Back to Top COVID-19 Compassion is a part of managing stress - The Ottawa Hospital


COVID-19 Compassion is a part of managing stress

A young lady is coping with COVID-19 stress at The Ottawa Hospital

Practicing compassion for yourself and trying your best to support your long-term wellness may help you manage your stress. 

It is normal to feel stress related to COVID-19 and all the pressures that it may present. As the weeks of change and uncertainty continue, many of us  are feeling stretched and stressed.  Some of us are letting go of some of the coping strategies that have helped us and are adding strategies that make us feel better in the moment, but we might regret later on.  Read on for some validation that you are not alone in this struggle.

Stress is a normal, often healthy, response to environmental change or threat that requires us to adjust or respond in some way.  COVID-19  has brought many changes, challenges and uncertainties.

Increases in stress can impact our emotions, mind and body. People may find that they are feeling more anxious, overwhelmed, sad, fearful, angry, frustrated, irritable or lonely. Many might feel more worried, have more negative thoughts, and have difficulty concentrating or making decisions. Stress can also create fatigue, muscle tension and headaches.

Wellness during COVID-19
Have you experienced any physical or emotional signs of stress?  You’re not alone.

We all experience stress differently. It can be helpful to pay attention to how you experience stress to understand when and how to cope effectively.

Perhaps most importantly, remind yourself it is OK to be OK and not OK. If by the end of the day you regret how many cookies you ate, bags of chips you polished off, or that extra glass of wine you had, be compassionate with yourself and others.

Coping with stress

People cope with stress in many different ways. There is a complex interplay of biological, genetic, environmental, and psychological factors that all work to increase or decrease someone’s risk for using alcohol and other substances, especially in response to stress.  

For anyone who is dealing with prolonged stress, there can be times when we start to feel less control over some of our coping strategies. Some behaviours can actually increase our levels of stress, anxiety and feelings of isolation,  and can lower our mood.  

When this happens, we can start to feel as if our behaviours are gaining control over our day, and/or taking up too much space in our lives. Perhaps other people in our lives are telling us so.

COVID Strategies to cope with the stress
Some behaviors may offer us some short-term relief from stress, but they may actually result in an increase in negative feelings when the impact wears off

When we are stressed, it is normal to try to get our bodies back to feeling more comfortable. Using food, exercise, alcohol, gambling, video games, internet surfing, etc. are all ways that people try to manage their emotions. Although they can help with the feelings in that moment, they can also result in an increase in negative feelings when the impact wears off. Over time, the behaviours we used to try to feel more in control actually do the opposite. And there can be negative consequences to our physical and emotional health.

Here are some things you can try to manage your stress

  • Do the best you can to support your wellness choices whenever possible.
    • Sleep and rest when you can; try to keep moving and stay active; try to make healthy food choices when possible.
    • Monitor your use of stimulants like caffeine and nicotine to see if they are negatively impacting your sleep and stress.
    • Visit (or meet virtually) with your doctor or other member of your care team regularly.
  • Do activities that you enjoy.
  • Follow a daily schedule or routine to help provide structure, even when you are staying home.
  • Try some relaxation exercises.
  • Practice positive self-talk.
  • Show self-compassion through comforting or soothing activities (e.g., have a bubble bath or curl up with a warm blanket).
  • Reach out to supportive people in your life via phone or video call.

If you are having trouble coping with stress, consider seeking out professional supports like a mental health professional. You can talk to your doctor or other member of your care team about your options.

More resources

Infographic: Managing stress, anxiety and substance use for health-care providers

Managing substance use during COVID-19 pandemic (podcast)

Emotional eating

Smoking cessation


Comment on this post

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You might also like…

Mental health professionals and paramedics team up to help people in crisis

Seven days a week, a mental health professional from The Ottawa Hospital hits the road with a paramedic from the Ottawa Paramedic Service. Together, they respond to 911 calls for mental health emergencies across the city. Social worker Cindy Gill and paramedic Scott Farrell share how the Mental Wellbeing Response Team provides quality care for patients out in the community.

“Stewards of hormones”: Our Gender Diversity Specialty Clinic guides medically complex patients on their affirmation journey

Often, trans and non-binary patients struggle to find health-care providers to support them on their affirmation journey. It is even more difficult for patients with complex medical needs. That’s why we launched our Gender Diversity Specialty Clinic, one of the first of its kind in Canada.

New Research Chair in Gay Men’s Health is setting out to break down barriers to care

As both a researcher and a gay man, Dr. Paul MacPherson knows all too well the stigma that gay men often face in the health-care system. Now, as the Clinical Research Chair in Gay Men’s Health at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa, he’s on a mission to make quality health care more accessible to this often overlooked patient population.

Healing through art: Congratulations to the winners of the TRIAS Art Prize

Did you know that art has the power to heal? This year, The Ottawa Hospital and the Ottawa Art Gallery launched the TRIAS Art Prize to recognize the role of artists in healing and wellness. We recently announced the winners, and you’ll see their artwork around the hospital in the new year. Get a sneak preview today.

Type 2 diabetes: Are you at risk?

Type 2 diabetes is a serious health condition that affects nearly two million Canadians (and rising), but there are actions you can take today to reduce your risk. Our experts offer evidence-based tips on how to support your body’s blood sugar balance system and keep yourself healthy.

A dietitian’s not-so-common tips for healthy eating on a budget

Food prices are on the rise, and many people are feeling the pinch. Mistralle Brouillard, a registered dietitian at The Ottawa Hospital, offers some tips on how to eat well on a budget – and some reassuring words to those who feel like they might be missing the mark.

This website gives you common facts, advice and tips. Some of it may not apply to you. Please talk to your doctor, nurse or other health-care team member to see if this information will work for you. They can also answer your questions and concerns.