Dr. Steiner's Tools for Change

Resources for Natural Disasters such as COVID-19


Welcome to this new page dedicated to helping you cope with the impact of COVID-19!

We are all facing major new challenges as we try to limit the spread of this dangerous virus.

As you know, the recent Shelter in Place guidelines are designed to control the number of people made seriously ill by this pandemic.

Social distancing is a major life style adjustment.increasing stress for people throughout the world. Even so, it does not have to create emotional isolation. Reaching out and connecting with friends and colleagues from organizations you belong to, either by phone or online can counteract the negative side effects of social isolation. This page includes a wide range of advice, including suggestions for coping with these challenging times.

Finding ways to combat the challenges of isolation, including increased anxiety and depression is important. These are times to double your dose of self-care, for example, meditation, listening to calming music, reasonable exercise, connecting by phone with family and friends.

During this time of uncertainty, I will be adding helpful resources, so check back!

Groups Help!


NOTE: This page includes information about:

  • Where Can Domestic Violence Victims Turn During COVID-19?
  • Coping with natural disasters or medical quarantine/social distancing
  • Expected Emotional Reactions
  • Practical Information during Shelter In Place
  • Ideas for Family Time During Shelter at Home
  • Online 12 Step programs

If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others call:

  • 911
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517)

FindHelp.org lists free and reduced-cost services in every city in America and highlights hundreds of programs designed to help with things like paying for food, paying bills, etc. due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Where Can Domestic Violence Victims Turn During COVID-19?

Self-isolation during the pandemic can be dangerous for those in abusive relationships. Resources are limited, but there are options. This important article addresses another too often hidden complication for those in abusive relationships. The national domestic violence hotline is available 24 seven for anyone affected by abuse and needing support call 1-800-799-7233 or if you were unable to speak safely you can log onto the hotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522. You are not alone.

Understanding and coping with COVID-19:

This video has helpful information about the virus, provided by a Pulmonologist on the front lines at Weill Cornell Medical Center and offers very practical advice. Many have found it reassuring on a number of levels.

Scientific information helps! For accurate information check out the Center for Disease Control's website and up-to-date information about COVID-19

Coping with natural disasters or medical quarantine/social distancing

During and after the recent fires, floods, and long after tragedies like 9/11 it is normal to have a wide range of disrupting, at times disturbing reactions and after-effects. The same is true as we all deal with efforts to control the spread of the pandemic, COVID-19.

We all have encountered a stressful event outside of the realm of usual human experience. As a victim of this type of stress, you can expect to experience the emotional effects to varying degrees. This article is designed to help you understand your reactions, and help you cope with the emotions that are stirred up by these life altering events.

Whenever there is a trauma, tragedy or natural disaster it has ripple effects throughout the community, your family and loved ones. Everyone, regardless of how much denial they are in, during these unprecedented times with COVID-19, is having their life altered. Many people are noticing that their stress levels have gone up, they are more anxious, irritable, fearful, or depressed. Acknowledging these emotional reactions helps to make these reactions less intense and eases the natural healing process.

While necessary to help control the spread and potential damage of COVID-19, the impact for most of us is at least mildly traumatic. You may have noticed how differently different people react. How we deal with this distress depends on our coping skills, emotional supports, history with trauma and loss, and other factors. Traumas like the negative effects of social isolation and tragedies like 9/11 often lay the ground work for what therapists call Anniversary Reactions, meaning that when the anniversary of the loss or trauma comes around again, or you have a new trauma like dealing with social distancing, or an accident, you may find yourself feeling more emotional. You may find that old, painful reactions to earlier traumas and losses come up as you move forward with a new unwanted challenge like social distancing. These are times to think about what coping tools have helped in the past when you have had emotional challenges. The list below includes common reactions. It is followed by a collection of ideas and suggestions for managing the stress of these unprecedented times.

Expected Emotional Reactions

  • Feelings: Sad, scared, angry, irritable, feeling numb, or confused
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions and thinking creatively
  • Feeling guilty that others have suffered more than you have
  • Recall of past traumas or losses
  • Increased fear of leaving loved ones or your home
  • Discomfort being alone
  • Disbelief
  • Flashbacks
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Increase or decrease of sexual drive
  • Minimizing the traumatic event, in the case of COVID-19 thinking it can’t effect me or my loved one
  • Forgetfulness
  • Sense that life is out of balance
  • Increase/decrease in appetite
  • Increased substance use
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Social Withdrawal, especially from family and friends available by phone or online
  • Feelings of being "out of control"
  • Fears of "going crazy"
  • Loss of feeling secure in the world
  • Self-doubt or changes in self-confidence

The COVID-19 pandemic, with the recommended social distancing is causing increases in stress and difficulties with isolation throughout the world. It goes against our natures, and is just plain hard to deal with.

Dealing with isolation is challenging in itself. As the world grapples with ways to contain COVID- 19, during these challenging times of great concern, uncertainty, fear and mandated social isolation we all need to be creative and flexible as we cope with large scale uncertainty.

Grief and mourning? If you are surprised that you are feeling sad, expierencing feelings similar to mourning, the truth is that we are all dealing with some type of grief. Scott Berinato's article in the Harvard Business Review, "That Discomfort You're Feeling is Grief" has helpful information.

Finding ways to combat the challenges of isolation, including increased anxiety and depression is important. These are times to double your dose of self-care, from meditation, listening to calming music, reasonable exercise, cutting down on use of alcohol and drugs, and instead connecting by phone with family, friends, and others.

Practical Information during Shelter In Place

Check out this important, helpful 12 page article about COVID-19, The Risks - Know - Them - Avoid - Them

Sophia Aguirre, Ph.D., CGP has assembled a wonderful, fun to read 2 page list of helpful tips for coping during this pandemic

Viginia Satir, the pioneer of family therapy created systems for understanding and helping families and communities cope with challenges. Sandy Novak, LPC, has created a fun, helpful video that explains Satir's change model, called From Coping to Congruence During COVID-19.

Good news for California seniors! Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a partnership with FEMA on a meal delivery program for senior citizens across California during the coronavirus crisis.


Here is a collection of Online resources for coping with stress, and more, in two categories:

Check them out and see which fits best for you!

Communal Practices


Insight Meditation Center, MA

Insight Community of the East Bay, CA


Insighttimer.com/meditation-app A free meditation app
Headspace.com Meditations, talks, articles, guided meditations
Calm.com helps with sleep and meditation

Liberatemeditation.com "A safe space for the Black community to develop a daily meditation habit."


Ideas for Family Time During Shelter at Home

Since our workplaces have temporarily become our homes during this pandemic, families everywhere are having to cope with having children and more family members at home – not easy!

All of us are stressed and unsure of what this change will mean, so it is especially important to focus on what we DO have, and for those whose families are living together, and may feel too close, to remember that family can be one of our greatest gifts!

First, I want to suggest that you have a schedule. Just as many of you had office hours and your children had school hours, now we are all thrown together 24/7, so we all need structure. Here is what I would suggest:

  • 9:00 - 11:00 Schoolwork
  • 11:00 - 11:30 Recess
  • (Do something physical as a family – exercises, crazy dancing, yoga, short walk.
    We all need breaks and it is even better if we can get outside for a few minutes.)
  • 11:30 - 1:00 Free time and lunch
  • 1:00 - 3:00 Schoolwork
  • 3:00 - 4:00 Free time
  • 4:00 to 5:00 OUTSIDE time (long walk, bike ride, catch in the backyard - even though it was raining in Portland, my daughter said her two boys, 12 and 14, , spent a half hour on the trampoline in the back yard, just to let off steam!)
  • 5:00 to 7:00 Free time and dinner - IDEA: start with a picnic either in the backyard if the weather allows or spread a blanket on your living room or family room floor, and pretend you are in the woods! If you don’t have picnic food in the hose, improvise. The children will love it.
  • 7:00 – 8:00 Scheduled Family Time - This is so important to do at least five days a week, You can watch a movie together, work on a puzzle or read a book out loud. Here is where I will be giving you the most ideas to use. IDEA: start by activities like a days long Monopoly contest and see who can survive the longest. Use something fun as a prize.

These weeks of “together” time can be one where you want to strangle each other and/or one which brings you closer as a family. I hope you will choose the latter….and have FUN with it! 
(Quoted with permission, distinguished international speaker Barbara Glanz, April 4, 2020.)

For those who are alone:

Remember, that especially during challenging times like these, that it’s easy for people to feel forgotten. Consider joining an online Book Club, or play online games like Words with Friends or Suduko. Connection helps! Reach out to others who are also isolating alone by calling 3 people who live alone, even just to check in!

Groups Help!

Online groups can be a valuable resource during these challenging times.

“The solidarity of a group provides the strongest protection against terror and despair, and the strongest antidote to traumatic experience.” Judith Herman, M.D., author and expert on trauma and recovery.

Online 12 Step programs

You may want to check out and refer to these online 12 Step programs and other links to get an idea of the wide scope of online self-help resources. Feel free to check them out anonymously by turning off your camera, creating a new screen name, and lurk away!

For more listings of resources see the more comprehensive listing of resources.

I have adapted this listing of online resource groups assembled by Tonya Dowding, Psy.D., who graciously gave me permission to share them here.


Safety tip for our elders during Shelter in Place: I saw this idea somewhere, "I hope whoever came up with it gets due credit. Great idea! Our neighbor is older and lives alone so I gave her 3 colour pieces of paper for her window which faces our kitchen window. Green is for I'm OK, yellow for need help with an errand, and red for emergency. I call it Isolation Communication :) Let's all look out for each other!"( Anonymous)

Ask your friends about their favorite podcasts. Consider reviewing, discussing and talking about podcasts, Ted Talks, maybe set up a Zoom book discussion session…

Yosemite National Park (@YosemiteNPS) Tweeted: "While so much has changed for humans in recent weeks, it's reassuring to see that nature carries on as it always has. Relax with us for a moment as we share a peek into Yosemite Valley during the current park closure."

Film Treasures, check out these free-to-watch, old treasures: Streaming Courtesy of the Library of Congress

What are they watching in the UK? Brits are fascinated by the contributions of 100 year-old veteran, Captain Tom Moore, who has raised major funds for the UK's health system.

Please send me your favorite coping tools, podcasts, Ted Talks and online spots for virtual breaks and rejuvenation!

With best wishes during these challenging times.

Ann Steiner, Ph.D.

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Last Updated: April 25, 2021