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COVID-19: Coping With Stress

When you hear, read, or watch news about an outbreak of an infectious disease, you may feel anxious and show signs of stress—even when the outbreak affects people far from where you live and you are at low or no risk of getting sick. These signs of stress are normal and may be more likely in people with loved ones in parts of the world affected by the outbreak. During an infectious disease outbreak, care for your own physical and mental health and reach out in kindness to those affected by the situation.

Right now, Los Angeles County is facing an unprecedented public health emergency: the spread of Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19, leaving many in the community fearful, anxious, and stressed.

This is uncharted territory for many of us but it’s important that we remain calm and practice self-care for our bodies and minds.

There are several new or unfamiliar terms that may be confusing to people or cause them stress. Understanding these terms and best practices can be a helpful first step in reducing your anxiety:

  • Physical distancing means keeping a safe distance (approximately 6 feet) from others and avoiding gathering spaces such as schools, places of worship, concert halls and public transportation.
  • Quarantine involves avoiding contact with others if a person has been exposed to coronavirus to see if they become ill.
  • Isolation involves separating an individual who has contracted COVID-19 to prevent them from spreading it to others.

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations such as an infectious disease outbreak that requires physical distancing, quarantine, or isolation. People may feel anxiety, worry, or fear related to:

  • Your own health status
  • The health status of others whom you may have exposed to the disease
  • The resentment that your friends and family may feel if they need to go into quarantine as a result of contact with you
  • The experience of monitoring yourself, or being monitored by others for signs and symptoms of the disease
  • Time taken off from work and the potential loss of income and job security
  • The challenges of securing things you need, such as groceries and personal care items
  • Concern about being able to effectively care for children or others in your care
  • Uncertainty or frustration about how long you will need to remain in this situation, and uncertainty about the future
  • Loneliness associated with feeling cut off from the world and from loved ones
  • Anger if you think you were exposed to the disease because of others’ negligence
  • Boredom and frustration because you may not be able to work or engage in regular day-to-day activities
  • Uncertainty or ambivalence about the situation
  • A desire to use alcohol or drugs to cope
  • Symptoms of depression, such as feelings of hopelessness, changes in appetite, or sleeping too little or too much
  • Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as intrusive distressing memories, flashbacks (reliving the event), nightmares, changes in thoughts and mood, and being easily startled

If you are feeling anxious, depressed, or frustrated with the news surrounding COVID-19, there are several ways mental health professionals recommend for coping with stress and supporting yourself:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. While physical distancing is in place, you can call, email, text message or use social media to connect with your friends and family.

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:

  • Los Angeles County’s Department of Mental Health’s 24/7 hotline at 800-854-7771 or text “LA” to 741741.
  • 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).

If you are feeling suicidal or having suicidal ideations, call 911 immediately.

FOR 24/7 HELP, PLEASE CALL THE DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH ACCESS LINE AT (800) 854-7771

The ACCESS line serves as the primary entry point for mental health services with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Services provided by ACCESS line staff include:

  • Mental health screening and assessment
  • Referral to a service provider
  • Crisis counseling
  • Mobilizing field response teams
  • Linkages to other resources

Additional help lines and resources:

  • Crisis Text Line: Text LA to 741741
    Connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free crisis support via text message.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline(800) 273-8255
    The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline connects you with a crisis center closest to your location. Your call will be answered confidentially by a trained crisis worker who will listen empathetically, work to ensure that you feel safe, and help identify options and information about mental health services in your area.
  • Disaster Distress Helpline(800) 985-5990
    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline provides crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.
  • Trevor Project Lifeline(800) 788-7386
    The TrevorLifeline provides support to LGBTQ youths and allies in crisis or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk.
  • Substance Abuse Service Helpline(844) 804-7500
    Operated by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, this hotline provides screening, resources and service referrals regarding substance use disorders.
  • 211 LA County: Dial 2-1-1 within Los Angeles County
    211 LA County is the hub for all types of health, human and social services in Los Angeles County, providing callers with information and referrals to the services that best meet their needs.
  • Los Angeles Homeless Outreach Portal (LA-HOP)
    Operated by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), LA-HOP is designed to assist people experiencing homelessness by dispatching homeless outreach teams throughout Los Angeles County.
  • 2019-2020 LAHSA Winter Shelter Program (English / Spanish)
  • L.A. Found(833) 569-7651 or LAFound@wdacs.lacounty.gov
    L.A. Found is a countywide initiative to help locate individuals who wander due to dementia, Alzheimer’s, autism or other cognitive impairing conditions. Watch this video to learn more about L.A. Found.