A Psychology Teacher’s Take on Managing Pandemic Stress

Ellie Reese and Aubrey Martin

When thinking about the COVID-19 Pandemic, the general first concern is to avoid getting sick; wear your mask, isolate, stay six feet apart in crowds and around people, etc. However, studies show that getting physically sick is not the only issue that has risen. The pandemic has caused a toll to be taken on mental health in students around the world and even in our own school building.  


A review published in The Lancet said that the separation from loved ones, loss of freedom, boredom, and uncertainty can cause a deterioration in an individual’s mental health status. 


According to BioMedCentral, “Relatively high rates of symptoms of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychological distress, and stress are reported in the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic in China, Spain, Italy, Iran, the US, Turkey, Nepal, and Denmark.”


If you or someone you know has experienced any of the following: new developments of anxiety or depression, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, feelings of isolation, or academic decline, they could be battling negative side effects due to the pandemic.


PHS’s psychology teacher Mr. Greg Kester gives this advice for anyone experiencing pandemic stresses, “During stress, the body produces cortisol. Exercise will reduce cortisol, which helps a person feel less stressed. Meditation is also an effective tool to lower cortisol levels, heart rate, and blood pressure.” When taking a look at the mental perspective, Kester said, “Seeing the stressor as an opportunity to overcome and master an obstacle is the best way to overcome it. Being aware of negative thoughts and making an effort to stop them and countering them with positive statements is a skill that many people can develop. Not everyone can, however. It is perfectly acceptable to seek help if one is feeling overwhelmed.” No matter how you cope, if it is physically, mentally, or simply through talking it out, discovering what is best for you is key to managing and overcoming.


If you have not encountered any of the negative side effects, Kester gives insight into how you can prevent them. He said, “Maintaining connections with friends and family help avoid isolation. While not perfect, social media seems to help during quarantine. Eating healthy and sleeping regularly can help deter stress. Purposefully seeking out things to be thankful for also helps.” 


Although social media can have negative impacts on its own, during this time it is a great way to stay connected with friends, family, or even the outside world. Whether you are keeping up with your friends or watching the latest news, social media can provide a sense of awareness and involvement while being cooped up inside.


Aside from the benefits social media can offer, Kester recommends classes like his own. He said, “Classes like Psychology are beneficial. We look at specific skills like strengthening resiliency and Active Constructive Responses that help people relive good memories. These things help enrich people’s life experiences and positivity.” Taking a class like this can offer a more in detail look into your own mind. You won’t be able to cure yourself, but it is a good start to understanding your stresses. 


As for schools, Kester said, “Instead of lessons and subject matter, everyone’s focus needs to shift. As a school, we have to return to our most essential reason for existing:  Nurturing and caring for young people until they are mature and strong enough to care for themselves. Every member of the faculty, student body, custodial staff, secretary pool, administration, counseling office, kitchen staff, and every bus driver should be vigilant.” A lot of work can be done on your own, but there is power in numbers.


Kester gives this advice for the rest of the world, “As a culture, we have to stop stigmatizing people in mental anguish. Psychological pain is just as legitimate as physical pain.” Know that the discouragement you are facing right now is a normal response to the current events around you. For more information on mental health or if you would like to seek help, continue your journey by clicking one of the links below.


Mental Health Information Online:

  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)


  • Find Youth Info



Seeking Help:

  • Behavioral Health Response (Local Crisis Line)


  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)


Seeking Help In The School Building:

  • Mr. Kester

[email protected]

  • Mrs. Portell

[email protected]

  • Mrs. Gray

[email protected]

  • Mrs. Merseal

[email protected]

  • Mr. Bouse

[email protected]