How to Remain Focused and Maintain Self-Care Amid COVID-19 and Current Unrest in America


Ava Tabb, Doctoral candidate in adult education at Auburn University and Lecturer of multimedia journalism at Troy University

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Are you experiencing elevated anxiety? Do you feel unfocused, and are you easily distracted? Are you overwhelmed with the constant updates about the coronavirus pandemic? Or maybe, you’re experiencing reoccurring tension headaches from racing thoughts and constant worry about the unrest of racial injustice in America? These are warning signs that you should take a 10 or 15-minute break and self-care.

First, you should remember that you’re not alone. More than 8 in 10 Americans (83%) say the future of the nation is a significant source of stress, according to an American Psychological Association 2020 study. It’s been said that we’re all in this together, and this has some true value, as the current political, financial, and social climate of uncertainty in American affects us either directly or indirectly.

It’s during these tough times that our mental and physical strength are being tested. As we continue working, whether from home or you have returned to work, we need to remain focused in order to efficiently accomplish tasks and projects. Without adequate focus on your work, the increased levels of stress could cause problems. Self-care is critical in times like these, as stress levels continue to climb (Tello, 2020). For this reason, here are four ways to remain focused at work and self-care during the pandemic and unrest in America:

Establish Boundaries

As employees of higher education systems, we receive regular updates and announcements about adjustments at the university due to the pandemic. You might also get constant news alerts on your phone, and you might listen to radio news commentary in the mornings or afternoons. As the pandemic has spotlighted elevated attention of ageism, racism, classism (Galucia, Morrow-Howell, & Swinford, 2020), we must set boundaries to limit our intake of information. In this digital world that we live in, establishing small boundaries can make a significance difference over time. For example, try setting a boundary to only check your work email during certain times of the workday, both morning and afternoon. With the extra time you have, try listening to your favorite playlist or mediating for a few moments.  

Perform some physical activity

Although social distancing has become the “new norm” for us, getting outside to enjoy a walk (e.g., morning, afternoon, or evening) with a coworker or performing a mini exercise session in the park should not be ruled out. Research from Harvard University suggests that exercising regularly builds up resources that promote resilience against stormy emotions like anger, fury, and anxiety (Ratey, 2019).


Whether you’re working from home or you have returned to the workplace, planning your day is essential for self-care. To avoid over commitment, it can be helpful to plan a schedule with daily goals for different times of the day; don’t forget to schedule in a break or two (e.g., lunch, meditation, etc.). Remember, time wasters exist during the pandemic. Some experts recommend we work to concentrate on one tasks at a time and be aware of your best and most productive time of the day. Patrick (2018) notes that by performing some tasks better earlier in in the day allows you to set your schedule to capitalizae on peak performance times.

Talk It Out

It’s no surprise that talking about your ability to overcome personal goals, tasks, and challenges can improve our self-efficacy to better approach those situations. And the current pandemic and tensions surrounding social injustice have proven to be no different of a better time to express what you’re feeling to someone in a safe space. As social people, we enjoy reading information and sharing updates from varied social media platforms, but some researchers suggest individuals avoid social media use and informing oneself about COVID-19 because both are associated with elevated levels of negative affect (Daly, Delaney, Lades, & Laffan, 2020). Whether through a Community of Practice, friends, or family, sharing our thoughts and opinions in a comfortable space will provide a safe environment for verbalizing our feelings and emotions about what we’re experiencing. A safe space could be your home or meeting a friend in the park.


American Psychological Association (2020). More than 80% of Americans report nation’s future is significant source of stress, survey says.

Daly, M., Delaney, L., Lades, L. K., & Laffan, K. (2020).  Daily emotional well‐being during the COVID‐19 pandemic. British Journal of Health Psychology,

Galucia, N., Morrow-Howell, N., & Swinford, E. (2020). Recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic: A focus on older adults. Journal of Aging & Social Policy, 32(4-5), 526-535.

Patrick, W. L. (2018). Here is the time of day when you are most productive. Retrieved from

Ratey, J. J. (2019, October 24). Can exercise help treat anxiety? Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School.

Tello, M. (2020, April 16). 6 self-care steps for a pandemic – always important, now essential. Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School.



A lecturer of multimedia journalism at Troy University, Ms. Ava Tabb, instructs undergraduate courses in journalism, editing and design, web development, and blogging through courses of distance education, hybrid learning, and traditional face-to-face settings. She possesses more than 10 years of experience as an educator in higher education. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in adult education at Auburn University. In July, she completed the OLC

Instructional Designer Certificate Program. Ms. Tabb holds a MSJ in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, a BA in Journalism from The University of Alabama, and an AA in English from Lawson State Community College.

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