Stress, Anxiety, and Chronic Pain: How to Cope During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Posted on April 27, 2020

Most everyone is experiencing some level of stress or anxiety during this time, but for someone with chronic pain, there are also more unique considerations. You might worry about how the coronavirus could impact your pain condition or wonder how to protect yourself. You might have concerns about being able to refill your medication or reach your doctor. Parents with chronic pain may find that closed schools and child care centers equals less time to rest and more time for pain. Social distancing may even mean that the people you could previously count on for support can’t be around as often.


As we wait for the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, it’s important to learn how to manage feelings of stress and anxiety in a positive way. Stress is notoriously hard on both the immune system and chronic pain levels. While feelings of fear and concern are completely understandable during this coronavirus outbreak, taking steps to temper that stress response can make a valuable difference for your overall health and your peace of mind.

Continue to Communicate with Your Doctor

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still essential that you communicate with your physician and pain management center. Your doctor knows your personal case and he or she can advise you of your medical needs during this crisis. For some physicians, telemedicine has become a major source of communication and health visits. Telemedicine, or virtual medical appointments, can also help keep someone at high risk of the coronavirus from spending unnecessary time in public. Ask your doctor if virtual visits are an option right now.

Think About What Has Worked for You in the Past

When you feel overwhelmed, take a moment to ask yourself what you need right then and there. What has worked for you in the past when you felt anxious or scared? Your answers can both calm you down and give you an element of control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. Does swimming in your backyard pool usually help soothe your thoughts? What about yoga in front of the television set? Do you need to call a friend or take a long bath? Everyone’s answer about what they need in a time of fear will be different, but responding to your needs and giving labels to your fears can feel validating.

Call Friends More — and Spend Less Time Reading the News

Some mental health professionals have suggested that social distancing really be called physical distancing, instead, because you should absolutely maintain virtual contact with your friends and family. While you can’t gather at each other’s homes right now, you can still video chat or talk on the phone. Communicating with others about your new reality is important for your mental health and for controlling your stress levels. Make plans to chat with your friends and family whenever you need to vent.


While following the news is important, you should make sure that you aren’t overdoing it. Let yourself check in with what’s going on in the world no more than a few times a day. Reading or watching the news 24/7 can worsen anxiety.

Exercise Outdoors When You Can

As long as you’re cleared by your physician to exercise and you continue to main social distancing measures (stay 6 feet or more away from others), taking a walk or working in the garden can reduce stress, lower pain levels, and improve your overall health. Exercise is also a powerful immune system booster.

Build an Anxiety Toolkit

Go to Youtube and look up different breathing and meditation techniques to help calm your mind and body. The Wellness Society has a coronavirus anxiety workbook to help reframe worrisome thoughts. You can also try gentle yoga or journaling. Adding “tools” to your anxiety toolbox will give you resources when your fears are overwhelming.

Allow Yourself to Relax

There’s a lot of pressure online to be productive during your time at home during the pandemic. Allow yourself to let go of this pressure. Enjoy a funny movie or spend some time playing with a pet to take your mind off the coronavirus. After all, the most productive thing that you can do during this time is to take care of yourself.

Take Proper Precautions to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

Another way to feel more in control during this pandemic is to continue following public health guidelines. Frequently wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, carry hand sanitizer if you have to leave the home, minimize non-essential trips, and disinfect high-contact surfaces (like doorknobs and light switches) inside of your home. You should also try to keep your physical distance from people outside of your immediate household.

Don’t Have a Pain Management Center?

Riverside Pain Physicians is here for you during this time. Are you in need of evaluation for your chronic pain? Contact our pain management clinic today to learn how we can serve you with several locations in the Jacksonville area.