Ways to Stay Well during Stressful Times

The following suggestions from Counseling and Mental Health Services in USC Student Health may help members of our community as our daily routines get upended and disrupted during these unprecedented times.

Looking to connect with a counselor? Book a TeleHealth visit on MySHR.

Interested in sharing with others? Check out the Zoom-based “Let’s Talk” outreaches or our ongoing therapy groups.

Supporting Your Well-being

  • As much as you can you want to make decisions, focus your thoughts, and increase emotions that are positive, hopeful, and inspiring. Your decision-making process, thoughts you have, and emotions are all important, but it may take more effort and work to stay positive and hopeful.  Look at this time as a challenge like taking a test and find strategies and approaches to surround yourself with increasing support, and self-care.
  • Stay connected to others: Talk, skype or zoom others, facetime, connect on social media in order to feel connected to others. Send inspiring, and positive messages to others helping each other get through this time.
  • Decision making: You want to ensure you are problem solving daily challenges or issues that arise. It is suggested you make decisions in the moment that help decrease and manage your stress level. This may mean doing daily meditation on the Mindful USC app, limiting the news you watch or read, and•or doing enjoyable activities at home like reading or journaling. This could also mean letting others know how they can support or help you during this time. For instance, others may want to talk about it but if it is raising your stress level, ask that you need to not talk about it right now to help manage your anxiety.
  • Structure: Having a routine and structure during our day and setting small goals is important for our wellbeing. Our schedules may be changing due to closures, etc., but we still need to have structure and routine at home. This may mean we need to build this structure ourselves, and keep to a schedule even if we are at home doing online classes and studying.
  • “I got this.” “I will be ok.” are positive statements we want to increase and say to ourselves. Seeing our stress as a “challenge” and that it is part of life helps us maintain looking at the glass half full vs half empty. Gratitude is also a way to reach this goal of maintaining balanced, and hopeful thoughts and perspectives.
  • Be careful about being absorbed and impacted by others anxiety or what you hear, read or see in the media. Notice if your heart races or your body becomes tense and make different decisions to breathe, stay calm, and hit pause to move towards a more grounded feeling and experience.  We want to decrease the “fight or flight” response that is triggered when we are stressed.
  • Have a plan of action for coping: What coping skills and strategies help you breathe and stay grounded?  Is it exercising, yoga, listening to podcasts, drawing, writing, reading, watching movies?  We need to know what helps us de-stress and need to increase and maintain these strategies daily even if we are at home.  Identify 2-3 coping strategies you will do when stress increases and to do before you get stressed. Schedule these strategies in your daily routine.

Self-Care in Self-Isolation:

Physical: Beyond following the CDC’s guidelines for health and prevention, take care of your physical health in the following ways:

  • Sleep aim for 7 hours a night • start a sleeping routine with similar bedtimes and waking times • turn off phone for an hour before sleeping every night • avoid screens before bed • maintain a similar nighttime and morning routine, especially when self-isolating or working from home • listen to mindfulness meditations at night or in the morning • if you nap, try taking them earlier in the day (prior to 4:30pm) and for shorter amounts of time (under 1 hour) • avoid doing work in your bed and keep it a restful space • avoid oversleeping or undersleeping • reduce or eliminate caffeine intake
  • Exercise aim to engage in some form of exercise for 30 minutes every day • take a walk • go to the gym or a fitness center or do your own exercises at home • get a yoga mat • find Youtube videos or online sources that lead at-home fitness exercises • dance
  • Environment make your home environment more comforting • reorganize your drawers, closets, or furniture to create a new change • buy a candle, pillow, or something else small to make your space comfortable • keep your workspace and rest space separate if possible • personalize your space with photos, memories, posters, or images that make you happy • declutter or clean your space
  • Activities massages • yoga • phone and social media detox • baths • face masks • cook a healthy meal • clean and organize your space
  • Seek medical and mental health care as needed If you’re experiencing distress or symptoms of COVID-19, seeking help is an important part of prevention. It is always okay to seek help.


  • Self-reflection journaling • therapy • join a support group • think about your positive qualities
  • Sensory engagement aromatherapy • garden (indoors, too!) • listen to music • use a HappyLight for light therapy • try to spend some time outdoors if that is an option for you • draw and paint • read a good book • cuddle with a pet or a comforting object (blanket, pillow, stuffed animal, etc.) • eat a favorite food • take a shower or a bath
  • Seek mental health care as needed Practice asking for and receiving help. See top of guide for telehealth instructions. It is always okay to seek help.


  • Self-love and Self-compassion practice affirmations • buy yourself a present • practice forgiveness
  • Emotional Expression cry • laugh • watch a funny movie • social justice engagement – advocate for something you believe in • flirt • say “I love you” 
  • Try Something New pick up a new book or start a new show • find a new hobby or pick up an old one you haven’t done in a while • learn to play an instrument or a new language • learn a new recipe or bake something
  • Don’t rely too heavily on TV and technology Treat self-isolation as an opportunity to do some of those things you never usually have time for, such as board games, craft, drawing and reading.


  • Self-reflection self-cherish • foster self-forgiveness
  • Find Community seek connections with others • be inspired • find a mentor or mentor someone else • volunteer for a cause
  • Activities sing • dance • meditate • pray if desired • play • bring nature into your home if you cannot go outdoors • watch the sunset • write a poem or a book


  • Learn about Yourself figure out what you value and what you want in life
  • Think about Your Future plan short and long-term goals • make a vision board • assess and manage your finances • plan your next career move
  • Connection foster friendships • go on dates (Skype • Facetime • Dating Apps) • simulcast a movie or show with a friend • spend time with your family if that is an option for you


  • Take Time for Yourself take a lunch break • set boundaries • practice assertiveness if you need to take time off or say no to a stressful responsibility • take mental health days
  • Separate Work Time and Personal Time leave work at work • do not work during your time off • take all vacation and sick days • try not to work overtime • create a workspace in your home and avoid doing work in the space where you rest and relax • keep a separate work and personal email, calendar, or planner
  • Support get regular supervision • seek out support from colleagues or a mentor