Stress from Corona Virus: Will you react or respond?

By Darryl W. Thomas, Jr.

I am a U.S. Marine (two-time) Wartime Veteran who was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I know first-hand their terrible effects. It can feel like a big black hole at times, sending its victim into an endless spiral of dark times. Over the years, with adequate support and resources, I have drastically improved my mental health. Mentally, I am now in a healthy and peaceful place.

As I sit here, I can’t help but think about the uproar that this COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has caused to echo throughout the world. Many are oppressed by fear, overwhelmed by uncertainty and overtaken by anxiety. During these times, it is natural to focus on self-preservation.

To focus on surviving is not a bad thing; however, to only focus on you is not exactly good, either.  Particularly for those of us who are parents, it is important to remember that our children depend on us to model appropriate ways to handle stress and anxiety during tumultuous times such as these. 

Healthy self-preservation includes mental health (the way you think, feel and behave) and spiritual wellness (guiding values, principles, morals and beliefs). In many stressful instances, people tend to merely react to a situation instead of responding to a situation. To react, simply, means to impulsively act based on something that happened. To respond means to deliberately act after giving thought to your guiding values, principles morals and beliefs.

I once heard a quote that said, “It’s not the load that breaks you down, but it’s the way that you carry it.” – Author Unknown

I agree 100 percent. In most cases, it isn’t the stress that brings us to our knees. Rather, it is the mismanagement of stress that does so.

As an At-Risk Interventionist, I have more than 20 years of experience working with at-risk youth, teens and young adults. In 2013, I founded a nonprofit called, The Size Of a Man ( ).  Through this practice I have learned that healthy, thriving, meaningful relationships are crucial for young people. In addition to working with kids professionally, I have five kids of my own.  As parents, we know all-too-well the importance of us maintaining a healthy, thriving relationship with our children. Also, we know that our children learn by example. It is our responsibility and in the best interest of our offspring that we learn to effectively manage stress.

When we, the parents, respond to the stressful times in a responsible manner, we teach our children to do the same. Depending on the strength of that parent-child relationship, our kids tend to follow our lead and respond to stress in the same ways we do.

So, during this global crisis, how should we manage our stress and self-preservation in a way that sets a good example for our kids?  I have two suggestions:

Tip #1: Understand that your problems, stressors, and challenges have an expiration date. These difficulties will end, and the stress that they bring will subside if we choose to handle it responsibly.  Hopefully this tip liberates you and helps you respond rather than react to your stress.

Tip #2: Remember that a closed mouth doesn’t get fed. Even as adults, there are times when we need help. Sometimes we really don’t have the answers to our problems. That’s fine. Be okay with admitting that and seeking out help from someone that you trust. Remember, if you fail to open your mouth and make it known to others that you need help, then you more than likely won’t get the help that you need.

In my humble opinion, this COVID-19 pandemic will soon pass, but the memories that you create during this time will likely outlive you.  Don’t just react – Respond.  Stay safe!

Darryl W. Thomas, Jr., affectionately known as Coach D, is a former at-risk youth turned U.S. Marine and Champion for the Underdog. With more than 20 years of experience working with the at-risk youth, teens and young adults, Coach D has dedicated his time, energy and life’s work to inspiring, challenging and empowering the underdogs to win in the face of adversity and hardships. He is a motivational speaker, published author, life coach, at-risk interventionist, and, most importantly, a family man. If you would like more tips on how to help your teen navigate through anxiety and depression, then checkout .

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.

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