COVID-19: Managing Stress and Anxiety

The COVID-19 public health emergency is stressful on adults, adolescents, and children alike. The disruption in daily activities can be upsetting and confusing. You may feel anxious, fearful, and/or overwhelmed by information by the constant stream of emerging information reported by the media.

During this time, it’s just as important to take care of your emotional health as it is your physical well-being. APFED has put together this page to offer information, tips, and resources to help our community of patients and caregivers, and their loved ones.

Signs of Stress

Physical Signs of Stress

People react and respond differently to stressful situations. Some may experience physical symptoms related to stress, including one or more of the following:

  • Decreased energy and/or fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Head- or muscle aches
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Increased heart rate
  • Upset stomach/stomachaches

Some of these symptoms may instead be symptoms related to an eosinophil-associated disease. Try to slow down your thoughts with some deep breaths and evaluate whether these symptoms are typically related to your medical condition or if they are reactions you usually experience with stressful situations. Contact your health care provider if you have questions or concerns about symptoms you are experiencing. Your health is an important concern, even while many medical resources have been diverted to COVID-19, and your provider will still help you.

Emotional Signs of Stress

  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Helplessness

Allow yourself to express these feelings to others you trust. Encourage children to identify their feelings, and while trying not to feed their worry with your own fears, find ways to share some feelings. Point out to your family that you are all under stress together and do some jumping jacks or pillow-punching together.

Cognitive Reactions of Stress

  • Confusion or difficulty problem-solving
  • Trouble focusing
  • Difficulty with remembering things

When you are accustomed to meticulously managing an eosinophil-associated disease, it may come as a surprise to find yourself experiencing these normal cognitive reactions. Try to forgive yourself. Use your best organizational skills to make to-do lists and schedules. When you have a bout of indecision, ask a friend to help you think through your options.

Behavioral Reactions

  • Increased dependency on nicotine or alcohol
  • Substance abuse
  • Bullying or blaming others
  • Ignoring public health and safety recommendations—doing the opposite of what is recommended to avoid feeling controlled by rules

Maintain an awareness of your behavior so that you can make the best choices to cope with our collective situation.

Ways to Cope

  • Create a routine to maintain a sense of normalcy, including the consistent times for sleep, eating, work, and socialization. For children, consider scheduling times for schoolwork, physical activity, and “recess”/play to follow their typical school day.
  • Take care of your physical health: Nourish and hydrate yourself, exercise, and get adequate sleep.
    • Plan time to do activities you enjoy.
    • Talk with trusted people about your concerns or journal your feelings.
    • Take time to unwind: Mediate, do yoga or stretching, read a book, or listen to relaxing music.
    • Focus on things that are within your control, such as taking care of yourself and finding new ways to connect to others.

If you are having trouble coping with strong feelings and are finding that they last longer than several days or are interfering with your daily life, seek guidance from a mental health specialist; many offer telehealth services and can help via phone or digital device. Keep in mind that you may need to try more than one telehealth service or healthcare system before you are able to schedule an appointment as a new patient but be persistent. Your needs matter, and you can benefit from the support that is out there.

Ways to Cope with Social Distancing

As federal and local guidance recommends that we physically distance ourselves from others, some may struggle with feelings of boredom, loneliness, and frustration, and other negative feelings that periods of isolation may cause.

  • Join an online support group. Consider participating in conversations in APFED’s EOS Connections online community or invite members on the platform to chat — we are all here to support one another!
  • Set up video conferencing with friends. Consider a “theme” night, such as a virtual book club.
  • Reconnect with old friends through a phone call.
  • Explore a new hobby that interests you or sign up for an online class, such as learning a new language, art, music, or cooking.
  • Finish a project that you have been putting off; tackle the closet you have been meaning to clean out, start the blog you intended to launch last year.

Other Resources

Contributors and Reviewers:

Juliet Ross, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist, New York, NY

Margo Szabo, PhD, Pediatric Psychologist, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Health Sciences Advisor, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Jane Robinson, PhD, Pediatric Psychologist, Children’s Hospital Colorado, Denver, CO


Additional References

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mercer. Managing Anxiety and Stress Related to COVID-19. Accessed March 19, 2020.

HelpGuide. Stress Management. Accessed March 19, 2020.

Psychology Today. Coping With Social Distancing. Accessed March 19, 2020.