How do you respond to stress? Tips for coping with your emotions during COVID-19

In this sponsored article, counselling psychologist Noemi Vigano shares her advice on processing anger, sadness and guilt

This article is sponsored by digital mental health platform SilverCloud

Picture: iStock

In an emergency situation, anxiety and stress are there to help you adapt and survive as best as you can.

They are not a sign that you aren’t coping or that you are suffering with a mental health condition.

Challenging times can induce difficult emotions

Living through challenging times such as the COVID-19 pandemic can be unsettling and distressing.

Suddenly having to adjust – on a psychological and a practical level – to new and strange circumstances almost overnight, as well as dealing with a lot of uncertainty on a daily basis, can put a strain on you and your mental health.

In these challenging times you might feel a range of strong and unpleasant emotions, perhaps every day.

You might feel anxious and worry more than usual. You may experience a sense of loss for a lot of things that made your life the way it was before, and other important things that are now gone or on hold.

These are normal reactions to the exceptional circumstances we are all facing.

You may also experience mixed emotions such as anger, sadness, numbness and guilt, all of which can be exhausting.

How you might feel

Different people will experience different reactions at different times; there is no right or wrong way to feel.

The table below lists some common reactions to these types of emotions and situations.

Emotions Behaviours Physical sensations Thoughts
Lack of pleasure
Feelings of loss (grief)
Conflict with others
Consuming more alcohol,
tobacco or other drugs
Physical pains
Loss of appetite
Loss of energy
Problems with memory
Difficulty concentrating
Feeling disoriented/
Feeling less worthy
Loss of confidence

Emotions that motivate us into action

While some emotions such as fear and anxiety may feel unpleasant, they are helpful because they motivate us to take action to try to keep ourselves safe.

Here are some common emotions and their functions:


Sadness gives you the space to pull back and process what has happened, and it can signal to others that you may need support and comfort.

At the moment you might feel sad at the loss of your sense of safety, familiar routines or because you are missing loved ones.


Anger occurs when we feel that we or the people we care about are being hurt or wronged in some way.

Anger motivates us to take action to address these wrongdoings and set things right. It can also be associated with destructive behaviours such as shouting and aggression. It’s important to separate our possible responses to anger from the emotional message itself.

In the current situation you might be angry about the pandemic itself and the unfairness of it all. You might also feel angry about the responses of other people or the government towards the situation.

A simple exercise to calm the mind

It can be helpful to take a moment to slow down and tune in to what is going on for you right now.

Ask yourself:

  • What challenges are you facing in the current situation?
  • How are you feeling?
  • What thoughts and worries are going through your mind?
  • How does your body feel?
  • What have you been doing or avoiding recently?

In these extraordinary times, it is important to be understanding of yourself and how you feel. It is not wrong to feel strong, mixed or difficult emotions – it is a natural way for your body and mind to respond to the challenges you are facing.

By listening to how you feel and by reflecting on these emotions and doing the exercise suggested above, you may be able to help yourself cope with the pandemic and its wide-ranging impacts.

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