4 Coping Strategies for COVID-19 Stress
4 Coping Strategies for COVID-19 Stress
When society sees the term ‘coping mechanisms’, the term is commonly associated with actions like taking deep breaths, exercising or socializing. In a society that is constantly moving and chasing success, some people don’t have the luxury (or time) to go to therapy or take a vacation since their schedules are packed with multiple company meetings or projects. As their stress and anxiety builds, they turn toward maladaptive coping mechanisms such as alcohol use or stress eating.

4 Coping Strategies for COVID-19 Stress

As I frantically paced around the living room, stressed about what I wanted to do after college, I saw my piano in the corner of my eye. I stopped for a second, sighed, and took a seat at the sturdy bench with the sleek piano keys looking back at me. This was the thing that made time stop and allowed me to cope with my internal feelings. After playing for about an hour mindlessly, I thought about how someone else might deal with intense stress. Would they write thoughts and feelings in a journal? Would they take out that stress by eating through an entire cake? We all have different ways to cope with stress or anxiety.  Which ways, I wondered, were most effective?

When society sees the term ‘coping mechanisms’, the term is commonly associated with actions like taking deep breaths, exercising or socializing. In a society that is constantly moving and chasing success, some people don’t have the luxury (or time) to go to therapy or take a vacation since their schedules are packed with multiple company meetings or projects. As their stress and anxiety builds, they turn toward maladaptive coping mechanisms such as alcohol use or stress eating. Maladaptive coping mechanisms like these are actually correlated with high measures of burnout. People using such maladaptive coping mechanisms are about 1.46 times more likely to report burnout than the average person (Chang et al., 2020). 

Instead, choose positive coping mechanisms such as:

In life, arguments are inevitable. There will come a time where you butt heads with someone, whether a colleague, significant other, or family member. It isn’t easy to forget moments where the heavy, tense environment has affected a relationship/friendship and you never forget what that person did. But as someone once said to me, “it is important to remember that when you forgive, you heal. And when you let go, you grow.”  Forgiveness is not easy for a lot of people; it can hurt someone’s pride and lower self-esteem. However, research has shown that the act of forgiveness as a coping strategy can improve your mental health and well-being. 

In a recent study, 116 adults filled out an online survey on measures of 

Using scales such as the Interpersonal Attitudes Scale (IAS) and Brief COPE, researchers were able to find the correlation between forgiveness and mental health/well-being.  The Interpersonal Attitudes Scale (IAS) asks people to rate themselves on 26 items/scenarios, such as, “I know my partner is doing their best” or “I thought of ways to make my partner feel regret." The Brief COPE questionnaire asks people to rate their use of coping mechanisms such as “using drugs and alcohol to make myself feel better” or “I have been taking action to try and make the situation better."  

They discovered that “emotional forgiveness relates to greater self-esteem, positive affect, and couple adjustment” (Gall et al., 2020). This study demonstrates how forgiveness can be a self-protective coping mechanism. 

Forgiveness is not something simple like drinking water or going for a walk. It isn’t usually the first coping mechanism we practice, because it takes time, focus, and willingness to actually forgive someone. Especially in extreme cases, it may take a lifetime to forgive someone for deep hurt and trauma. However, practicing forgiveness can change your disposition and life. Before you forgive someone, you’ll likely be weighed down by painful feelings like resentment. But what is resentment? Resentment is a long-standing feeling of bitterness or indignant, righteous anger toward a behavior regarded as wrong or insulting. That feeling over time grows and becomes a problem in everyday activities. Resentment stems from unresolved anger, and the longer you let it stew, the worse it’ll get. When resentment becomes deeply-rooted contempt, it’s very difficult to restore a relationship. So, by coping with such feelings of anger early, whether through forgiveness or communicating with this person, you can avoid even worse pain down the road.


Ever wonder why we love watching a comedy after a tough day at work? Humor can come in forms of online videos, stand-up comedy or everyday interactions. It’s more than just entertaining: humor is actually considered an effective coping strategy.

In a recent study, researchers wanted to see the impact of using humor to cope with negative stimuli. The study consisted of three stages: a prescan stage, the MRI scanning stage and the postscan stage. At the prescan stage, participants were asked to skim through 90 negative IAPS (International Affective Picture Screen) pictures. At the MRI stage, the participants were presented a sentence about the picture that was either humorous reappraisal, ordinary reappraisal or an objective description. Some examples of the sentences presented were:


The researchers wanted to see the brain activity correlated with the humorous reappraisal sentences. From their study, they found that humor was indeed an effective strategy for emotion regulation.  But, even more interesting was the finding that humor was able to down-regulate the negative emotions and increase positive emotions. By using humor to cope with negative stimuli, humor can change one’s perspective to trigger positive emotions. So the next time there is a stressful situation or anxiety-filled moment, try watching or reading something that makes you laugh and turn the situation upside down. 

For me, playing the piano is an effective coping strategy. Surprisingly, science shows I’m not alone. Music is a common coping strategy that we’ve actually written about before: music therapy can relieve stress and provide positive mental health outcomes. Though it seems simple, music has such diverse applications that studies on it spread across different branches and genres. With music therapy becoming more known, technological advances in sounds and music have been used for its calming effects to reduce stress.

In a recent article about COVID-19 and music, it was stated that listening to music in the context of a stressful situation increases coping abilities and reduces levels of psychological stress. COVID-19 and 2020 were filled with uncertainty, and many people lost their social coping mechanisms since meeting in-person became restricted. However, it was found that musical activities and music listening “may lead to coapathy, which equals the social function of empathy, i.e., emotional states of an individual can be affected empathetically when there are a group of people in a similar state of mind” (Ramesh, 2020). This results in increased cohesiveness in social groups although social coping mechanisms are not available, music can act as a substitute social coping mechanism. Just like going to a concert with friends, you experience the same sounds, feelings and emotions with your friends. When you and your friends listen to the same music, the feelings of togetherness and emotions resurface and can help you socially cope with stress and anxiety.  

As someone who loves to binge-watch TV shows, media and screen time are a double-edged sword. A recent article stated, “the increasing use of and dependence on the internet brought to the surface a new public health concern near the start of the century ‘Internet Addiction Disorder’. (Tajanel et al., 2020). Even as children, we were told to not watch television shows for more than a certain amount of time. However, there are positive effects of using online media and tv shows to help cope with stress.

Through an international study, researchers wanted to see the positive and negative effects of screen time in association with stress during COVID-19. Their survey consisted of questions like:

From 685 surveys (mostly from Canada and East Coast of the US), they found that:

From those statistics, they found COVID-19 stress led to increased use of social media and streaming services; while those who considered their mental health as ‘not good’ were twice as likely to prefer streaming services as a coping tool for self-isolation” (Pahayahay, 2020). From this situation, we already know that social media and streaming services were used more often as a coping tool for COVID-19. However, they found that “media (especially social networks) were important for coping if they provided support and connection through the dissemination of factual and positive information while avoiding the overflow of sensational and false news” (Pahayahay, 2020). By monitoring screen time use, avoiding ‘fake news’, and utilizing positive information from social media/streaming services, media and TV can be the coping mechanism for you. So next time you feel stressed or anxious, you can always sit down on the sofa and see what new movies there are or look through new social media posts (while keeping in mind the amount of screen time!!). 

If you’re looking for a way to cope with tough situations or negative emotions, the LIFE Intelligence app is here to help. The app has an interactive mood wheel that not only allows you to identify very specific feelings, but gives you coping, communication, and problem-solving strategies to manage each. You can learn about the science behind each of those feelings: what they mean, why they arise, and what you can do about them. Emotions are not easily understood and when stressful situations come up, we can feel many mixed emotions, from embarrassment to envy. While I’ve offered some general coping strategies in this article, LIFE Intelligence can give strategies that are tailored to your exact needs. Build your coping toolkit with LIFE Intelligence and learn the right strategies for every situation. 


Cheng, J. W., Wagner, H., Hernandez, B. C., Hu, B. R., Ko, E. Y., Ruckle, H. C. (2020). Stressors and Coping Mechanisms Related to Burnout Within Urology. Urology, 139, 27-36.

Ramesh, B. (2020). Influence of Music as a Coping Strategy during COVID-19. Journal of Basic, Clinical and Applied Health Science, 3(3). 

Gall, T. L., Bilodeau, C. (2020). The role of forgiveness as a coping response to intimate partner stress. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health.

Howlin, C., Rooney, B. (2020). The Cognitive Mechanism in Music Listening Interventions for Pain, Journal of Music Therapy, 57(2), 127-167.

Wu, X., Guo, T. T., Zhang, C., Hong, T. Y., Cheng, C. M., Wei, P., Hsieh, J. C., Luo, J. (2020). From “Aha!” to “Haha!” Using Humor to Cope with Negative Stimuli. Cerebral Cortex, 1-13.

Tajanel, I. A., Parmar, K. K., Naik, P. H., Shah, A. V. (2020). Rethinking Screen Time during COVID-19: Impact on Psychological Well-Being in Physiotherapy Students. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine Research, 4(4), 201-216. 

Pahayahay, A., Mahani, N. K. (2020). What Media Helps, What Media Hurts: A Mixed Methods Survey Study of Coping with COVID-19 Using the Media Repertoire Framework and the Appraisal Theory of Stress. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 22(8).