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Working Through Pandemic Anxiety | Tips for a Healthier 2021

This post was originally published by Idealist, and was written by Nisha Kumar Kulkarni.

A mother wearing white sits on a brown couch with an open laptop on her lap. Her daughter is to her left, sitting upside down on the couch with her legs against the back and her feet in the air. The floor is brown hardwood with a multi-colored rug on it and the walls of the room are white.
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels

The first COVID-19 vaccine rollouts are well underway, with wider distribution to come throughout the next few months. But the continued disruption to our pre-pandemic routines is understandably making people more anxious than usual. That’s why work—and even the frustrations that come with a less productive year and working in relative isolation—can be a blessing in disguise.

The global pandemic has had an undeniable impact on global mental health. Though we may not yet know its true impact yet, data suggests that 40% of adults aged 18 and older in the U.S. reported experiencing anxiety and depression symptoms last summer.

And it isn’t hard to see why more people are experiencing acute anxiety. The last year forced us to grapple with unprecedented circumstances that significantly impact our sense of purpose, our social bonds, and our self-care.

4 tips to weather the storm

Anxiety can be deeply uncomfortable and downright scary, but the good news is that there are things you can do to alleviate your symptoms when you experience them. Here are four tips to help you now:

  1. Explore the Idealist library. We have a growing library of content full of best practices and tips to help you manage your mental health at work and at home.

  2. Reduce your media consumption. Your frequent media scrolling may be adding fuel to your anxious fire. Cut back on how many times a day you check the news and for how long.

  3. Focus on progress. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed by sad, pandemic-related news, take a step back and remind yourself that experts are working around the clock to keep people safe and healthy. And until a vaccine is widely available, there are things you can do—like wear a mask and continue social distancing—that are proven to reduce the infection rate.

  4. Don’t self-diagnose. If you have a cold or cough, which is not uncommon with the changing seasons and chillier weather, that doesn’t mean that you have the coronavirus. Adopt symptomatic treatment. However, if you suspect you’ve been exposed to someone with the virus, call your doctor to find out what your next steps should be.

How your work can help

In addition to the above, there is one more thing that can help: your work. Despite the changes to your working lifestyle in 2020, your job can be a positive way to channel your anxiety and find relief. Your job has likely given your days more structure, as well as a way to absorb your focused attention. When you’re feeling anxious, being able to engage with something fully—like your job—is a powerful way to stay present, and remind yourself of your strength and capability.

Your job can also give you something to look forward to in the new year. As you start goal setting for 2021, your job gives you the opportunity to not only pay attention to what requires your attention now, but also a plan—also known as an automatic to-do list—for paving your career path.

The important thing to remember here, though, is not to use work as a means of distracting or neglecting your anxiety. Acknowledging that you feel anxious about COVID-19—or for another reason—is important because it allows you to process your feelings. Then you can take steps toward managing and alleviating difficult thoughts and feelings. Your work, then, is a way for you to take action rather than get caught up in a cycle of fear.

Seek support

The tips listed here are not cure-alls, but they can help you cope with your feelings and figure what makes you feel good despite these chaotic times. If, however, you’re unable to find relief on your own, there is no shame in seeking guidance from a therapist. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone—and you don’t have to cope with these challenges alone.

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