Feelings of hopelessness, reduced ability to endure frustration and irritability are examples of some psychological red flags. They are warnings that a physical or psychological breakdown is imminent.


Beyond the fear of death and sickness, COVID-19 has changed the way we live and brought with it a different kind of stress.

You’ve just received the long awaited ‘alert’ and grab your phone in anticipation, only to find that your salary has been slashed. But your responsibilities remain the same; not so, they’ve actually increased – since brother James lost his job and Aunty Jenny’s business collapsed.

The children have been at home for over a month now. You love them to bits but little Yemi’s continuous whining and Chimamanda’s silly attitude is now beginning to drive you to the edge.

Apart from fear, uncertainty and economic hardship, COVID-19 has brought with it unparalleled stress from every angle.
Here are psychological first aid tools that will help you beat COVID-19-related stress:

Know Yourself

This might sound cliché but how much do you really know yourself? What sort of things or people upset you, wear you out, encourage or enliven you?

Start by identifying the stressful things. Solve or reduce those you can and work towards accepting or changing your reaction to those you cannot change.

Spend time doing a little of what encourages and enlivens you daily. I call it the ‘me time’. As little as 30 to 40 minutes daily works magic!

Live Simply

With hundreds of people dead from the pandemic and millions struggling to stay afloat economically, this is hardly the time to be ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ or trying to live up to other people’s expectations.

Engage in regular daily exercise (be sure to get your doctor’s recommendation on this), eat lots of fruits and vegetables (three to five portions a day is ideal) and get adequate sleep.


Know your financial limits and ‘cut your coat according to your size’.

Stick to only the basic necessities from now on. Shift your focus from ‘what’s trending?’ to ‘what do I need that’s healthy and affordable?’

Take Care of Your Body

Our bodies are incredibly resilient. You’d be amazed how much they can put up with. But even the healthiest body, even in a young person, has its breaking point when not taken care of.

So partner with not against your body – especially at this time.

Engage in regular daily exercise (be sure to get your doctor’s recommendation on this), eat lots of fruits and vegetables (three to five portions a day is ideal) and get adequate sleep.

Avoid smoking, excess alcohol and recreational drugs intake.

The rewards are increased stamina and energy levels, improved cardiovascular and overall health, reduced risk of minor illnesses and an overall feeling of wellbeing.

Act According To Your Values/What Gives Meaning To Your Life

What is your life really about? What matters to you? Use this period to find out. Let these values guide your actions daily – not the external environment or the behaviour of those around you (even the kids).

Identify your personal red flag and work towards a solution. The solution may lie in seeking spiritual or psychological counselling or medical advice.


Do you value God? Spend time with Him daily. Family and friends? Spend time rebuilding the broken walls of communication with the spouse you cherish and your children. Call those friends you love but haven’t spoken to in years.

Basically spend time doing the things you love.

Know Your Limits

It’s not a sign of weakness to know when you need to retreat. It’s a sign of wisdom.

Being able to identify your own personal red flags is an invaluable skill to possess.

Feelings of hopelessness, reduced ability to endure frustration and irritability are examples of some psychological red flags. They are warnings that a physical or psychological breakdown is imminent.

Don’t wait for this to happen. Identify your personal red flag and work towards a solution. The solution may lie in seeking spiritual or psychological counselling or medical advice.

Adjust Your Perspective

Many things that generate stress in us would not matter as much if we had the right perspective. We will not always be here. We all have a certain number of years in this world, a certain amount of time and no more.

What are you doing with your time and talents?

Anireto Chika, a consultant family physician and certified cognitive Behavioural Therapist with the Academy of Cognitive Therapy, Pennsylvania, USA, is based in Abuja.