Covid-19: how to take the C.A.L.M.E.R approach to stress and anxiety


Last updated 10 May 2021

This Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 (10-16 May), take a few moments with these tips from our psychosocial and mental health team


We have been riding an emotional rollercoaster for more than a year now. With a near-constant stream of updates on the Covid-19 pandemic coming from all sides, it has been easy to feel a little overwhelmed at times. 

The C.A.L.M.E.R. approach is a useful acronym developed by the British Red Cross’ psychosocial and mental health team. Using it will enable you to easily remember a few healthy steps you can take when you or someone you know feels anxious or helpless about the current situation. It’s a very effective way to help reduce stress.

Whether you're feeling anxious about restrictions easing this summer, or you simply aren't quite sure what you're feeling at the moment, take a few moments for yourself and read on... 

Consider your own needs, and those closest to you

This is particularly important if you are caring for others. You will only be able to care for others as best you can if you are also looking after your own physical and mental health too. Be prepared for your own resilience to fluctuate – everyone’s will.


Acknowledge the source of stress, and how it impacts upon you

Identifying an issue is the first step in fixing it. If it’s spending too much time reading news on social media, or watching others getting back into the swing of socialising outdoors, limit your time spent scrolling.

Dedicate some time each day (or however often you find most helpful) to catch up with the day’s events, rather than oversaturating yourself by keeping up to date with every bulletin or story update. From a news perspective, gather your information from trusted sources, such as the WHO website and your local health authority’s platforms, to help you to distinguish facts from rumours.


Listen to how you’re feeling mentally and physically

Others might be thrilled to be able to get back to the shops, or to be spending time with friends outdoors once again. But you might not be. It's normal to become frustrated, angry or lonely from time to time. Though we have become used to ever-changing restrictions, that won't necessarily make the experience of living through a global pandemic any easier. 

Imagining the worst-case scenario can lead to feeling restless and fearful, and many of us (even those living with others) might be feeling very lonely at the moment. These are all completely reasonable things to be feeling, so don’t berate yourself if you’re having a bad day.


Manage ways to manage your stress and regain control

If you’re currently working from home, try to take the same breaks you would if you were at your normal place of work. Similarly, it’s easy to forget to stop working at the end of the day, so try to set yourself a dedicated time for when it’s time to down tools and start with the rest of your day or evening.

Remember the six important Rs of resilience: responsibility, reflection, relaxation, relationships, refuelling, and recreation.


Enable – what has enabled you to cope with stress in the past?

We all have activities or interests we like to spend time on when we’re feeling overwhelmed. Engaging in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing, such as exercise, will help you keep a sense of normality about your day and help you to keep things in perspective.

Another tip from the WHO is to amplify positive and hopeful stories or images. Remember that it’s natural for news outlets to focus on the scary stories, or the stories most likely to receive clicks, but that there are plenty of stories of people doing kind things and supporting others through this crisis too.

Keep things in perspective: ultimately, there is a global effort being made to combat this virus and thousands of people are being vaccinated every day. You are already playing your part by simply getting through the day in whatever way you find easiest. 


Resource – what do you need to put steps in place?

Think practically here. We all have different needs and preferences and we will all react differently to the ongoing situation. Think about the resources you need that will help with all of the above.

Is it input from friends and family? Is it more alone time, particularly if you spend your days in close proximity to the other members of your household?

In these unprecedented times, you may take some time to get it right - but do take the time to find a balance.

UK Coronavirus Response Appeal

The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest health emergency of our time. With your help, we’ll continue to provide vital support to those worst affected by the outbreak, wherever the need is greatest.