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Coping Emotionally with COVID-19

News Story

To help ease some of the high stress and uncertainty amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis, the Counseling Center is checking in with a handy mental health guide, plus we share information about resources available to Pace employees through Cigna.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

The Cigna Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides confidential, cost-free professional consultation and referral services for University staff and faculty to assist employees and their family members with the challenges of daily living. Spouses/partners and immediate family members (living in your household) are also eligible for EAP services. We encourage you to take advantage of this service.


For employees enrolled in one of the University’s Cigna health plans, consider enrolling in one of the two telemedicine options (PDF) available by the plan. You must enroll in the plan to use it, so now is a great time to do so. Telemedicine gives you 24/7 access to health care providers from your phone, tablet, or computer without having to leave your home.

Potential Symptoms

Our rapidly changing public health situation evokes a wide range of emotional reactions in all of us. Many people are experiencing symptoms of acute stress, which may include:

>> Shock, feeling unreal, emotionally detached, or numb
>> Anxiety which may include shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, and other panic attack symptoms
>> Hopelessness or feeling a lack of purpose in work and/or academics
>> Helplessness
>> Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
>> Increased irritability or anger
>> Crying more often than usual
>> Sleep problems
>> Increased or decreased appetite
>> Feeling more fatigued
>> Headache, stomach ache, or other pain
>> Use of alcohol or substances to cope with stress

Most people are also struggling with reactions specific to the COVID-19 outbreak, including:

>> Worry about contamination
>> Anxiety about you and/or loved ones getting ill
>> Preoccupation with possible signs/symptoms of illness
>> Social withdrawal or feeling alone and isolated
>> Anger and/or lack of trust in people and systems
>> Media and information overload

Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Though our lives are more restricted, there are many possible ways to cope. Remind yourself continually of what you can control, and read below for some additional methods.

>> Remind yourself that this situation is temporary and will pass.
>> Think of other times you have overcome adversity.
>> See this as an opportunity to recognize and be grateful for all the people and good you have in your life.
>> Reach out to the people you love and value even from afar. Connections to people keep us emotionally healthy.
>> Focus on being mindful. Be present in your everyday activities. For instance, you can practice this when you wash your hands by focusing on the movements, sensations, smells, and other aspects of this activity.
>> Prioritize healthy eating and sleep habits.
>> Participate in some physical activity, which can help boost your immune system and energy levels, improve your sleep, and decrease stress.
>> Meditate. It’s not as hard as it seems and there are some apps and links below to give you a jump start.
>> Stay informed, but moderate information to once or twice a day. Make sure your sources are reliable and try not to consume media before bed.
>> Create regular “no-coronavirus” zones personally and with others.
>> Keep doing what you enjoy and what relaxes you, such as listening to music, watching TV, talking to friends, taking a bath, cooking, coloring, etc.
>> Don’t underestimate the power of breathing. Wherever you are, focus on breathing in, holding your breath for a few seconds, and breathing out. (Further details on exercises like these can be found below!)
>> Share your feelings with others or journal.
>> Seek support from professionals if needed, including the Counseling Center.

Other Resources

For immediate help and relief, try the following:

>> Body Scan Meditation
>> Progressive Muscle Relaxation
>> Breathing Exercise

Need apps? Download a few:


>> Aura
>> Insighttimer (includes a sleep component)
>> Stop, Breathe, Think
>> Headspace (includes a sleep component)
>> The Mindfulness App
>> Mindfulness Coach


>> Calm (includes a sleep component)
>> Relax Change Create
>> Breathe2Relax
>> Colorify

Sleep (See also: Relaxation Apps)

>> Yoga Nidra for Sleep
>> SleepiO
>> Relax Melodies


>> Journal for You
>> Gratitude Journal (PDF)

Further Reading

>> Stress management tips from the Counseling Center
>> Shine’s Virus Anxiety Toolkit
>> Taking Care of Your Mental Health in the Face of Uncertainty (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)
>> Mental Health and Coping During COVIVD-19 (CDC)
>> Reducing Stigma (CDC)
>> Coping with Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks (PDF) (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
>> A Brain Hack to Break the Coronavirus Anxiety Cycle (The New York Times)
>> 7 Science-Based Strategies to Cope with Coronavirus Anxiety (The Conversation)
>> 6 Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Family from Anxiety about the Coronavirus (Thrive Global)
>> A Listening Care Package for Uncertain Times (collection of podcasts and poetry) (Onbeing)
>> Stressed About Coronavirus? Here's How Yoga Can Help (Yoga Journal)
>> How Mindfulness Can Help You Navigate the Coronavirus Panic (Mindful)
>> A Meditation and Mantra to Promote Global Healing (Lizzo)
>> Songs of Comfort (Yo-Yo Ma)
>> A Playlist with 6 Hours of Soothing Music (NPR and Spotify)

Contact The Counseling Center

The Pace Counseling Center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Please be sure to contact the team or schedule an appointment if you feel you need assistance. They’re here for you!