10 Helpful Coping Tips for Patients

Patient Tool Kit

Adapted from available resources by: Amaris R. Tippey, PhD

Yoga And MeditationWe all feel the stress that comes along with the sudden life changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our daily routines and ways of interacting with our world have recently changed. We are being flooded with the latest information while feeling worry about our safety and that of our loved ones. We’re having to limit contact with others and we’re learning to cope with the unknown. During this uncertain time it’s natural to feel stress, worry, sadness, fear and confusion. The more we focus what is out of our control, the more stressed and anxious we begin to feel. Focus on what is in your control.

This brief patient toolkit was designed to assist you with coping during this stressful time. It is comprised of helpful tips and free smartphone apps that may assist you with your emotional wellbeing.

10 Helpful Tips

  1. Monitor news intake: It’s important to be in the know about what’s going on. That said, being flooded with news coverage 24/7 only increases distress. Limiting your news intake can help to manage upsetting feelings. Think about checking in once or twice a day for 20 minutes. The need to know news is not changing more rapidly than that, especially if you are already limiting travel and socially distancing yourself.
  2. Develop a routine: Your routine may be different than normal. Now, your day-to-day involves social distancing, crowd limitations and spending more time in your home. In periods of uncertainty, it can be comforting to have some structure in place. A routine – like getting up and going to bed at the same time every day – can anchor us to our day. Also, make time for the things you enjoy. The certainty of your routine can turn down the volume on the uncertainty of life. Routine will reduce stress and is good for adults and children too.
  3. Take care of your body: Taking care of your body can reduce stress and help your body fight off illness. Eating healthy, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, exercising and doing things you enjoy is key. No need to feel guilty for taking care of you.
  4. Avoid unhealthy coping: Find alternative coping methods rather than drinking alcohol or using drugs.
  5. Give yourself a break and take a breath: Allow yourself to feel your thoughts and feelings. It is okay to not be okay. Our feelings often come and go in waves. Take a breath allow yourself to feel your feelings and focus on the moment. Your feelings will often shift throughout the day. Monitor for positive emotions and things you are grateful for. Show yourself kindness and compassion.
  6. Find new ways to connect socially: During times of social distancing, it’s common to feel lonely. Think outside the box for ways you may feel more connected to friends and family. This may be through the phone, social media or apps like Zoom or Marco Polo. Meaningful connection and fun is crucial for emotional wellbeing.
  7. Adhere to safety precautions: While we cannot control the covid-19 virus, we can reduce our risk of infection. Wash your hands often with soap and water or with an alcohol based hand sanitizer. Maintain 3-6 feet away from someone who is coughing or sneezing to prevent spread of germs. Engage in social distancing. Prevent yourself from touching your face.
  8. Find ways to help others: Thinking about ways to help others can also improve our emotional wellbeing. This may be offering a kind word to a healthcare provider or doing something thoughtful for a loved one.
  9. Practice a calming response: Practice slow, steady breathing and reducing the tension in your muscles. Do things that are calming for you, like stretching, listening to music, taking a bath or setting aside quiet time.
  10. Monitor for anxious thoughts: In times of stress, it’s common to dwell on anxious thoughts about what’s happening. Monitor for these unhelpful thoughts. Check in and reframe anxious thoughts to statements that better reflect the evidence to reduce stress and increase coping. For example, “my family will get the virus and die” to “most people who get the virus recover.”

NCCN patient self-care and distress management

View the PDF

Managing the psychological impact of social distancing

View the PDF

Free smartphone apps to assist with managing stress

StopBreathe & Think: A friendly app to guide people through meditations for mindfulness & compassion. Available on: IOS, Android or Online

Breath to Relax: “This app is a stress management tool, which will help you learn how to perform and use diaphragmatic breathing techniques for stress control. It also provides you with education about the biology of stress, the effects of stress on the body, how to do diaphragmatic breathing, and the biology of breathing. Using this app can be helpful to your meditation practice as well. Even though this app was developed by the Department of Defense (DoD) and T2, it is not restricted to use by military or veterans.”

Mindfulness Coach: is a free and publicly available mobile app for people who are interested in learning about and practicing mindfulness. It was created by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

(Dr. Amaris Tippey is a licensed clinical psychologist with the Siteman Psychology Service. Information was adapted from the following sources: WHO, CDC, American Psychological Association)


“Self Compassion Break for Uncertain Times” by Dr. Therese Cash


“Brief Mindfulness Practice – anxiety and uncertainty” by Dr. Mark Heiland