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Many of us have had to make significant changes to our everyday lives in the face of uncertainty and adversity. As life continues to change, it’s important that we show ourselves compassion through this process. Here are some things you can do to protect your mental health during this time. 

Set healthy boundaries with yourself

Whether you’re reading the news or scrolling through social, it can be hard to get away from negative news and information. That’s why it’s important to set healthy boundaries for ourselves. Boundaries serve an important role in our lives, especially when we are feeling anxious or experiencing a crisis. Here are some ways you can set boundaries around how you interact with COVID-19 information:

  • Limit your consumption. If you feel the urge to stay updated, allow yourself to read the news or scroll through social posts, but practice putting limits on how much you consume. This could mean that you only allow yourself to look at news in the morning or you can set a timer on your phone to allow yourself 10 minutes to get caught up on the latest updates. 
  • Turn off your notifications. Does your phone constantly go off with new headlines or alerts related to COVID-19? Turning off your notifications can help you ease the anxiety you may experience from constant updates, notifications and changes. It will also make it easier to check the news less frequently.
  • Look for sources of joy. While COVID-19 updates are often the first headline or post we see, there are still plenty of other feel-good stories out there. If you’re looking for positive news, check out sites like Huffington Post Good News or USA Today Humankind for uplifting and inspiring news stories. 

Set healthy boundaries with others

Knowing what we need and communicating our needs clearly can help to protect our own mental health and energy. Here are some examples of things you can say to set boundaries with those around you: 

  • “I don’t want to talk about the coronavirus right now. Can we talk about something else instead?”
  • “I appreciate that you want to help me stay informed by sharing news articles and links, but I’m good for right now/I'd prefer if you didn't." 
  • “I respect your opinion on this situation, and I am allowing myself to come to my own conclusions.”
  • “I know you’re trying to be helpful and I appreciate it, but I need space to experience and process my own emotions about this.”

Process your emotions

When we are experiencing a crisis or being bombarded with information, it can be difficult to process our feelings and emotions in a healthy way. Increased stress and anxiety levels may cause us to snap at those we love or leave us feeling physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. 

One way to process emotions in a healthy way is to practice journaling. Journaling allows us an opportunity to explore our feelings, process them and move forward. If you’re new to journaling, try setting a timer for 2-5 minutes to write. If you don’t fill the whole time that’s okay.

If you’re unsure what to write about, try one of these prompts to get you started:​

  • What can I do to remain connected while practicing social/physical distancing?
  • What am I learning about myself through this process?
  • What thoughts are most helpful to me during this time?
  • How am I protecting myself from things that may provoke panic or anxiety?
  • How can I take care of myself?
  • How can I help someone else?

  • What do I want to spend my time doing more of?
  • How can I more fully enjoy the present moment?
  • What’s the most meaningful thing for me to focus on today?
  • How can I make today a little bit better than yesterday?
  • How can I help myself be successful in this situation?

Look for bright spots and landmines

As we navigate changes and work to adjust to a new normal, it can be good to reflect on our thoughts and behaviors to find bright spots and avoid landmines: 

Bright spots

Bright spots are things that have a positive impact on our mood, energy or day that we want to keep doing or create habits from. To find bright spots, consider the following questions:

  • What is going well that I should keep doing?
  • When I’m having a great day, what contributed to that feeling?
  • What puts me in a positive mindset?
  • How can I do more of those things each day?


Landmines, on the other hand, are things that negatively impact us. They may leave us feeling drained, ruin our mood or leave us feeling lousy at the end of the day. To uncover landmines, consider the following questions:

  • What choices do I end up regretting?
  • What makes some days more challenging than others?
  • What puts me in a negative mindset?
  • How can I do fewer of those things each day?

Once you’ve discovered your bright spots and landmines, write them out into two lists. Set reminders for yourself to do the things on your bright spots list and create systems to help you avoid the things on your landmines list. For instance, you can set a reminder to go for a walk every day at noon if that is one of your bright spot activities. If spending too much time on social is on your landmines list, try to set boundaries around your use. You may set a 10-minute timer or use an app that blocks certain accounts once you’ve hit your daily limit.

Practice self-care

Self-care is any activity that we intentionally do to take care of our own mental, emotional and physical health. Sometimes, self-care is short term, like eating a sweet treat. Other times, self-care is more long term, like learning how to budget or getting enough sleep each night. The important thing to remember is that self-care looks different for everyone. If someone else’s version of self-care doesn’t match your own, that’s okay. Do what you need to do to feel better.

Here are some ideas of what self-care might look like for you right now:

  • Washing your hands more often
  • Drinking water throughout the day
  • Staying in touch with loved ones
  • Being hopeful
  • Getting outdoors
  • Continuing or starting therapy online

  • Meditating
  • Tending to your emotions
  • Exploring new hobbies or interests
  • Unfollowing or muting accounts that are too much for you right now
  • Practicing gratitude

It’s important to create a self-care plan that works for you. Set aside time each day or week to enjoy those activities. 

Talk to someone

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk to someone. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member and let them know what you’re going through. While we all might be experiencing the same thing, it may impact us differently. Take the time to talk to someone about your emotions and where you might be struggling.

You can also schedule a free virtual appointment with Counseling & Psychiatric Services (CAPS) by calling 303-492-2277. Services are confidential, and counselors can help provide insight, solutions and information about additional resources. Students commonly work with CAPS to address concerns about stress, sadness, worry, relationships, academic performance, family problems and financial struggles. 

Additional resources

SilverCloud Online Mental Health is a confidential program that offers access to online programs for stress, anxiety and depression. Each module offers information, tips and activities to help better understand your emotional wellbeing. This program is available for free to all CU Boulder students, grad students, staff and faculty. 

Health & Wellness Virtual Programs are available to support students and graduate students through this transitional time. Students can find resources for counseling, medical care, coaching, online fitness classes, confidential support, live events, stress-relief activities and more. 

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