Coronavirus (COVID-19): managing stress and anxiety

Strategies to cope with stress or distress during the current outbreak of novel coronavirus.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): common reactions

As the situation relating to COVID-19 unfolds, including news reports, travel restrictions, and concerns for your own and your loved ones’ health – people can experience a wide range of thoughts, feelings and reactions.

You or someone you know may experience periods of:

  • Feeling stressed or overwhelmed
  • Anxiety, worry, or fear
  • Sadness, tearfulness, and/or loss of interest in usual enjoyable activities
  • Physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate, stomach upset, low energy, or other uncomfortable sensations
  • Frustration, irritability, or anger
  • Feeling helpless
  • Difficulty concentrating or sleeping
  • Isolating or withdrawing from others, and/or fear of going to public spaces

Strategies to cope with stress, anxiety or distress

Acknowledge your feelings. In situations that are uncertain and evolving such as this, it’s understandable to feel stressed, anxious, or upset, among other emotional reactions. Allow yourself time to notice and express what you’re feeling. This could be by writing them down in a journal, talking to others, doing something creative, or practising meditation.

Maintain your day-to-day normal activities and routine where possible. Having a healthy routine can have a positive impact on your thoughts and feelings. This can include: eating healthy meals, physical exercise like walking, running or stretching, getting enough sleep, and doing things you enjoy.

Stay connected. Receiving support and care from others has a powerful effect on helping us cope with challenges. Spending time with supportive family and friends can bring a sense of comfort and stability. Talking through our concerns, thoughts, and feelings with others can also help us find helpful ways of thinking about or dealing with a stressful situation.

Seek accurate information. Finding credible sources you can trust is important to avoid the fear and panic that can be caused by misinformation. The Australian Department of Education, Skills, and Employment have up-to-date fact sheets, including advice and support specifically for international students.

Set limits around news and social media. It’s understandable to want to keep informed, especially if you or your loved ones are affected. At the same time, constantly reading, watching, or listening to upsetting media coverage can unnecessarily intensify worry and agitation. Take a break from news or social media, especially if there’s no new information. Focus on things that are positive in your life and actions you have control over.

Stay up to date with university advice and support. Check the University's student support website for regular updates, including course updates and other information for affected students.

Follow protection and prevention recommendations provided by qualified health professionals. The Australian Department of Health has information about COVID-19 and how to protect yourself.

For more support

When in Melbourne, you may want to book an appointment to see a counsellor, a doctor at the Health Service, or a Student Connect appointment. These services are free for current students.

If you have further questions, you can email student-connect@unimelb.edu.au or submit a query through Stop 1.

If you would like to speak with a staff member on the telephone, via a virtual appointment, or in person, please book through the Stop 1 booking service.

If you'd like more support, come along to one of our workshops or make an appointment for individual counselling.

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