Since about March (at least here in North America), we’ve almost all been affected by COVID-19, in at least one way or another. Whether we or our loved ones have lost jobs, kids have been without sports or school, household income has been slashed, or your work life has drastically changed (work from home, anyone?), this global pandemic has forced us all out of our comfort zones and into a ‘new normal’ that none of us was ready for.

While it might be obvious that we’re all experiencing a sudden change in our day-to-day routines, what might not be clear is just how that’s affecting us. COVID-19 isn’t the only illness going around the world right now – almost all of us are experiencing some sort of physical, psychological, or emotional symptoms as well, and we might not even be realizing it.

Read on for some of the common side effects (physical, emotional, or behavioural) you or your loved ones may be experiencing because of the pandemic  – and potentially not even realize it.

Physical Side Effects

We often associate physical symptoms with physical injuries – a fall, or a bump, for example. But stress can also cause us to experience physical reactions. The pandemic could be causing you to have headaches, gastro-intestinal problems, have trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, fatigue, or a lack of energy. Taken alone, any of these symptoms can easily be missed,  but it’s important to recognize them as a sign of increased stress.

Emotional Side Effects

Emotional or Psychological symptoms of stress can include obsessive tendencies, constant worrying, insecurity, powerlessness, seeing things in a negative light, feeling anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and anger.

It’s important to monitor the range of the emotions you’re feeling:

Feeling of fear and anxiety are normal, but excessive anxiety should be monitored.

Sadness, withdrawal, and fatigue during the pandemic are normal, but depressive states should be monitored.

Anger is normal, but fits of rage should be monitored and avoided.

Behavioural Side Effects

Behavioural side effects of stress, again, can sometimes be missed because they can appear minor at first. Symptoms include difficulty concentrating, being unable to make decisions, irritability, crying, becoming isolated or withdrawn, or substance abuse. 

Whether you’re experiencing any or all of these symptoms – or any not listed here, it’s important to remember that it’s completely normal. How we respond to incredibly stressful situations like a global pandemic is an individual experience. Similarly, how you cope with the stress is also a personal preference, but here are a few self-care tips that can help you with coping.

For Your Body: Eat well (most of the time), exercise, and prioritize getting 8 hours of sleep

For Your Emotions: Express how you feel using “I” statements (I feel like…)

For Your Connections: Foster healthy connections with close family and friends

For Your Self-Esteem: Safeguard and enhance your self-esteem

Finally, don’t forget to try to still enjoy life and have fun! Find the humour in situations and don’t forget to laugh, and stay hopeful for the future. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms or others in extreme levels, please contact a local mental health helpline. You do not have to manage this stress alone.


From proprietary material developed in partnership with Suzanne Pilloud-Proulx, M.Ps., Certified Integral Coach, Clinical Psychologist, and Associate of the Centre de Relations Humaines

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