Coping skills for COVID-19: Thought Stopping

If coping skills for COVID-19, like thought stopping, aren’t working for you, it’s not you. Coping skills are all well and good, but this pandemic is a not just a stressor, it’s a global trauma; many people are experiencing intense symptoms as a result. Coping skills for COVID-19 may not be enough.

Also, some people can read a description of a coping skill and use it. That’s great. They probably don’t need help understanding or adapting the coping skill to them. If you read a coping skill that you like the sound of and you try it and it doesn’t work for you, that’s a common experience as well. Maybe it’s just not a coping skill that you can benefit from. On the other hand, it may be that you need help understanding how to do it.

One lovely client said to me that she had read a lot of self-help books, but they didn’t help. What did help was talking with a me so she could understand the instructions and how to follow them. Together we developed  some really nice adaptations from her. She needed that help. It made all the difference for her to talk through the coping skills with me and then tell me about what she learned when she used them. Also, it helped reinforce the skills and the insights when she shared her experiences with me. And that became lifelong wisdom that she took with her when the therapy was over.

Thought Stopping for COVID-19

Now let’s talk about one coping skill for COVID-19, Thought Stopping. Thought stopping helps you stop those thoughts that go around and around in your head. It helps you deal with intrusive thoughts or triggers. It is used for anxiety, triggers, ruminating that frequently occurs in depression, and can sometimes help with obsessive thoughts as well. It’s an all-purpose coping skill.

It has three parts. Part One is stopping the thoughts, Part Two is coming present, Part Three is changing the subject of your thoughts.


STOP sign: red octagon, white letters and edging
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Part One: STOP

Use your senses to interrupt the thoughts that keep thinking themselves inside your head.

  1. Sound: Yell STOP
  2. Sight: See a STOP sign. How many sides does it have?
  3. Touch: Feel yourself coming to a stop, as if you stopped running, or jammed on the brakes.
  4. Next, move to a different location. The location you’re in might have visual or physical triggers that are setting off those thoughts. A new environment will give you new input and help interrupt the thoughts.


Gift wrapped in pink ribbon
Image by Jess Watters from Pixabay

Part Two: Get Present

Get out of your head by paying attention to the present. Meditation, yoga, breathing exercise, stress reduction exercises, the saying, “You have to be present to win,” all have that idea of being present in common. How do you pay attention to the present? By noticing what is here and now through your senses.

Use each of your 5 sense to “orient” you to the present.

  1. Sight: What do you see?
  2. Touch: What do you feel, or what can you feel if you touch the things around you? Notice what you’re wearing and if you’re standing, sitting or lying down. Notice your feet, your seat or your body’s connection to the surface you’re lying on.
  3. Hearing: What do you hear?
  4. Smell: What do you smell? (Maybe nothing. This isn’t always a strong one.)
  5. Taste: What do you taste? (Probably nothing. Usually this does not help anchor you to the present… unless you’re having a beverage?)

Part Three: Distraction

High energy activities like 10 jumping jacks or burpees, music, dancing, laughing, joking; absorbing activities like a gripping movie or book, a video of cute animals on YouTube; an activity that engages your values, like playing with your child(ren) or your pet, making art, baking are examples of distractions that might work for you.


If you don’t mind the f* word, you might like to try this 2.5 minute funny but serious YouTube video, F* That: An Honest Meditation by Jason Hedley.  It’s a bit mean minded and negative, but it’s comical too. It might give you the energy to reject the negative thoughts that go through your mind and take a new perspective on life.

One book on my shelf is The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J Bourne is an excellent 400+ page, full spectrum book on anxiety including causes, recovery, relaxation, physical exercise, panic attacks, phobias, self-talk, mistaken beliefs, impact of personality on anxiety, how to deal with feelings, being assertive, how to improve self-esteem, nutrition, medical conditions, and medication, meditation, and the existential questions, what is the meaning and purpose of life? How do we make peace with our mortality? The book includes exercises.

Another one on my shelf is Anxiety, Phobias, and Panic: A Step-By-Step Program for Regaining Control of Your Life by Reneau Z Peurifoy. Chapter headings include What, Why and How; Reducing the Symptoms of Anxiety; Understanding and Reducing Stress; Identifying and Reducing the Sources of Anxiety; Distorted Thinking; Learning to Enjoy Being Human; Becoming a Positive Realist; The Excessive Need for Approval; Eliminating the Self-Defeating Behaviors Commonly Associated with Anxiety; The Process of Change; Feeling Good About Yourself; Making Anger Your Friend and Ally; Standing Up For Yourself; Staying on Track; Continuing Your Growth.

Coping Skills for COVID-19

Thought stopping may not be enough to deal with the incredible stresses you are facing. All the coping skills in the world are not always enough. Sometimes we need help to recover from trauma, or at least deal with it enough to function. If you aren’t doing well, please get help.

Contact Me

I’m Natasha Walter-Fisk, LMFT, LPC. My specialty is helping people of all ages to manage stress and anxiety and recover from painful experiences and trauma. If you’re not doing well, please get professional help. If you’d like to schedule a free 20-minute consultation, click the scheduling button below or email me at my confidential email, I work online with English speaking clients living in California, Colorado, Poland, Spain, Italy, Greece, Singapore and around the world.

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