SLU Psychology Professor Shares Coping Tips for Stressful Times
As we continue to social distance to limit the spread of COVID-19 across the United States, prolonged change to day-to-day life can bring higher levels of stress.
Saint Louis University researcher Tony Buchanan, Ph.D. knows a lot about stress. It’s what he and students in his lab study every day. Buchanan, a professor of psychology and co-director of SLU’s Neuroscience Program, and his undergraduate and graduate students examine how stress impacts decision-making and behavior.
In an interview on St. Louis Public Radio’s St. Louis on the Air, Buchanan recommended coping strategies, including finding ways to help others and taking the long view on how social distancing can be beneficial to the greater good.
“Taking the long view of things is one way to regulate your emotions about a specific event,” he said. “We can’t solve the problem of viruses on our own, but we can do what we can for ourselves to solve that problem by controlling how we spend time and our contact with others.”
Buchanan also recommends maintaining connections despite being separated physically. “So long as a social connection is maintained, whether it is virtual or real-life, I think a virtual connection is better than no connection at all.”
Other tips for managing stress:
- Be mindful about “stress-sharing.” It’s always a good idea to seek help and support in stressful times. But not all sharing is a good idea, particularly if others around you may be stressed themselves. Social media and our digital lives can also exacerbate the contagion effect. If necessary, sign off Facebook, tune out the texts and take a break from your social media accounts for a few hours or days.
- Try to change your thinking about a stressful situation. Instead of worrying or brooding about the situation, try to re-think it. Position it as a challenge that you can overcome. Reframing the situation as something you can beat may help you beat stress too.
- Reflect on what’s at stake in the situation. While social distancing is important, many smaller everyday stressors don’t rise to that level. We imagine they are more important than they truly are. Taking a step back to get some perspective may help you see that things aren’t stressful as they seem.