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How to Cope With Stress Featuring Therapist Michelle Massi

May 27th, 2020

Learning how to handle stress effectively should be a part of everyone’s quarantine survival strategy. We’ve all been forced into new routines, which means families are navigating school closures (and close quarters) and employees are working from home—plus, there’s the added stress of the virus itself. Understandably, our minds can quickly go from fine to panicky in a matter of minutes. So it’s probably safe to say most Americans are experiencing at least some stress these days. If you’re in that camp, today’s post should help. We reached out to licensed marriage and family therapist Michelle Massi to get her take on the best ways to cope during a pandemic.

What have you been recommending to your patients to help deal with stress, especially as stay-at-home orders make it harder to connect with others?

First, practice self-compassion. This is a difficult time for everyone and we have never been through anything like this. We don’t have a template for how to handle a pandemic. Some days are going to be easier than others, and that is okay.

Second, try to maintain a schedule of sorts. Everyone is struggling with sleep due to anxiety and schedules being out of whack. The more regularity you can add to your day, the better. As for connecting with people, try to connect with friends and family on a regular basis. Although seeing people in person and being able to hug them fulfills a different need in us, we can still benefit from connecting online. Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, texting, and many other apps provide the opportunity to touch base with friends and family. The benefit to all of this is that we seem to be reaching out to people we don’t usually reach out to, connecting with friends we haven’t spoken with in awhile.

Alone time can be difficult when quarantining with a family. What are some healthy ways to release strong emotions (that are respectful to others sharing the same space)?

There are coping strategies that we can use every day to help us maintain balance in our lives. Exercise is a great way to help us maintain balance. Although we cannot go to the gym, there are still plenty of options for exercising. Some of my favorites are available on YouTube. I also try to take a walk every day, weather permitting, to get some fresh air. Meditation is a very useful tool as well. Take a few minutes out of every hour to just center yourself and breathe, or listen to your favorite music, or step outside and smell the fresh flowers that are blooming in the spring. There are also a ton of free meditation apps available to use for guided meditation.

What’s your advice for people who were already dealing with depression and anxiety before the COVID-19 pandemic?

Remember to use the tools you have already been taught. Also make sure to practice self compassion. This is a difficult time and everyone is struggling in their own way.

For people who are feeling overwhelmed by the current crisis, what are some online resources to help them feel supported?

So many organizations are providing free resources to help people who are feeling overwhelmed. The International OCD Foundation is hosting free townhalls a few times a week on Facebook and YouTube. These are just a few resources that I share with clients:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America Resources
International OCD Foundation Resources

This article is related to: Mental Health, Well-Being, Wellness Tips

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Melinda GrossMelinda writes about health, wellness, and food for the Thrive Market blog. She started her career as a financial journalist in NYC and has written for Where Magazine, Worth, Forbes, and TheStreet.com. When she's not reading or writing, she enjoys working out, sketching, and playing with her daughter and mini-dachshund, Goliath.

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