DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Campus and Community > Coronavirus coping tips

Tips on coping in the age of COVID-19

Vincent's circle
(DePaul University/Josh Woo)

Jeff Lanfear, director of University Counseling Services, offers tips and steps individuals can take to reduce anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lanfear is a licensed clinical psychologist and has been at DePaul for 20 years.

When it comes to coping with COVID-19, a good first step is acknowledging that probably all members of the DePaul community and beyond have experienced a great deal of stress, uncertainty and upheaval in recent days. The coronavirus pandemic has increased anxiety and fear of people around the world. We may fear for our health and the wellbeing of the most vulnerable members of our society. Many of us are concerned for family and loved ones in countries where the virus has already had a grave impact. 

Common sources of stress related to public health directives that mandate physical distancing include: a sudden change in our routines and rhythms of life, a drop in meaningful activities, changes or loss of important relationships and social engagement, financial strain or concern about our family's financial viability; and lack of access to typical coping strategies, such as going to the gym or attending religious services. 

Many strategies and practices can help with anxiety: 

Challenge yourself to stay in the present

Perhaps your worry is compounding—you are not only thinking about what is currently happening, but also projecting into the future. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn't happened, gently bring yourself back to the present moment.  Engage your 5-sense experience: notice the sights, sounds, tastes and other sensory experiences in the immediate moment and name them. Engaging in mindfulness activities is one way to help stay grounded when things feel beyond our control.

Focus on what's in your control 

When we're facing a crisis of any sort, fear and anxiety are inevitable. They are normal, natural responses to challenging situations infused with danger and uncertainty. It's easy to get lost in worrying and ruminating about the things out of your control. 

What you do – here and now – can make a huge difference to yourself and anyone living with you, and a significant difference to the community around you.

Create and follow a daily routine

Maintaining a daily routine can help adults preserve a sense of order and purpose in their lives, despite the unfamiliarity of isolation, quarantine or shelter in place.  Try to include regular daily activities such as work, exercise or learning, even if they must be executed remotely. Integrate other healthy pastimes as needed. 

Stay virtually connected and increase emotional intimacy

Your face-to-face interactions may be limited, but psychologists suggest using phone calls, text messages, video chat and social media to access social support networks. If you're feeling sad or anxious, use these conversations as an opportunity to discuss your experience and associated emotions. Reach out to those you know are in a similar situation. 

This time can be an opportunity to engage in longer and more intimate conversations with family, including parents or grandparents. For example, you could interview a parent or grandparent about their stories of resilience.

Use psychological strategies to stay positive

Examine your worries and aim to be realistic in your assessment of the actual concern, as well as your ability to cope. Try not to catastrophize. Instead, focus on what you can do and accept the things you can't change.

One way to do this is to keep a daily gratitude journal. Download smartphone applications that deliver mindfulness and relaxation exercises.  For example, PTSD Coach is a free app developed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD and the Department of Defense National Center for Telehealth and Technology. It contains coping and resilience resources such as exercises for deep breathing, positive imagery and muscle relaxation. 

Focusing on the altruistic reasons for social distancing, quarantine or isolation can also help mitigate psychological distress. Remember by taking such measures, you are reducing the possibility of transmitting COVID-19 and protecting those who are most vulnerable.

Nurture your spirituality and practice self-compassion. For spiritual or religious individuals, daily prayer intentions, connecting with reading or journaling may be helpful ways to stay grounded and find a source of strength amidst the chaos. If we are able to be kind to ourselves, we are able to strengthen our compassion for others. We may need to give ourselves permission to slow down, breathe, and, at points, pause. 

Cultivate cultural understanding and curiosity

In lieu of social outings, spend time learning more about your ethnic group's history, culture and art through books and movies.  There are documentaries, feature-length films, historical fiction and non-fiction books tailored to every age group.  Learning about our histories and the histories of people who have survived group-based oppression can increase our shared humanity and the knowledge that when we work together, we can conquer challenges together. 

Take action to address racism and inequities related to COVID-19 and to promote health for all

Use your voice to stand up and speak out against racism and xenophobia that harms communities of color. This includes the racist stereotypic of people of Asian descent who have been erroneously blamed for the spread of COVID-19, and, as a result, victims of microaggressions and hate crimes.  Stay vigilant to inequities and support local actions to address them. For example, undocumented families may fear that, in seeking medical treatment and testing, they may risk deportation. 

Keep things in perspective

During a time of uncertainty where news is changing by the hour, take a deep breath and remind yourself that most people who contract COVID-19 will not experience severe or life-threatening symptoms. It's important to avoid panic as you take the necessary precautions to keep your family and community healthy.

Our Take Care DePaul message applies wherever Blue Demons are -- on campus, off-campus or taking classes online. This is an especially important time for everyone in the DePaul community to take good care of themselves by attending to our physical and mental health.

As a Vincentian institution we're called to practice social solidarity by staying connected with our classmates, faculty and staff, and colleagues, paying special attention to the marginalized and vulnerable so as to 'Take Care of Each Other.'  Whether near or far, there is strength, care and resilience in the DePaul community – “Take Care DePaul!"

Resources Available for the DePaul Community


Many DePaul Student Affairs offices will be open virtually during spring break and spring quarter, including University Counseling Services.  Counselors are available for emotional support, including check-in sessions, crisis consultation and referrals. The UCS webpage has many resources on coping with stress related to COVID-19.  University Counseling Services can be reached at (773) 325-7779. 

Faculty and Staff

DePaul's Employee Assistance Program is available for employees who are seeking support and resources. To speak with a counselor or schedule an appointment, call (800) 621-4124.