these tips will help you to get through these stressful times, and the stressful times that will inevitably come in the future.

For information and updates about how The UVM Health Network is fighting the coronavirus, please visit

Natalie Robison, MS, ACSM-CEP, is an Employee Wellness Screening Specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center. Evy Smith, LCMHC, is a counselor with the Employee and Family Assistance Program at The University of Vermont Medical Center.