How to Manage Stress, Prioritize Self-Care and Stay Productive During a Pandemic

By Alyssa Abel on 13 April 2020

These days, it’s common to feel stressed and worn down. On top of work or school, we have to deal with so many other daily responsibilities, family obligations and other concerns. Social media supplies an added layer of pressure.

Now, with the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing protocols, school and work closures or work-from-home transitions, stress is more present in our lives than ever.

But while stress can sometimes motivate you to do better, it mostly has adverse effects. Occasionally, you don’t even notice how it impacts you — and unfortunately, stress and productivity have a complex relationship.

Take a look at the ways stress can hinder your life, as well as a few solutions to help you get back to your best. Even during this difficult and alarming time, it’s important to focus on self-care, motivation and positive mental health.

Download this article as a PDF

Effects of Stress

Life often throws different stressors at us — from everyday stressors like job interviews and birthday parties to unexpected emergencies like coronavirus, we go through it all. But chronic stress can cause significant issues and influence us in ways we often don’t realize off the bat:

  • Sickness: When you feel immense pressure or worry every day, you become prone to various health problems. Headaches, insomnia and a weakened immune system are all typical side-effects of long-term tension. Especially now, when your immune system needs to be strongest, you can’t allow stress to make you more physically susceptible to illness.
  • Poor relationships: Stress can cause us to lash out and drive a wedge between ourselves and others. When upset, it’s not hard to say or do something we don’t mean. After all, our minds aren’t sharp and focused. If you’re practicing social distancing and are confined in your home with your roommate, partner or family, tensions can be especially high — but remember, adding stress by alienating your loved ones will not help.
  • Struggles with everyday tasks: Did you know that even during untroubled times, one-third of teens worry about school daily? Because of this, they’re unable to concentrate on their work and extracurriculars. The same goes for adults. When our thoughts center on stressors, productivity becomes hindered — especially now that many must work from home and adjust to new focus routines.
  • Hasty decisions: When we’re calm, we’re able to give our tasks full attention. But stress makes us overlook specific actions and make mistakes or hasty decisions. Even though you may be feeling frantic due to stress about your work situation, family’s safety and personal health during this pandemic, it’s important not to let those factors lead to panicked decisions.
  • Hindered productivity: Even with coronavirus changing daily life at the moment, you still have to get things done. Maybe you’re able to work from home, or maybe you’re on leave for your safety and need to focus on taking care of your health, family or living space. No matter the case, stress can cause immobilization and lowered productivity, causing you to perform poorly at work or let other tasks slip out of your control. Now more than ever, maintaining normalcy and productivity is key.

Prolonged stress touches every aspect of our lives — mentally and physically. All of that then comes together to impact how productive we are in our daily endeavors. When we’re ill, imagining the worst or caught up in our emotions, we can’t succeed in our responsibilities. On top of that, being distressed makes our duties take much longer to complete than they usually would. We can only produce the best work when we feel and think positively.

But there’s a bright side to all of this. Stress, even in its most severe forms, is manageable. Even — and especially — during this scary time, it’s essential to learn to manage your stress and separate it from your responsibilities so you can continue to move forward.

Ways to Control Stress

It’s easy to let stress manifest, especially when you don’t realize how it’s impacted you. But as soon as you feel overwhelmed or anxious, you should try to take control of these feelings. Remember — your stress, physical health, mental health and productivity levels go hand in hand. Here’s how you can work on controlling stress and channeling that energy towards staying productive:

  • Eat a well-balanced meal: Don’t open a bag of chips or dig into a tub of ice cream. Certain foods can help us feel more relaxed, so aim for oranges, leafy greens and nuts. A healthy diet full of vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains can also help strengthen your immune system against possible illness. If you need some comfort, grab a bar of dark chocolate. Different kinds of tea are beneficial, as well.
  • Set aside time for yourself: This point may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s imperative. Each day, take half an hour or more to do something you love. Watch a TV show, write in a journal or do some yoga — and try to forget about your stresses and fears for the moment. No matter what, you should take time for yourself, especially when you’re tense about what’s going on in the world.
  • Think positive: Stress causes negative opinions and emotions, but excessive worry or doomsday thinking won’t help anyone right now. Try to think positively to feel calmer and more confident — this will help you find the silver lining in the situation and stay focused on the tasks you need to accomplish. For example, notice that this time of uncertainty for the world is also an opportunity for humanity to come together and support each other emotionally.
  • Sit down and meditate: As a proven stress reliever, meditation allows us to build a peaceful outlook on life. Through this practice, we can gain a new perspective wherever we are, no matter what’s going on. Patience and tolerance are needed to manage tension.
  • Consult a professional: When no remedy is adequate, it may be time to talk to your doctor — either over the phone or through Talkspace, where licensed therapists can help you digitally so you stay mindful of social distancing. Sometimes, stress is too much to handle on our own. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you’re feeling this way. They’re there to help you — and they’re happy to do so.

We all deal with stress differently, but the essential takeaway here is we need to go about it in a healthy manner. Avoid alcohol and other drugs. Instead, pick up some fruit and take a walk. Remember that personal time is necessary as well. After all, too much stress will just make the situation harder.

Don’t let long-term stress consume you, even in these uncertain times. Take action, manage your emotions and remember to keep a calm, clear mind — it’s what we all need right now to stay safe and carry on.

Establish a Balance

Excessive stress leaks into all areas of your health, productivity and quality of life, which is why it’s crucial to find that perfect balance. This may be a scary and stressful time, but don’t let it take over your life more than it already has. Take care of yourself, practice strategies to keep calm, and prioritize staying healthy and motivated.

About the Author

Alyssa Abel writes about college and career topics for students and professionals alike. Read more of her advice on her blog, Syllabusy.

Download this article as a PDF