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How Do We Stay Mentally Fit in Times of Stress

How Do We Stay Mentally Fit in Times of Stress?

You will find information, resources, and strategies to help you manage your mental well-being while we, as a community, come together to unite around the educational and research mission of our school.

We are all feeling anxious right now regarding the uncertainty that awaits us as a community. Elevated levels of anxiety are to be expected in times of uncertainty- it’s our body’s way of telling us that we need to be alert and prepared. However, uncertainty often has a strong tendency to turn normative levels of anxiety into problematic levels of distress.

Because there is a lot that is unknown about what the future holds, we are primed to start contingency planning. This said, there is actually a lot we do know about what actions we can take right now to respond to the current situation. The primary advice is to follow the CDC, state, and local public health guidance related to preventative measures.

However, how do we manage the anxiety? Below you will find some information that can be helpful in this endeavor. Naturally, these are only a few tools in a large toolbox of options. We encourage you to pick what you think will work best for you during these times. The ultimate goal is to reduce anxiety- so you can always ask yourself if what you are doing right now is helping to reduce anxiety, keeping it the same, or making it worse. If it isn’t reducing it, then you might need to explore alternative strategies of coping.


When it comes to keeping anxiety at bay, there are several important guidelines to follow:

  • Anxiety feeds off of the changes that we are forced to make in our routines . Keep your normal sleep, eating, and exercise schedules. Check out JED Campus TIPS for Self-Care.
  • Anxiety feeds off of the unknown. Worry tends to turn into rumination, which in turn amplifies symptoms of anxiety.
    • Approach the unknown as problem solving – when a worry thought enters your mind, turn your mind to a curious observation and write down the thought on paper. Return when you have time to put proper attention to it. If it is still important, problem solve.
    • Label the thought as a “worry thought .” Labeling thoughts helps to regulate them. When we can notice our thoughts arising as cognitive processes rather than fused with any truth or certainty, then we can provide cognitive distance. Remember, worry thoughts are the mind’s way of telling ourselves to attend to something.
    • Notice in your body where anxiety lives. Noticing where the body holds your anxiety helps you to focus on identifying physiological symptoms and provides cognitive distance. Label those physiological symptoms as anxiety symptoms. Remind yourself they are there to indicate that you may need to be prepared.
    • Limit your researching behavior . Anxiety is never satisfied with the amount, quality, or frequency of data gathering. Strictly limit your researching to 15 minutes per day. Set a timer on your phone.
    • Focus on your work that matters to you!
  • Anxiety is amplified by avoidance of safe situations . It is important that you follow university guidelines and policies for precautions as these set the boundaries for what is in and out of bounds. Anxiety causes people to not only overestimate the probability of something bad happening, it causes people to imagine the worst. To combat problematic avoidance:
    • Follow university guidelines to tell you what is in and out of bounds . This includes social distancing, washing hands frequently, staying home if you have any symptoms for anyone not at high-risk. For individuals who are at high-risk or live with someone at high-risk, this may mean self-isolating until further guidelines are put forth.
    • Seek advice from others . Follow the guidance of administrators and colleagues and determine what makes most sense for you. You will know if avoiding is helping or making things worse- the level of symptoms tells you. If working from home is not helping your anxiety and your colleagues in a similar risk category are on campus, then switch it up.

**Source: Washington University in St. Louis - as recommended by the JED Campus