Coping With Stress While Working During COVID-19

Common symptoms of prolonged stress, ways to manage that stress, and who to contact when you need help

Reviewed by: Donna Shanor, Director of Clinical Social Work
Written by: Ashley Lawrence

With an uptick in COVID-19 cases, many of us are worried about the well-being of ourselves and the people we care about most. Whether you are working from home, have recently returned to your workplace, or never left your workplace to begin with, fear and anxiety may have become a part of your everyday life. These stressors, in addition to navigating new workplace rules and regulations to keep yourself and customers safe, can quickly become overwhelming.

When you are under stress for a prolonged period of time, it can cause or worsen a variety of health problems, such as digestive issues, skin conditions, heart disease, weight problems, reproductive issues, memory issues, and more. This is why it’s important to take the time to recognize the symptoms of the stress you are feeling, find ways to better manage that stress, and know who to contact if you need help.

First, recognize the symptoms of the stress you are experiencing.

How you cope with stress can affect your well-being and the well-being of your family and friends, workplace, and community. It can also make functioning on a daily basis more challenging. Common symptoms of prolonged stress may include:

  • Increased irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Increased alcohol, tobacco, and drug use
  • Feeling uncertain, nervous, or anxious
  • Feeling tired or overwhelmed
  • Lacking motivation or energy
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Wanting to be alone often
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Excessive worrying or feelings of sadness or despair
  • Headaches, stomachaches, or dizziness

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms of stress, try to identify where those symptoms of stress are coming from. Common stressors experienced by employees working during COVID-19 may include:

  • Concern about the risk of exposure to COVID-19 while at work
  • Concern about exposing members of your household to COVID-19 due to working
  • Lack of access to tools and equipment or support (i.e. childcare) needed to perform your job well
  • Taking care of family needs while working, especially when working from home
  • Utilizing public transportation to get to and from work
  • Managing a different (or increased) workload
  • Uncertainty about the future of your employment
  • Reduction in your assigned employment hours
  • Learning to navigate a new workplace environment
  • Adapting to a different workspace and schedule
  • Feeling guilty for not contributing more during a crisis

Second, find ways to manage the stress you are experiencing.

While stress is a normal reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, prolonged periods of stress can harm our health. Here are some ways you can manage work-related stress during COVID-19:

  • Communicate with your supervisor. Explain your concerns involving your role in the workplace and work together to identify solutions.
  • Identify what you do and don’t have control over. Make the best of the resources available to you and talk to your supervisor about any challenges you are facing.
  • Stay up to date on the facts about COVID-19. As COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation, it’s important to stay informed as new information becomes available to best protect yourself and others.
  • Be mindful of your news and social media intake. While it is important to stay informed, immersing yourself in too much news and social media can exacerbate fear and stress, causing you to feel overwhelmed. If you are feeling overwhelmed, find people and resources you can depend on for accurate health information, such as your family doctor, state or local health department, and U.S. government agencies.
  • Stick to a routine as much as you can. Try to keep a regular sleep and eating schedule, find time to do something you enjoy outside of work hours, and incorporate breaks for exercise or to check in with coworkers, family, and friends.
  • Remind yourself that you are crucial to fighting this pandemic. Don’t get discouraged if you feel you aren’t doing enough during this crisis. While not all of us are on the frontlines, we can play an active part by continuing to follow the CDC-recommended guidelines of social distancing, frequently washing our hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and wearing cloth face masks in public (masks should not be worn by children under the age of two and individuals with who have difficulty breathing). If you are interested in doing more, UT Health Austin and the Dell Medical School are looking for volunteers to help with contract tracing and home monitoring

Check out these additional ways to cope with COVID-19 anxiety and stress.

Finally, know who to contact if you need help.

If you or someone you know is having difficulty managing their stress, talk to your healthcare provider or a health professional. You can also check with your employer about employee assistance programs or other mental health resources that may be available to you.

If you feel you or someone you know may harm themselves or someone else, seek help immediately:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

National Domestic Violence Hotline:

  • Call: 1-800-799-7233
  • TTY: 1-800-787-3224

If you are feeling overwhelmed with sadness, depression, or anxiety related to COVID-19, reach out to:

Disaster Distress Helpline

  • Call: 1-800-985-5990
  • Text: Send TalkWithUs to 66746

About UT Health Austin

UT Health Austin, the group practice designed and managed by the faculty and staff of the Dell Medical School, focuses the expertise of a team of experienced medical professionals to deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality. Our experienced healthcare professionals treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, priorities, and beliefs. Working with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you — in the care room and beyond. For more information, call us at 1-833-UT-CARES or request an appointment here.