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Refocusing Thoughts During COVID‐19

two friends hugging and smiling during the sunrise outside

How we look at the world on any given day can impact how we cope with the world. If we see the day’s tasks as achievable, we may feel good about the day. If we see the day’s tasks as overwhelming, we may feel overloaded. In the current reality of COVID-19, we may feel overwhelmed daily, hourly, or moment‐by‐moment. And, we may feel like there’s nothing we can do about it. However, one line of defense to the COVID‐19 reality is refocusing our thoughts on how we look at the world right now.

Refocusing our thoughts can reduce our stress and its toll on health. Rather than looking at COVID‐19 only as something outside of our control, we can refocus our thoughts on what we can control during these unpredictable times. Research shows that when we perceive things as beyond our control, our heart rate and blood pressure shoot up. By focusing on what we can control, we have a more adaptive response involving just a slight increase in heart rate, no increase in blood pressure, and a willingness to look at ways to manage the situation. A sense of control can lead to decreased stress and improved health. A great example of refocusing on what we can versus what we cannot control is shelter in place. Rather than viewing ourselves as prisoners inside our homes, we can instead see it as a personal mission to ensure everyone’s well‐being and safety by staying home.

In addition to refocusing our thoughts, there are other ways to reduce stress during the troubling times of COVID‐19, such as:

  • Find time in each day to reflect on the positives: By setting aside time each day to look for positives even in the middle of all the stressors, we can feel some relief. For example, start your day by thinking of three things for which you are grateful.

  • Use different language: The words we use can put pressure on us (e.g., should, must, have to). By using such “all or nothing” words, we set a trap to fail. Focus on doing your best versus focusing on what’s out of your control (e.g., “I will take proper precautions” rather than “I must not get sick”).

  • Distract yourself by focusing on small, joyful things: The worry and stress around COVID‐19 is everywhere and is constantly on our minds. Finding time to distract your mind from the worry can be helpful to give you some sense of control. One way to distract yourself is to refocus your thoughts on small things that bring you happiness. Writing down your daily joys can remind you of the little things in your life that bring you happiness every day, and you can also focus on finding new ways to create these small joys in your life.

By refocusing on what we can control, we may feel better about ourselves and more equipped to handle the next stressor that comes with COVID‐19.

TrestleTree is here to help people manage stress related to COVID‐19. TrestleTree Health Coaches find personalized ways to help people manage stress and put good coping skills into place. Unique life circumstances and sources of stress drive the content of coaching. TrestleTree Health Coaches also have awareness of resources available and will provide referrals as needed.


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