CONTACT Reframe COVID to manage emotional stress - Dr. Christian Thurstone

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing much stress and distress as it disrupts so many things at the core of our lives, including our education, finances, health and social interaction.

Stress specifically affects our mental health. It leads to biological changes in the brain and body that lead to still more changes in our emotions and feelings. People without mental health conditions may notice they’re not quite themselves. They may have trouble sleeping, or they may be more irritable and feel anxious. People with mental health conditions may notice those changes and more. For example, someone with a history of addiction might experience increased cravings, or someone with a history of depression may feel more sad and less hopeful.

How should we navigate this pandemic and the stress it is causing? There are some proven ways to manage emotional stress — and the acronym COVID can help us remember them.

  • C – Compassion. Have compassion for yourself and others. We are all under stress and not quite ourselves right now.
  • O – Openness. Be open and curious about the thoughts and feelings you are having. Accept and embrace your mind and body just as they are.
  • V – Values. Stay connected to your meaning, purpose and values. There are many things outside of our control now — and there always will be. However, every day, we can choose who and what matter to us. We also can take small and meaningful steps toward what matters.
  • I – Inclusion. Together we will get through this. Find creative ways to connect with people you care about, and include them in your life.
  • D – Disinfection. Wash your hands, and wipe down hard surfaces. Avoid meetings with more than 15 people, and maintain at least 6 feet of distance between you and others (not including your family). These measures don’t help only you; they help save the lives of people who are especially vulnerable to contracting this virus.

For more information, please refer to these resources:

About Chris Thurstone

Dr. Christian Thurstone is one of only a few dozen physicians in the United States who are board-certified in general, child and adolescent and addictions psychiatry. He is Director of Behavioral Health Services at Denver Health and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado, where he conducts research on youth substance use and addiction and serves as director of medical training for the university’s addiction psychiatry fellowship program. You can read more about him here.

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