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Taking Care of Your Mental Health Part 1: Understanding Acute Stress & Trauma

Daily exposure to news about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) may result in a range of responses, particularly for students with loved ones in China and other affected areas of the world. Reactions can be emotional, somatic, and/or behavioral, and can impact mental and physical health. We have gathered several handouts and possible resources on this page, in hope that this will help you take care of your mental health during this outbreak.This information is intended to support community members with loved ones whose daily lives and well-being have been affected by COVID-19. Please know that we have been following the news as it evolves and we are here to support you.

Managing Fears and Concerns About COVID-19 Common acute stress reactions: -things feeling surreal

-fear or anxiety about the future or death

-hopelessness or feeling lost about the future;

-feeling a lack of purpose in study or work difficulty concentrating or making decisions

-feeling emotionally detached, numb, or crying for what seems like no reason

-rumination, preoccupation with information about the outbreak

-difficulty getting to sleep, poor sleep quality, bad dreams, or problems staying awake during the day

-headache, stomach ache, or pain without medical causes

-significantly decreased or increased appetite

-relying on alcohol or substances to cope with stress

-increased irritability, feeling angry shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, experiencing panic attack(s)

When facing stress, everyone’s reaction is different. You may have other experiences or symptoms aside from those above.

Reactions specific to this COVID-19 outbreak: -Worry about contamination, preoccupation with any signs/symptoms of illness, excessively taking your own temperature, and frequent urges to have yourself examined at health centers.

-The worries may impact your daily living, social relationships, or study. Experiencing symptoms such as itchy throat or nasal congestion and being concerned about having contracted corona virus, even though no fever is present and there is little possibility of having contracted the virus in reality. 

-Feeling alone or misunderstood.

-Feeling angry at or lacking trust in systems or others.

-Excessive attention to or obsession with related news, information, articles, or statements.

-The focus can result in compulsively reading about information about the outbreak, difficulty sleeping, and/or problems with concentrating  on other topics. 

-Quickly jumping to conclusions based on new information, resulting in panic in self or others.

-Grieving over loss, or feeling sad and/or a sense of unfairness around someone’s death.

Possible experiences while living in the US, far away from the loved ones ”Survivor guilt” due to having physical distance between you and the current virus outbreak.

-For example, you might feel ashamed, guilty, or that you have abandoned your loved ones because you are not directly involved, because you are currently healthy, or because there are limited ways you can help. 

-The worries significantly impact your daily life, social life, or study.

-Feeling angry, disappointed, or a lack of control because your loved ones do not follow suggested precautions or believe in false information.

If your loved ones have come into close contact with a diagnosed patient or have been diagnosed with coronavirus themselves, are in quarantine, or if they are medical providers, you might have different reactions in addition to those identified above.

Please know that it is normal and valid (even protective, in some cases) to have the above mentioned thoughts and feelings. It is important to first acknowledge and accept the emergence of the emotions. But if the excessive worry or stress responses interfere with your daily living, you may want to reach out to a professional to learn new ways to cope during this time of increased stress.

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