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Working in an Essential Position? How to Cope with Coronavirus Stress

The coronavirus crisis has temporarily shuttered entire industries, closing many businesses deemed “non-essential” until the peak of the illness curve has passed. But while some businesses have closed until further notice, others are ramping up production. Healthcare facilities (including nursing homes), grocery stores, delivery and transportation companies, and online retailers are all leaning heavily on their workers, who are now deemed “essential” in the face of this pandemic.

The unique pressures placed on essential employees, many of whom feel they can’t complain when so many others are struggling with unemployment, can make it tough to decompress at the end of the day. Learn more about the specific stresses facing essential workers and how to cope during this crisis.

Step One: Accept How You Feel

It can be tempting to want to “fake it ‘til you make it,” pretending to be at peace with your situation even when you’re brimming with anxiety. But it’s important to accept your feelings, no matter how unpleasant they may be, and to know that it’s normal to be suffering from anxiety, anger, or even depression during these unprecedented times.

Once you’ve identified and accepted any negative feelings about your current circumstances, you can begin to evaluate what actions you’re taking to fight against them, as well as behaviors that may be exacerbating them. For example, if you’re finding it tough to stay away from news about the coronavirus, anxiously refreshing websites to get the latest statistics, you may inadvertently be increasing your stress levels. Stepping away from social media or scheduling times to check in on the news (and avoiding it the rest of the time) can help you disconnect from this source of anxiety.

Step Two: Identify Daily “Mini-Steps” That Can Help You Cope

It can be all but impossible to shut out all worries about becoming ill or spreading the coronavirus to others. But by identifying and practicing some micro-steps or mini-steps that can reduce your risk of illness in tangible ways, you’ll gain a greater feeling of control over your situation.

These can include:

  • Packing spare napkins, tissues, gloves, or sanitizing wipes on your bag each day
  • While washing hands, sing a song you enjoy or identify a few things you’re happy about
  • Practice social distancing without distancing—send a text, snap, or friendly message to someone you don’t talk to as often as you like
  • If possible, thoroughly clean and disinfect your workstation each night
  • After work, get undressed in your garage and take your clothes directly to the washing machine, which can minimize the risk of contaminating other surfaces in your home

These steps won’t completely insulate you from illness, but can still help flatten the curve for those who have little choice but to be exposed to the public on a daily basis. And by reducing this risk, you’ll be able to gain confidence that you’re doing all you can to protect yourself and your family.


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