British Columbia

Stressed about coronavirus? These UBC researchers want to hear from you

Two researchers from the University of British Columbia are collecting data on how people cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

2 UBC researchers are collecting data on how people cope with the COVID-19 pandemic

A man wearing a protective mask walks past a line-up outside of a BC Liquor Store in Vancouver on Friday, March 20, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Two researchers from the University of British Columbia are seeking participants in a study looking at how people around the world are coping with the stress of the coronavirus outbreak. 

The rapid spread of COVID-19, and the accompanying extreme measures communities around the world are implementing to try and stop it, can be a massive challenge for even the most zen among us. 

UBC health psychologists Anita DeLongis and Nancy Sin have created an online survey that collects people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviours related to the pandemic. Anyone around the world can participate.

DeLongis says they've received over 1,300 responses so far.

"They're struggling," DeLongis told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's On The Coast. She said people are stressed about all sorts of things — like what they feel are inadequate government responses, unruly kids, or getting work done from a home office.

Empty shelves are pictured at a Superstore grocery store in Richmond on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

DeLongis and Sin hopes to follow participants throughout the duration of the pandemic and afterwards to see how their coping mechanisms change. 

"What I expect over time is people developing routines ... learning how to manage their frustrations and their emotions, and having less concerns about getting food and toilet paper and that sort of thing," said DeLongis.

"We know this is not a sprint. This is a marathon."

But the data isn't overrun with anxiety.

Many of the participants were able to identify small moments of joy — like singing together or organizing neighbourhood drop-offs of groceries and other essentials for vulnerable residents.

Watch as people in Vancouver's West End cheer healthcare workers from their balconies:

Tips to destress

DeLongis, who studies stress and coping in particular, has a few tips for people looking to destress. 

"This situation is stressful in part because it disrupted that sense of control. So recognizing that when you're feeling anxious, you need to figure out what can I do to get back in control," she said. 

  • This could mean going for a walk when things get really noisy or chaotic in your space. 
  • Watch less news if it's making you anxious. "Stay informed, but you can give yourself some time away from the news," she said.  
  • Seek support from other people. "If the kids are difficult, call the grandparents. Ask them to read a book online to the kids."
  • Make time for friends and partners. DeLongis suggests an at-home date night, or an online group to stay close to friends. 

"There are a lot of things we can do to be helpful and we can try to avoid the shaming and blaming and develop empathy for others that can really be a great way to increase our own mental health and reduce our own anxiety by helping others," she said. 

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.  

With files from On The Coast

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