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NEWS | Dec. 2, 2020

Mental health during COVID-19: 'You're not in this alone'

By Airman 1st Class Melody Bordeaux 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs

Since the beginning of this year many have experienced an intense amount of change. There is no question of the emotional toll the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on people.

As important as washing your hands, socially distancing, and wearing a mask is, your mental health is also important.

San Antonio Military Health System mental health professionals guide patients through stressful times to include any adverse feelings from the pandemic both in-person or via telehealth.

With holidays drawing close, some people will be spending it away from their families. For those apart or living alone there are a plethora of tools to connect with family and friends.

Using virtual video call apps and planning activities to do at the same time, simulating as if you are together, can be fun. Reach out to your family and friends, ask them how they're feeling. Communicate with them and try to come up with ideas for new activities you can do safely related to things you enjoy.

Additionally, practicing gratitude daily and continuous open communication will help friends and family stay connected and eliminate the possibility of pent up stress. It can be as simple as being grateful to speak with your family, or cooking your favorite food. Text or call family and friends, or ask to talk about things on your mind with your significant other.

If leaving your home is not an option or you have recently moved and have no family or friends nearby, Capt. Isaiah Jones, 59th Medical Wing licensed clinical social worker, suggests people can search for virtual trade groups, alumni associations, social media groups, and self-interest groups.

"Engage in organizations or meet-up groups that use virtual platforms," Jones said. "Connecting people from different parts of the country, or even world, and forging bonds through a shared or mutual interest."

Jones also suggests taking time to learn something new, through an online class or by listening to podcasts to give yourself a mental break and take your mind off the current situation.

"Find things to do in the home to break up the boredom," Jones said. "Sometimes we all need an escape, and that could be getting lost in a novel even if it's just for an hour."

Between teleworking and social distancing, some may find it difficult to adjust their balance of work and family time. Jones recommends establishing a designated work area and amount of time to accomplish the mission and prioritizing time for your family and yourself both spiritually and physically.

"While using guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or local health officials, get outside, and walk or exercise," Jones said. "Any kind of physical activity will help because physical well-being and mental health are intertwined and impact one another. Getting fresh air and sunlight will help relieve stress and anxiety."

Jones recommends bike riding, going for a run, or activities with the family in the backyard as another way to stay active and connected. Also, doing arts and crafts, listening to music, or playing an instrument can help relieve stress and anxiety.

Remember through these upcoming holidays your mental health is important and impacts your overall health. Reach out and communicate with your family, friends, coworkers, and community.

To make an appointment at the 59th MDW Mental Health Clinic, call 210-292-7361.

You can also use these additional resources:

If you prefer to speak with the Chaplain instead call 210-292-7373 or the emergency pager at 210-266-3905.

If you need any help with family resources, contact Family Advocacy at 210-292-5967.

Outside of duty hours, or any time of day, service members can call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.