NEWS | April 14, 2020

Manage pandemic stress with things you love, even video games and binge watching shows

By Laraine Thompson Air Force Surgeon General Public Affairs

As state governors and Air Force base commanders implement measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, stay-at-home directives add new life stresses.

Not everyone experiences stress the same way. Some worry about the health of their family in addition to their own health. Others are concerned about the loss of jobs or being separated from close family members.

Signs of stress show in different ways, including changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty with concentration, and increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.

“Isolation itself induces stress. We know that social connection is protective for people,” states Col. Patrick Pohle, Air Force Family Advocacy Program chief. “We are social creatures and that’s how we prefer to do things.”

Isolation can be especially challenging for individuals who live by themselves. Others who are locked down with their families and have a good, healthy family relationship may still find the situation stressful.

This stress can also impact Airman medical readiness.

“Fears or intrusive thoughts regarding the reason for our fears, can cloud our minds,” explains Pohle. “This can affect mission focus and our own well-being. Readiness requires focus.”

Whether living alone or with others, it is important to participate in creative activities and uphold good habits that relieve stress and maintain health. Eating well and getting plenty of sleep and exercise is important. Connecting frequently with friends and family members using electronic devices helps reduce anxiety. Military One Source provides more suggestions on ways to manage this crisis.

The best way to help family members is to be a role model. Dealing calmly and confidently with the COVID-19 pandemic provides comforting family support.

“Even the closest and healthiest families need to separate and take breaks,” Pohle said. “It’s good to change your environment as best as you can. Get outside and enjoy a few minutes of sunshine. If it’s a rainy day, take a break in a different part of the house or apartment.”

Pohle also recommends Airmen and their families set up a day-to-day routine while stuck in the home. This can be especially important for Airmen with school-aged children. Since most schools are closed, the schedule could include both educational and fun activities.

“Homeschooling isn’t easy,” Pohle said. “Having your kids at home adds another layer of complexity, especially if you’re teleworking. Finding time and locations in the home for breaks, and sometimes from one another, is valuable.”

When possible, Pohle emphasizes the importance of engaging in enjoyable activities.

“Don’t give up on the things you enjoy - play or listen to music, binge watch shows, play video games, read or do crafts,” Pohle said. “They’re all still available to you and can still be done at home.”

Pohle points out a stay-at-home order ten or twenty years ago would have been harder.

“Even though we’re telling people to physically distance, we still want people to be socially connected,” Pohle said. “We have social media, smartphones and apps that allow us to connect with people we can’t be with, or help manage stress. We have alternatives.”

Additional Resources:

DHA Connected Health Mobile Apps: Download these free apps on either Android or iOS devices:

  • Breathe2Relax
  • T2 Mood Tracker
  • Tactical Breather
  • Virtual Hope Box

Uniformed Services Universal Center for Traumatic Stress: COVID-19 Pandemic Response Resources

Center for Disease Control – COVID-19: CDC Daily Life and Coping