Alleviating Stress During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Joyce B. Robinson

March 1, 2021

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(This article first appeared in the March/April 2021 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on postal employees. Many are working longer hours with a reduced workforce and are required to listen to customer complaints about bad service and slow delivery of mail.

This, along with the loss of family members, close friends and/or co-workers can be stressful and overwhelming. Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) revealed that symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorder increased in the United States last year and that stress, substance abuse and mental illness are on the rise.

Learning to Cope with the Stress of COVID-19

Although it is necessary during this pandemic to practice social distancing, this leads to isolation and loneliness for many people. In order to maintain our mental stability, we must find healthy ways to cope. When faced with a highly stressful event in your life, use these methods to help you cope:

Keep a stable home environment – Avoid making major changes in your home and schedule so you can focus on any stressors caused by the pandemic. Clear your mind – Use meditation, deep breathing and other calming exercises to clear your mind of negative thoughts.

Focus on the present – The past is gone and the future will take care of itself. Focus on how to make things better today.

Return to other successful coping methods – If you’ve successfully dealt with stress from other causes in your life, use the methods from that situation in dealing with your current one.

Take action - Promise to yourself to deal with what is causing stress in a reasonable way. Action can be an effective way to reduce stress. Do not fear taking an action because you may make the wrong decision. Value yourself – You are somebody. Respect your abilities and forgive your errors.

Limit projects – Stop trying to accomplish everything. Finish one task before starting another. Delegate Authority – No one person can do it all. Utilize others who are willing to help.

Maintain a positive attitude - Avoid relationships with negative thinking people.

Take time to relax – Music, exercise and other activities can help calm the mind.

Learn to compromise – Find alternative solutions to handling incidents; stop arguing or fighting.

See your doctor regularly – Assuring that you are in good health aids stress reduction.

Know when to walk away – Avoid prolonged bad relationships and friendships.

In closing, never be ashamed to seek help.

If you are or someone in your family is suffering from severe depression, anxiety or if you have or suspect they have suicidal thoughts, contact the USPS Employee’s Assistance Program (EAP) toll-free hotline: 1-800-327-4968 or TTY: 1-877-492-7341. Counselors provide confidential emergency, urgent care intervention for Postal employees and family members.

Also, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline, 1-800-662-4357 or TTY: 1-800-487-4889, is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish.

Resources: The USPS Employee’s Assistance Program, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “How to Beat Serious Stress,” via Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

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