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NEWS | Feb. 9, 2021

Maintaining good mental health vital through ongoing pandemic

By Russell Toof Regional Health Command Europe

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has created new challenges for everyone. Normal routines have been replaced by unfamiliar isolation and adjustments to home-life, work, and school.

“There are a lot of folks who are fairly fed up, frustrated, fatigued, and bored after a year of physical distancing,” said Lt. Col. Emile Wijnans, the director of psychological health for Regional Health Command Europe. “That’s particularly true for elderly, teens, and parents.”

According to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, stressors during a period of social distancing/quarantine can include frustration and boredom related to isolation, insufficient information, and fears about becoming infected and/or infecting others.

Wijnans' advice is to accept that things have changed and may not return to pre-COVID conditions for a while or not at all. He says that focusing on what was, is a waste of energy.

“You’ll be better if you accept the restricted movement, forestalled plans, restlessness, and isolation,” Wijnans said. “Be patient with yourself and others. More importantly, recognize and appreciate all you do have.”

Wijnans also says one way to keep from focusing on those changes brought on by COVID is to commit to realistic goals you can control such as daily exercise, the amount of sleep one would get, or diet.

“Focus on the here-and-now and the short term,” Wijnans said. “Get involved doing immersive activities. It’s also important to reduce the amount of news you get from social media. Research has shown the more news you get from social media, the more anxious you get. So try to get your news from reputable resources.”

Wijnans added that until the risk of COVID is substantially reduced, it will remain important to continue to wear masks, practice physical distancing, and make an informed decision to get the COVID vaccine when it’s available.

“We’re a resilient, social species and we’ll get through this,” Wijnans said.

Behavioral health specialists like Wijnans encourage people to reach out for help if needed. If feeling overwhelmed, talk to a health worker or counselor. Have a plan of where to go and how to seek help if required.

For more information on how to support health and well-being during COVID-19, visit https://www.cdc.gov/https://phc.amedd.army.mil/covid19 or https://www.cstsonline.org/.