Coping and Emotional Health during COVID-19

​Rosemary Cope, a clinician with the Employee Assistance Program shares suggestions for emotional wellbeing for employees and their children during the coronavirus outbreak.

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Rosemary Cope: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness Wellcast.  I’m Rosemary Cope with Work/Life Connections – Employee Assistance Program.

We are all aware that the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people and communities. Fear and anxiety about the personal implications can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children.

We all have different responses to stress, and I’d like to talk about how to safeguard yourself, your family or your loved ones during this time. People can become more distressed if they see repeated images or hear repeated stories about the outbreak in the media. Those who may respond more strongly are people who have preexisting mental health issues, children and people who are helping such as physicians, nurses, clinic personnel and first responders.

The Centers for Disease Control outlines these reactions that you might experience during this time:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and that of your loved one who may have been exposed.
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

Coping with these feelings and getting help when needed will help you, your loved ones and our communities to recover from any disaster. Connect and don’t isolate yourself. Take care of yourself and each other and know when and how to seek help.

The World Health Organization encourages health care workers to be aware and manage their emotional stress levels. Caring for yourself could mean avoiding excessive exposure to media coverage of COVID-19. Taking care of your body. Making time to unwind and reminding yourself that strong feelings will fade. Try to do other safe activities you enjoy to give yourself balance.   Connect with others by sharing your feelings and maintaining healthy relationships.  Recognize that you might have friends who will avoid you as you are a healthcare worker. Turn to your colleagues, your manager or other trusted persons for social support – your colleagues may be having similar experiences to you. Finally, maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking.

If you parent a child, take time to ask them if they have fears or questions and share age appropriate facts in a way that your child can understand. Help children find positive ways to express their feelings. Sometimes engaging in a creative activity can facilitate the process. Reassure the child that they are safe and give them coping skills. Be sure to also limit their screen time as they may be frightened by something they don’t understand. Help your child to have a sense of structure and be a role model for healthy behaviors.

Here on our campuses, My VUMC offers valuable and up to date information for hospital employees and for the university, please go to for information.

If you need a place to express your own concerns, please remember that the Work/Life Connections-EAP is available to you on weekdays.

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