Coping With Pandemic Stress

These last few weeks have been a lot to process. Our minds and nerves seem to be raw with all of the emotions we are facing on a daily basis and leaves us wondering, how do we cope. Knowing that others are feeling similar should be a comfort, but it can be hard to share the darkness. We are left wondering “how do I cope with the stress of coronavirus?” We see messages released from the CDC and local Health Departments, but they are abstract in how we process, mainly because they say things like we need to unplug and not over expose ourselves to news. We each are different and our responses to stress and hard times are equally so. We have to use those guidelines to help us find out “WE” can relax. 

 I was born in the early 70s and was raised in the 80s, a GenX’er. During that time, we had Reagan and Russia was still our enemy. The Cold War was only starting to end. I grew up in the south and in the mountains, you could say we were hillbillies or country folk. Both of my parents were born ten years after the Great Depression, so they were raised with the mindset of the reality their parents faced. My father had the prepper mentality and was a bit of a Doomsday scenario guy. 

woman holding mirror against her head in the middle of forest
Photo by Tasha Kamrowski on


 I remember being about ten years old and sitting in the cab of his old green Ford F150 sitting about a mile from home at a friend’s house listening to him talk about the possible threat of nuclear war. This was the age of Reagan wanting to use Star Wars (Strategic Defense Initiative). Dad would talk about the threat of ICBs being used and what that would mean. He collected guns for defense of the home as well as just his hobby. He talked about how it would be a good idea to start looking for a cave somewhere remote that he could close off and stockpile with food and ammo. I would eventually fall asleep with horrible nightmares of nuclear attack and us shuttered away in some small cave that may or may not have dangerous animals inside and out. Sleep is a stretch as it was more fitful and terrified. 

 Looking back, this may be the cause of some of the horrific nightmares I still encounter. These kinds of talks started a shift in my mind. Dad talked about learning survival techniques so that we could fend for ourselves, should the need arise. He was raised in the same fashion. Taught how to make traps out of what was found in nature and what things we should carry all the time. It is why I carry a first aid kit in my car, along with rope and a blanket. I have relaxed some of those things. I do not carry water or food as much anymore. But I do still carry at least two knives with me at all times and a small first aid kit in my daily bag. 

Current State

 This current pandemic brings all that back with raging intensity. Sure, you could say why didn’t it have a similar effect when we had 9/11 or previous virus outbreaks. Those were more contained, at least in my mind. The theater of 9/11 had a huge effect on our nation, but the retaliation was swift and contained to one country. SARS, MERS, and Zika came with a quick build up, but played out as weather changed or was limited to a few hot spots. This virus has hit every part of our world and my mind went into panic mode. I shut down and started worry about how this will grow and how it will change the very essence of things we do. Like many, I have become caught up in the daily briefings and the panic it causes. Those mindsets aren’t helpful.

time for change sign with led light
Photo by Alexas Fotos on

How do we change?

 It’s easy to get overwhelmed. We see how many people in the world of the United States are affected and what the daily rising death tolls are, and it sends jets of frozen fear racing through our veins. We need to start thinking more locally. Look at your family and friends and make them your priority. Keeping them safe by following guidelines set out by the CDC and Health Departments should be our first and biggest priority. We need to remember to act with compassion towards those that our circle of influence crosses. Remember there are others; neighbors, friends, coworkers, that are going through the same things we are. Offer support and treat them kindly. 

 Remember to take information in smaller doses. Don’t watch every broadcast, every day. The numbers will continue to change, whether we see it or not. The situation will get darker before light shines unto us. Those are things you cannot change. What you can change is how you react and what actions are necessary. More than that, taking time to talk to loved ones about what is going on is essential. It allows us all to lay our feeling out on the table, we can get support or even clear up misinformation. Being that needed support for one another is crucial in this time.

Looking to the Future

This will pass. That is the only absolute truth about this situation. But to get to that point we need to take care of ourselves, first, and then look to taking care of those that are closest to us. We need to learn to unplug from all the information that is being thrown at us. Have dinner with those closest to you and turn off your electronic devices. Try not to look at any new information a couple hours before bed, so your mind can process and let go. Be strong for others, more importantly remember to let others be strong for you, as well. 

 I’m not here to fix this situation or tell you the magic cure. What I am sharing with you are things I am trying to implement myself, because I, too, am overloaded and need to function better. There has been a lot to process and there will be more in the coming weeks. Our survival and health depends on the small measures we are taking, social distancing, wearing protection when we can, and washing our hands often. Taking care of those closest to us will keep our exposure limited, as well. It is all in how you choose to cope with the stress of this situation. 



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