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Psychological Coping During a Pandemic

During a pandemic, it’s not uncommon to experience strong emotions. Psychology helps us to understand normal responses to abnormal events - this can help Albertans cope. Novel and unfamiliar threats provoke anxiety and even unrealistic fears and racism. Social distancing, effective communications, and public health measures are realistic lines of defense.

Stay informed - not overloaded. With major news events, media inundates us with coverage and potential implications - that can create additional stress. Gather information that will help you accurately determine your risk so that you can take reasonable precautions. Framing risk with clear facts helps quell panic. Alberta Health Services, the World Health Organization, Public Health Agency of Canada, and the US Center for Disease Control are all reliable information sources. Minimize unnecessary exposure to stories or gossip about the pandemic.

Stay healthy - A healthy lifestyle is your best defense against disease. Physical health has positive impacts on psychological health (and vice versa). Social distancing and good personal hygiene will keep you and others safe.

Manage your own stress

  • Limit your media consumption to just enough to stay informed. Take some time for yourself, go for a walk, or spend time with friends and family doing things that you enjoy.

  • Avoid getting into discussions about the event if you think they have the potential to escalate to conflict. Be cognizant of the frequency with which you’re discussing the news.

  • Stress and anxiety about the future is not productive. Instead, work on issues you care about.

  • Remember that life will go on. People have always survived difficult life circumstances. There is no reason why this situation cannot be similar. Avoid catastrophizing and maintain a balanced perspective.

  • Build your resilience. We can learn to adapt well to stress. How have you coped with stressors before? Add resilience tools to your tool bag to manage life’s adversities.

  • Keep connected. Maintain your social networks (even via social media and telephone).

  • Keep things in perspective. Our government needs to prepare for possible worst-case scenarios in order to protect the public. The public, however, does not need to expect the worst.

  • Have a plan. How would you respond if you or a loved one were diagnosed with COVID-19? Developing contingency plans for potential scenarios can lessen your anxiety.

When to seek professional help

Psychologists are trained to help people find constructive way of dealing with anxiety and emotional stress. Contact a psychologist if:

  • You feel overwhelming nervousness or lingering sadness adversely affecting you.

  • You notice persistent feelings of distress or hopelessness and you feel like you are barely able to get through your daily responsibilities and activities.

More information

When someone has COVID-19:

Communications during a pandemic:

Responding to coverage:

The Psychologists’ Association of Alberta is the voice of, and for, psychology in Alberta. They are the voluntary body that advocates for psychology in Alberta, informs the public and the media, and advocates for consumers of psychotherapy, psychological, and mental health services. For more information, visit







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