Checking In for a COVID Stress Check-Up

3 min read

A hand squeezing a stress ball

When my daughter broke her wrist when she was in high school, the first thing the ER nurse did was ask her to rate the pain. If you’ve ever been in the hospital, you probably are familiar with the pain assessment tool the nurse used. The broadly grinning, bright green face stands for no pain at all. The red face with the scrunched-up eyes and flowing tears represents the worst pain you’ve ever felt. Medical staff use this tool to determine what level of pain management you may need. Fortunately, my daughter’s pain was somewhere in the middle and she was quickly made comfortable until she had surgery.

If only we had a “smiley-face” assessment for the pain of the pandemic.

My stress scale would look something like this:

COVID stress scale

0-2 No Stress (Just wear a mask, people.)
3-4 Mild Stress: It feels like a Monday.
5-6 Moderate Stress and Anxiety: Nothing a good walk can’t solve.
7-8 Moderately Extreme Anxiety: My 3 a.m. Twitter sessions can’t be good.
9-10: Extreme Anxiety: Huddled under my desk with hand sanitizer and chocolate.

If we could have asked the Well Done team and our clients to rate the pain of the pandemic back in March and April, I suspect we all would have pointed to the far right of the scale; extreme stress and anxiety about what would come next and how to manage it.

Case in point: When Well Done first transitioned to working from home, our leadership team met virtually three times a week to address challenges in real time. As we all became more comfortable with hunkering down—as Indiana’s governor likes to say—we agreed it was okay to move back to our regular meeting schedule. Our corresponding stress levels dropped from an initial rating of 9 down to 4 or 5.

How are you doing today?

Our account service team was equally diligent about checking in with clients and adjusting to their remote work styles. In many cases, our AEs communicated more than ever as a result of the pandemic, often after hours. While they may personally have been feeling a 6 or 7, they had to exude the confidence of a 2 or 3.

All kidding aside, this elongated period of self-isolation and uncertainty has led to increased mental health issues, even for the most fortunate of us. The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that one in three Americans has low-grade depression due to the stress of COVID-19 and racial tensions. Another study by University of Chicago and Boston University warned that those with lower income, who have lost a job, or have lost someone close due to COVID-19 are even more at risk of mental illness.

Our current circumstances can make it difficult to really know how someone is feeling. Whether you use my pandemic-pain rating system or simply ask, “How are you doing today?,” it is increasingly important to talk honestly about the impact of the pandemic on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. While it may seem like an awkward conversation, showing others that you care may help your own mental health too.


If you or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide or are in emotional distress, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers a free 24/7 hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and can connect you with one of 160 member clinics. However, if you think someone is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.