Coping with Pandemic Stress & Anxiety


The ongoing COVID-19 rollercoaster can present new challenges to our mental well-being and overall health. Of the negative impacts the pandemic continues to have on our lives are the disruption of social relationships and the travel we were used to using to maintain these. Dr. Jonathan Horowitz, clinical psychologist and founder of the San Francisco Stress and Anxiety Center, joined us last week as part of our weekly webinar update on the latest findings from our Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Study to share tips on how we can better deal with stress and anxiety while maintaining our sanity in these unprecedented times.

You can watch the video here or continue reading for 3 key takeaways that emerged from the discussion led by Destination Analysts’ President & CEO, Erin Francis-Cummings.

There are multiple ways to manage stress and emotions, especially in difficult times. Dr. Horowitz notes that it is imperative to have a good routine in place to keep us staying active. Exercise, yoga, meditation, or whatever it is that helps us de-stress. He advises not to “have our mind play tricks on us when we are in the trenches and we feel embattled, because we feel that we have to put every second into fighting the fight. That’s how people get burned out and that’s how people wind up making bad decisions.” Dr. Horowitz also stressed the importance of social connections. Seeing friends—taking time to be with people we care about and who care about us—is restorative and “really powerful.” Vacations and trips to see friends and relatives are, obviously, a great way to make these connections. However, he emphasizes that other ways to de-stress include simply taking breaks over the course of the day, such as going for a walk at lunchtime. In his words, we’re not meant to “work, work, work, and not do anything else.”

Get creative around travel. Travel, in particular, is an outlet to recover from ongoing stress and recharge our mind and soul. But with the current coronavirus situation, there are multiple factors that limit the ability to take vacations, which can actually be a big source of distress. According to Dr. Horowitz, “Vacations are really restorative and they’re good for your productivity too. You step away from work and you come back at it and you’re fresh and you have new ideas. You’re looking at things differently.” So what can we do to build resilience, stay productive and avoid fatigue? Dr. Horowitz encourages his patients to consider their risk tolerance, discover their comfort level and get creative. As he shared, “Maybe you can’t do the trip that you ideally want to do. You can’t get on a plane and go to Paris. But you could get in a car and you could drive somewhere. You could stay in an Airbnb. There are all sorts of ways that you could make trips happen, you just need to be creative about it.”

“Workcations” are great opportunities to support mental health. While many are forced to work from home during the pandemic, why not combine work with pleasure and re-locate the virtual workspace to a tropical beach or a panoramic alpine retreat? “Workcations” are a promising new development and creative destinations are coming up with programs and ways to make it possible. Dr. Horowitz points out that it is a great opportunity from a mental health perspective, “There’s something really good about getting out and getting away from your regular environment. I think it offers really good relief, while also allowing you to be productive.” However, Dr. Horowitz advises to set boundaries when it comes to time management, “Don’t go there and then just work the entire time. Be really mindful and intentional about ‘this is the vacation period of the day and this is the work period of the day,’ so you don’t find yourself out on a [hiking] trail and checking work email or a work call. That’s not necessarily healthy. You’re not going to reap the benefits emotionally nor from a resilience perspective because you’re still engaged. You need to make sure you have your time for fun and your time for work.”