Blog post

Coping with stress and anxiety during the coronavirus health emergency

This is a very challenging time, especially for people with kidney disease who are high risk for COVID-19. If you are struggling with stress and anxiety during this emergency, please know that you are not alone. Here are some tips for improving your mental health during a crisis.
woman sitting on couch looking at eye phone.

It is almost impossible to escape the daily breaking news updates on the coronavirus that is causing major disruptions to all of our daily lives. In the face of uncertainty, it is normal to feel stressed, anxious and fearful. For people with kidney disease, this can be a very challenging time, especially if you also have depression.

If you are struggling with your mental health during this crisis, please know that you are not alone. Learning to cope with your emotions and take care of your mental health during times of crisis are important for yourself and also those around you — you have an impact on other people's lives just as they do on yours. Learning how to manage your mental health also gives you the opportunity to share your experience to help them with their own struggles.

How to recognize changes to your mental health

The first step in taking care of your mental health is to recognize how your thoughts or behaviors change when you are stressed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), signs of stress may include:

•    Fears or worries about the health of you and your loved ones
•    Changes in your eating or sleeping habits
•    Trouble sleeping or concentrating
•    Worsening of chronic health problems
•    More frequent drug, alcohol or tobacco use

You may even notice other behavioral or emotional changes, like frequently wiping down items in your home because you are worried about spreading germs or constantly checking your phone for every new update. You may also feel lonely while practicing social distancing.

Tips for improving your mental health during a crisis

If you have recognized changes to your mental health, you can take actions that can help. Since everyone reacts differently to stress, everyone will cope with their stress in different ways. Try these coping tips from the CDC and National Alliance on Mental Illness to see if any of them work for you:

  1. Take a break from the news: Watching the news or checking social media frequently for information about the coronavirus can be stressful. If you find yourself overwhelmed by everything you are hearing, try taking breaks from watching or reading the news so you do not overload yourself with information that may be upsetting.
  2. Check sources: When you do check the news for updates, make sure the information you are getting is from well-known, reliable news sources. This can help you avoid myths and false information. Remember, not everything you read on the internet is true!
  3. Relax: Relax your breathing by taking deep breaths or meditating. Try listening to free guided meditation and yoga exercises on the United Nations website. You can also try one of many guided meditation apps available for smartphones, some of which are free.
  4. Eat right for your body: Eating right and sticking to the kidney-friendly food and fluid plan your doctor and dietitian have recommended for you can help you feel better both physically and mentally. Check out our blog post, Kidney-friendly eating during the coronavirus health emergency, and our Kidney Kitchen website for recipe ideas. Avoiding drugs and alcohol can also help you feel well during this time.
  5. Find positive distractions: Distract yourself from things that cause you stress and anxiety by focusing on something else. Try to do an activity you enjoy or find a new hobby. Try searching online for ideas for free activities to do around your home, see if one of your favorite musicians is playing a free streaming concert, or go outside for a walk.
  6. Stay connected: Talk with your friends and family however you can — text messages, phone or video calls, or social media. Talking with those you trust can help you open up about your concerns and feelings. Spending time with others can also boost your mood.

Need help or know someone who does?

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Crisis Text Line

Disaster Distress Helpline - The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration


If you or a loved one feel overwhelmed and like you want to harm yourself or others, call 9-1-1.


Samantha Rosenthal

Samantha Rosenthal is a patient services associate at the American Kidney Fund.