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Maintaining your mental health during a health emergency

Health Promotion Coordinator Elizabeth Allen
by Elizabeth Allen04/01/2020 4:03 p.m.
Updated: 04/01/2020

The outbreak of this new coronavirus might be stressful for many people in our communities. Everyone experiences feelings of stress, anxiety and fear differently. Some people are likely to experience these feelings more strongly during this crisis:

  • Older people.
  • Children and youth.
  • People with underlying health conditions.
  • First responders and healthcare providers.
  • People with mental health conditions or substance use challenges.

During this time, it’s especially important to pay attention to your needs and feelings. You should take steps to protect and improve your mental health.

  • Take part in healthy activities you enjoy and find relaxing.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night at a consistent time.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including on social media.
  • Talk to someone you trust about your feelings or concerns.

When you do look for news about the COVID-19 outbreak, make sure you’re getting information from a reliable source. Look for information that helps you make practical plans to protect yourself and loved ones. Limit yourself to checking the news twice a day.

Parents and caregivers

During times of stress, children often need more attention. They can be more demanding on parents and caregivers. Take time to connect with children and talk about their feelings. Discuss the pandemic with your children honestly, using age-appropriate information.

Keep familiar daily routines as much as possible—especially when confined to home. Provide children with engaging, age-appropriate activities.

Remember, children watch adults. They use adults’ behaviors and emotions as cues for how to manage their own emotions. Addressing concerns together may ease children’s anxiety.

Find and teach positive ways to express feelings. Every child has his or her own way to express emotions. Creative activities, like playing or drawing, can help. Children feel relieved when they’re able to express their anxious feelings in a safe, supportive environment.

First responders and healthcare providers

You’re on the frontlines of the effort to combat the COVID-19 outbreak here in Pierce County. While the service you provide to your communities is important, maintaining good mental wellbeing is important to your personal health. It can be difficult to recognize the signs of stress while we are focused on our work. Use the Buddy System. Watch out for your coworkers and look for usual signs of high anxiety and  compassion fatigue:

  • Hopelessness.
  • Anger and cynicism.
  • Sleeplessness.
  • Fear.
  • Chronic exhaustion.
  • Physical ailments.
  • Guilt.

Remember, self-care is important. Take breaks, rest, and eat a balanced diet. Protecting your wellbeing is essential if you’re going to take care of others. Ask for help early. Seek professional help as soon as you feel mentally unwell, overwhelmed, stressed or still exhausted after rest. Access the employee assistance program, if your company has one.


If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts:

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255). Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Call the Pierce County Crisis Line at (800) 576-7764. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For an urgent, but not life-threatening, mental health crisis:

  • Call the Pierce County Crisis Line at (800) 576-7764. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Text the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Mobile fees waived.
  • Call the LGBTQ Trevor Project Support Center at (866) 488-7386.
  • Call 211 to learn about additional mental health resources.

Gizmo's Pawesome Guide to Mental Health— This great, free resource helps you and your children with sad, mad and worried feelings. It also has fun activities you and your children can do alone or together, inside or outside.

Kids Mental Health Pierce County—

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—

Health Promotion Coordinator Elizabeth Allen

by Elizabeth Allen

Elizabeth leads our behavioral health efforts to promote better mental well-being.


We invite your comments but will delete those with profanity, personal attacks, derogatory statements, ads or promotional material. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department does not provide personal medical advice; please contact your health care provider.