Coping with COVID

Hints and resources

By Lorna Tener

During a pandemic, experiencing an underlying rumble of anxiety is entirely understandable because so much is uncertain and so much is at stake. Fear about the health of ourselves, our friends and families, about our jobs and finances, about the well-being of the community makes sense. We may feel grief over loss – of people we care about and also of our work identities, our routines and favourite activities. Each of us will have our own sources of stress and our own reasons for reacting the way we do.

Having emotions is normal! And we are capable of feeling a very wide range, including several contradictory ones at once. In addition to fear and grief, we might experience guilt, anger, stress, relief, sadness and numbness. This is challenging for many, especially if our routines have been disrupted and the usual ways of rejuvenating ourselves are not available. It is even more challenging when we have already been experiencing burn out, depression or heightened levels of anxiety. What are some things that can help?

If your house or apartment is crowded, an area could be designated as a private or cooling-off zone where anyone can go for needed down time, even if it is literally in the same room as others. If you live alone, you might be struggling with the opposite problem – not enough contact. A number of businesses, arts groups and charities are creating online events and individual reach-outs; as well as staying in touch with family and friends remotely, it is possible to strengthen other kinds of community ties. Getting outside for fresh air and green space is really helpful, but looking at images of nature, especially with complex biodiversity, has a positive impact too. Pick a screen saver of nature or watch that nature show again! Creative adaptation will help you find alternatives to regular activities – many of us are having fun figuring out how to cook or bake with what’s in the cupboard.

There is an adaptive and helpful component of our stress reaction that gives us the energy to “rise to the occasion.” Framing challenges in this way makes us more resilient.

When physical distancing rules are relaxed, the transition may be a bit tricky; it can be helpful to recognize that things won’t magically be just fine. But there will be a post-pandemic future. What matters to you, your family, and your community in that future? Imagine how you would like it to be. We have an opportunity to think big.


Many professional associations such as the Canadian Psychological Association have tip sheets and resource links for creating helpful routines, for talking with and helping your children, for finding help when you need it.

In addition, a number of psychologists have excellent resource pages, my favourite is

If you need immediate help, call the Ottawa Distress Centre: Distress at 613-238-3311 or Crisis 613-722-6914.

For children and adolescents, The Kids Help Line can be reached by text and phone:

For women living with violence, text 613-704-5535 or to chat online.

Dr. Lorna Tener is a clinical psychologist in private practice in the Glebe since 1989. She has a number of COVID-19 related resources at

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