Counseling Center


Coping with Stress Related to Coronavirus Outbreak

Daily exposure to news about coronavirus may result in a range of responses. Reactions can be emotional, somatic, and/or behavioral, and can impact mental and physical health. It is important to be aware of your reactions to the outbreak and know strategies to cope with distress.

Check out our flyer for tips on coping with COVID-19 related stress and see our page for tips on studying from home.

Common reactions

Common reactions


It is normal to feel anxious and uncertain about your and others’ health.

  • You may start to worry about contamination, being preoccupied with any symptoms of illness, excessively taking your own temperature, and having frequent urges to have yourself examined at health services.
  • You may also start to experience real symptoms such as itchy throat or nasal congestion and being concerned about having contracted coronavirus, even though no fever is present and there is little possibility of having contracted the virus in reality.
  • Excessive attention to or be obsessed with related news, information, articles, or statements as a symptom of anxiety. The focus can result in compulsively reading about the outbreak, difficulty sleeping, and/or problems with concentrating on other topics.
  • In addition, this anxiety can lead to excessive use of hand sanitizers, increased substance use, excessive stocking of masks and other medical supplies, and excessive stocking of daily life supplies.



You may feel angry about the situation and about how your life is affected by the virus outbreak. As you read about various news on social media, you may even feel angry towards or have mistrust in the systems or others.



It is possible that you feel sad and exhausted about what’s going on. You may feel less motivated in general and it becomes find it harder for you to concentrate. You may also lose pleasure in things/activities that you used to enjoy before. You may feel more pessimistic than usual. When going through distress, you may feel others don’t understand and you are alone in dealing with it.



It is also possible that you find yourself avoiding reading news related to the virus outbreak, and perceiving the situation as less serious than those around you. You may find others’ anxiety about the outbreak ridiculous and unnecessary. You may feel that you will be the “lucky one” and the exception (aka i.e., it is unlikely for you to get infected by the virus).



  • Pay attention to your reactions

It is normal to experience anxiety and stress reacting to an infectious disease outbreak. Being aware of your reactions can help you decide what you need at the moment to cope with them. For example, when you recognize your anxiety is increasing and interfering with your daily life activities, you can take actions to allow yourself breaks from the worries and decrease the anxiety to a manageable level.


  • Remember what has worked for you before

Different coping strategies work for different people. Try to remember when you last experienced distress (i.e. anxiety, paranoia, depression, etc.), and what you did at that time turned out to be effective in managing the distress. For instance, some people find mindfulness meditation practice helpful in reducing worries and anxious thoughts, others find writing a journal as an effective way in processing the emotional reactions. You already have your own unique way of coping, it just takes some digging to identify them and use them!


  • Remain objective

It is easy to have our mood be swangyed by news and information on social media. And it is normal to have immediate reactions to these materials about the virus. During these times, it is important to remain calm and objective when digesting the information. Be mindful of potential bias from the person/platform/source who shares the information, and be aware of where to find official and fact-checked information (i.e.e.g., WHO website). You are the judge of what information you take in and what information you prefer to leave out.


  • Limit the information

Sometimes, too much information leads to overload and more stress. So try to limit your exposure (such as <1 hour/day) to news and information about the Coronavirus. You can also schedule your time to access the information during certain times of your day to avoid constant anxiety. Sometimes you may find the news about the virus all over the internet and you cannot escape, you can t. Try to not click on the link to the news or spend your relax free time on things such as books and games rather than social media. Avoid reading information on the topic before going to bed — this can make it more difficult to fall asleep.


  • Pay attention to some positive news

Despite this difficult time, there is often some positive information in daily news. Decide whether the degree of your worry is consistent with reliable information (i.e., incidence rate, death rate, current advancement of medicine, etc.)


  • Connect with others

When in distress, you may feel lonely and isolated in what you are going through. You can benefit from connection with others where you can provide and receive support from each other. You can share your anxiety, worries, and sadness with people you trust, and they may be going through similar feelings. Even when your loved ones don’t feel the same way, you can still spend time with them and distract yourself from the distress. It is the connection we have and build with others that will help us to get through this difficult time.


  • Learn when to say “no”

Although sharing can be helpful, sometimes it is can lead to more anxiety. So it is important to say “no” when you are not comfortable with sharing or engaging in conversations on the topic. Just make sure you set your boundaries respectfully or leave conversations in an appropriate way.


  • Maintain a healthy routine

It is important to maintain your regular schedule for sleep, eating, having fun, socializing, studying, and working etc. If this is difficult to achieve by yourself, work with a friend – you can encourage each other in self-care. If some of your routine involves exposing yourself to potential risk of virus infection, you can develop alternatives to your routine and find things you can do by yourself. For example, instead of going to the gym for exercising, you can find different workouts to do at home.


  • Take a break and relax

Engage in conversations and activities unrelated to the outbreak and allow yourself to have some fun. There is still life outside of the current crisis. Reading news and engaging in activities unrelated to the current outbreak is okay – it doesn’t mean that you don’t care or aren’t concerned. Make sure to plan some relaxation or activities you enjoy into your daily schedule, such as deep breathing, spending time with friends, coloring, listening to music, taking a shower, taking a walk, etc.

Potential for Bias and Discrimination

Potential for Bias and Discrimination

During this time you may experience bias, discrimination, or misunderstandings because of your identity or your relationship to people who live in China/Asia. If any of the following happens, please consider the options available:

  • If you read false information or insulting/condescending articles from the media and you are feeling angry, helpless, or wronged due to your hometown or culture being slandered:

Please know that these reactions are valid and potentially helpful. If your current state allows, you can provide feedback and advocate through appropriate channels, such as writing emails to the media, reporting the article etc. You can also share your thoughts with people you trust in order to advocate together or to seek support.

  • If you experience discrimination against your racial, national, or provincial identity:

Make a record of the incident by writing or keeping a voice memo of the details. Consider reporting the incident or seeking support from professionals. If the incident happened on campus, you can contact UCIRO or report a bias incident; you can also contact the Office of the Ombud to seek support. You can share your experience with people you trust or on appropriate platforms; it might validate your feelings and thoughts.

  • If a friend, adviser, or someone you know says something insensitive or discriminatory:

It is normal to feel angry, confused, sad, and disappointed, especially when someone you know is the source of bias. After you take care of your own emotional health, you could consider reporting the incident and/or having a conversation with the person about the experience. If you would like to do that, writing down what you want to say might be helpful.

It is also okay to not respond if you do not have the time, energy, or mental resources to take further action. It is common to not want to think about the incident or to take action. If you have made a record of the incident, you can keep it out of sight and continue with your daily activities. If and when you want to return to the subject and have the energy to do so, you can retrieve the record and seek appropriate actions. You can also choose to keep some distance from the media, making a record of troubling articles or reports, then blocking them so that you do not have to see them again. You can confront the issue if and when you feel ready to take actions.



UW Counseling Center: 206-543-1240

Hall Health Mental Health Clinic: 206-543-5030

Center for Disease Control:

World Health Organization:


The University Complaint Investigation and Resolution Office (UCIRO):

Reporting Bias Incidents at UW:

Office of the Ombud: