Managing stress in the face of adversity

Step one is paying attention to how we react and respond to things we cannot control

Man in a meditative yoga pose

Image caption: Purposefully taking a few minutes out of every day to engage in some sort of stress reduction is important.


This is the fourth in a series of stories about how you can use the myStrength wellness portal and app to enhance your emotional well-being.

The current COVID-19 public health pandemic has brought about an overwhelming degree of uncertainty, what may seem like chaos, and greatly increased stress for many. If you are not experiencing increased stress, you may be one of a kind.

Johns Hopkins employees and their family members, along with people all across the world, are reporting heightened stress during this unprecedented and trying time. While our lives, our city, our country, and our world are seemingly turned upside down, how can we possibly relax and de-stress?

Finding the time and making the effort to engage in your favorite stress-reduction strategies—whether they're going for a walk, doing yoga, video chatting with your friends, watching Netflix, meditating, or something else—are essential to your success in keeping yourself well and able to continue to fulfill your duties and responsibilities within your job, at home, and in your community.

In general, research tells us that everyone experiences the phenomenon of stress differently, and what might stress one person may not necessarily stress someone else. When it comes to managing the strain, recognizing what we can't control versus what is within our control is an important perspective to cultivate. For example, on a personal level, we cannot control what someone else might say to us—whether it's rude, mean, or hurtful. What we can control is how we respond to what was said—we can choose to ignore it, turn and walk away, tell the person that what they said was hurtful, etc. Paying attention to how we react and respond is the first step in working toward becoming less stressed by the things we cannot control.

This same principle can apply to the greater amount of stress and uncertainty that we face today. What we can have control over is our ability to practice self-care strategies, and to incorporate into our lives ways to de-stress, so that we can cope with the current public health predicament with greater flexibility, ease, and resilience.

Stress is likely only one of the many feelings that you may be experiencing. It is not uncommon to also feel worried, anxious, panicked, lonely, down, depressed, scared, overwhelmed, angry, grieving, or exhausted, or to have trouble sleeping. These concerns and feelings are all normal and to be expected. We don't know how long this current way of life will continue, or even what will happen next.

What we do know is that purposefully taking a few minutes out of every day to engage in some form of stress reduction is important. Making this choice will help us take care of ourselves emotionally so that we can do our best to get through this unprecedented time.

Johns Hopkins' mySupport program offers many resources to promote the emotional health of you and your family. Among them is myStrength, a free app that can be downloaded from iTunes or Google Play. You can create an account with a Johns Hopkins email address and the access code JHU.

  • The app allows you to do regular emotional health "check-ins" to track your well-being. This feature can be especially useful now.
  • An entire module dedicated to COVID-19 can be found under Life Topics. It offers strategies, tips, and information for coping with and processing feelings and experiences during this time.
  • The app also provides access to a module called Reducing Stress, which offers guided mindfulness, relaxation, and visualization exercises, as well as tips and strategies about how to reduce your stress.
  • The modules are self-paced and can be done whenever you choose.

For additional support, contact mySupport at 443-997-7000.

Micah Saviet is a Master of Social Work candidate at the University of Maryland who interned with the mySupport team at Johns Hopkins during the 2019–20 academic year.

Posted in Health+Well-Being

Tagged hr newswire