PMRI / SBS Video Series

Managing distress and anxiety during COVID-19


Claire Ashton-James, PhD is a Social Psychologist with expertise in the interpersonal realm of healthcare, and in particular, pain management. Her research spans the role of emotions and trust in patient-clinician interactions, social aspects of pain and pain management, and the development of social interventions to support patients who are tapering off opioid medications for chronic pain.

Claire has made a series of videos on evidence-based strategies for managing distress and anxiety.  Part 1 (32 mins) explains the difference between stress and distress, and emphasises the need to manage stress in order to AVOID distress.  (Later parts are between 15 and 20 minutes.)

While the videos were prepared for assisting practitioners managing in a stressful environment (such as COVID-19), the messages pertain equally to patients coping with chronic pain and other people generally managing in unusually stressful environments.

Later videos in this series discuss problem-focused and emotion-focused strategies, and the benefits of practicing gratitude!

Part 1

This video presentation was developed for clinicians in the Department of Anaesthetics at the Royal North Shore Hospital to provide them with information about the nature of distress and strategies for coping with distress. This is the first in a series of video presentations on this topic. Videos are intended to be short and digestible, and to build upon one another.

Part 2

Part 2 (23 mins) explains the difference between problem-focused and emotion-focused coping strategies and gives some concrete examples of how to use problem-focused coping. The second video covers brief emotion-focused coping strategies that can be used during a crisis. These strategies are immediately effective, but have only short-term effects (they need to be used repeatedly throughout the day to build resilience).

Part 3

Part 3 (15 mins) of this video series provides clinicians with information about the benefits of gratitude – consciously reflecting on the good in one’s life. Claire discusses the reasons why practicing gratitude helps to manage distress and anxiety, and how to practice gratitude most effectively.  “Look outside of ourselves and be grateful!”

Part 4

Part 4 of a series of short video presentations on Managing Distress and Anxiety During COVID-19 looks at social connectedness: Why is it important to maintain high quality social connections despite social distancing, and how do we do it?