COVID-19 Self Care

baxter the therapy dog at home on his bed

As we deal with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all impacted differently. It is normal to experience stress and uncertainty in ways that we never have before.

The constantly changing news and recommendations related to the virus can feel overwhelming at times. As members of the SDSU community, we also experienced significant changes to our experience this semester. Remembering to practice self care during this time is very important. 

In addition to the list below, we recommend you look at our more in-depth list of self care skills and strategies as you may find additional techniques you can use. You may find it helpful to look through our list of popular mental health apps as well. 

Parents: See our resource for supporting your student during this time.

Mental Health & Emotional Well-Being During COVID-19   


One of the best strategies for self care is to utilize your favorite healthy coping skills.

For COVID-19, you may notice that this helps to take your mind off of everything going on and/or puts you in a better position to cope with potential stressors. 

Common coping skills include:

  • Exercise
  • Listening to music
  • Talking to friends/family members
  • Yoga
  • Reading
  • Watching a funny show
  • Taking deep breaths

There are many more you can try of course. However, for some of us, utilizing coping skills that we previously enjoyed include activities that are inaccessible at the moment. This may be a nice opportunity to adjust that coping skill or try something new. 

Learn more about coping skills and check out our guide to managing your well-being during COVID-19

It may be a big adjustment to take your classes online and in a totally different learning environment than the beginning of the semester. This can be difficult to adjust to and it may be helpful to develop a new routine to help you stay on top of your schoolwork and reduce stress. 

Some examples might include:

  • Scheduling your meals
  • Choosing a time to organize school materials for the day
  • Dedicating times each day to study

There are other examples, but it is best to see what works for you. It is also important to be kind to yourself if you notice that it is taking you long to adjust to this new routine. It is an adjustment for all of us and you are not alone.

If you find yourself spending a significant amount of time focused on social media or other news sources related to COVID-19, it may be helpful to take a break. The information will be there, even if you are not looking at it, and it can feel overwhelming at times. During this break, take time to do something you enjoy.

You may find yourself questioning your reaction to this situation. Some people might think that they are overreacting and others might simply question the emotions they are experiencing. Acknowledge that it is normal to have a flurry of confusing thoughts and feelings to this situation. Remind yourself as much as needed that your response is normal and understandable.

Write down your thoughts and feelings each day. This may be in a journal or via technology. It may be helpful and grounding to have a chance to express yourself however you like. If you decide to keep this for later, you may appreciate that you have a log of your experiences many years from now. Click here for more tips on journaling.

Some of the concerns that you may have are related to events in the past that you cannot change or you are focused on future events that have not happened yet. It is beneficial to focus on the present moment. 

To do this, focus on your present surroundings. Use your senses to explore your environment. What do you hear (e.g. cars going by outside, a clock ticking, etc)? What do you feel (focus on a part of your body that you do not normally think of, like to bottom of your feet)? Are there pleasant smells you can focus on (e.g. open a window and smell fresh air). Focus only on your immediate surroundings and bring yourself back to the present moment, even if you have to repeat this step multiple times. 

Learn about mindfulness and meditation

Utilizing deep diaphragmatic breathing can help us feel more calm and grounded. Here is how you use deep breathing:

  • Place your hand over your chest and one over your stomach
  • When you breathe, make sure your stomach is going in and out, not your chest
  • Breathe in very slowly through your nose until your stomach feels full with air
  • Hold the breath for a count of four
  • Breathe out very slowly through your mouth 
  • Repeat for 5-7 minutes

Learn about biofeedback and the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing in practice. You may also find it helpful to look through our list of popular mental health apps

One of the difficult aspects of our present situation is that we can have a sense of helplessness. It may feel like there is so much going on in the world, at SDSU, with our finances, and everywhere else that we do not control. 

Create a list of things that you do have control over and things you do not. For example:

Things you (likely) have control over

  • Your daily routine
  • The activities you choose to do
  • The type of media you view
  • Practicing self care
  • How you respond to each new development

Things you (likely) do not have control over

  • How others respond to news
  • How people respond to recommendations and orders from government officials about what to do/not do
  • What news organizations, family, and friends choose to share about the situation
  • The decisions made by schools and places of employment 

There are many more examples, but developing your own list (especially for your biggest stressors) can be helpful. Learn more about control versus no control

This may be a nice time to do a deep dive into relaxing and calming videos on YouTube. Some of them may teach new skills or reinforce ones you previously knew. Here are some terms to start with:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Grounding techniques
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Guided meditation
  • Deep breathing

The more we isolate ourselves or stay in close quarters with a small group, the less contact we may have with much of our social support. Schedule a time to do group calls or chats with family and friends.

Here are a few links that we found helpful and hopefully you will too. 

While you are staying indoors, you may find it helpful to try to figure out ways to be more in touch with your values. Explore the values we have listed in our values section and see if there might be ways to connect more with your values than you are already.

There are many apps online that have helped students cope with distress. You may want to explore the app store on your own, or check out our list of popular mental health apps.



This can be a challenging time for all of us. We hope you find support using these skills or developing your own strategies. 


Parents: Helping Your Student Face Isolation Anxiety, A Sense of Loss & Uncertain Times