PORTLAND, Oregon —
In times of national crisis, it’s easy to become emotionally overwhelmed and forget to take your own mental health into consideration. The rapid onset of COVID-19 has brought a multitude of financial and personal stresses for military membersand their families.
On March 25, Defense Secretary Mark Esper placed limitations on large-scale gatherings and encouraged military members to telecommute whenever possible.
While social distancing is imperative to limiting the spread of the coronavirus, it’s equally important to maintain social connections and ensure mental resilience during these trying times.
Heather Gauthier-Bell, director of psychological health at the 142nd Fighter Wing, Oregon Air National Guard, stresses the importance of maintaining mental resilience.
“It’s something that’s vital to everyone to be able to continue to do your day-to-day job and the overall mission,” Gauthier-Bell said. “Without mental well-being, everything else kind of just falls apart.”
At the forefront of mental resilience is practicing self-care.
“Make sure you’re doing some kind of exercise, eating well, and getting enough sleep,” Gauthier-Bell said.
By taking care of yourself, you limit the impact that stress and isolation can place on your mental well-being.
Be sure to develop a strong time-management system. Much of the recent quarantine measures have drastically affected our daily routines and altered the way we connect with others and relax. Creating a schedule and making time to digitally connect with family members can go a long way in developing a sense of normalcy.
Technology can be an important tool in maintaining daily interactions with friends and family. Zoom, a popular video conferencing service, has become a popular way to bring friends and family into daily activities.
“People are getting creative,” said Gauthier-Bell, “I’ve seen people doing game nights over Zoom, and people doing tea or coffee over Zoom. A big piece of it is using technology that we have to stay connected and feel like you’re with people.”
Sometimes it can be as simple as finding a way to fill the time.
“Try to create a routine for yourself and your family,” Gauthier-Bell said. “A lot of people just don’t know what to do.”
Some positive ways you can fill the time include completing home projects, cleaning, reading, listening to podcasts, and limiting how much media you consume.
When the stress of the day seems to add up, taking a few moments for yourself can make all the difference. Practicing deep breaths, meditation, or just stepping outside for some fresh air can help you reset and refocus.
For those who feel overwhelmed with the current crisis, there are a variety of resources for service members and their families.
“I have a 24/7 cellphone, I can FaceTime with people, use WhatsApp, I can text people, so people can utilize that,” Gauthier-Bell said.
In addition to wing resources, military members can also utilize Military OneSource and the Military Helpline to access various telehealth options.
Military OneSource can be reached at 1-800-342-9647, and the Military Helpline can be reached at 1-888-457-4838 or by texting “MIL1” to 839863