Mental health tips for coping with COVID-19

09 Jun 2020

As we adjust to differences in our lives that have been brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, many of us may be feeling anxious or losing sleep. The uncertainties that this pandemic has brought can be stressful, and it’s important to look after our mental health to make sure we are equipped to deal with the changes to our lives.

Raimund, a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) psychologist, offers some simple tips for how to improve your mental health and cope with increased stress during the pandemic.

Feeling stressed? Take a minute to try these three tips:

1. Take a breath

Pause for a moment and take a few deep breaths in and out. Find a comfortable space, try to relax, and take in the world around you. Taking a breath is one of the best ways to reduce stress, and it’s a free stress-relieving activity available anytime, anywhere. 

Being honest about your emotions can help you prioritise your mental health and give you permission to say no to things that will only add to your stress. Be gentle with yourself—it’s ok to feel overwhelmed with the things that are going on in the world. 

2. Take a break

It’s easy to get overloaded right now, so take a break from your regular work, study or news intake by feeding your mind with small, joyful activities. Find some time to sit in the fresh air and look up at the sky or to listen to some music. 

Progressive muscle relaxation exercises can also help your body to take a break from stress. Start by finding a quiet, comfortable place, and then tighten or tense particular muscle groups in your body, such as your neck and shoulders. Hold the tension for a few seconds, release, and notice how your muscles feel when you relax them. This exercise can help you relax when you are feeling anxious. 


An MSF team of doctors, hygiene workers and mental health professionals—including Norina Liccardo (Team Leader) and Mirella Riccardi (Mental Health)—supported the COVID-19 pandemic response by assisting hospital staff and healthcare workers in Lombardy, northern Italy. © Davide Arcuri/MSF

3. Take care

Take care of yourself by paying attention to your own needs and feelings—treat yourself with the same kindness you would show a friend. Try to ensure you are getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and doing some exercise to help you deal with the stresses of this time. Moving your body helps improve mental health by reducing anxiety and depression, as well as being good for overall health.

When you’re in a safe mental space, it’s also important to take care of those around you. Check in with friends and family to see how they’re going—assisting each other can make us stronger as a community. When physical distance is necessary, you can keep in touch with your loved ones by phone.

If this has raised any issues for you, get support. Talk it through with a mental health professional, or call a mental health hotline for 24/7 support like Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 (AU) or Lifeline on 0800 543 354 (NZ).


COVID-19 is a global health emergency. Taking care of people who are vulnerable and in need is what MSF does best.

The virus knows no borders, so our response must cut across borders, too. Right now, it’s more important than ever that our teams are on the ground treating patients who need us most.

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