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NEWS | Jan. 26, 2022

Restoring mental health in the New Year

By Shannon Hall Air Force Wounded Warrior Program

When the New Year comes around, many people look at re-establishing positive aspects of their life. They declutter their homes, start a new workout routine, work on paying off debt or start a new hobby. Either way, the decisions they make are beneficial to restoring their mental health.

If there is a strong foundation of mental health, most stressors, changes and unexpected incidents are easier to accept and cope with. Tending to and restoring mental health doesn’t mean there will never be setbacks, but it ensures that we are able to be successful in life, and have the ability to assist others when they are going through hard times.

“Mental health restoration is not only about getting better, but also having the ability to achieve a full and satisfying life,” said Jennifer Houghton, Wellness Team program manager. “We must have strong mental health in order to give our best every day. How can we provide exceptional care to our Airmen, Guardians, families and friends if we are running on empty?”

Because people tend to get comfortable and complacent with their day-to-day living and schedules, it can sometimes be hard to tell when their mental health may be dwindling a bit. Getting agitated and frustrated sometimes, changes in sleep patterns and having no energy may seem normal but are all signs that someone’s mental health is suffering.

“Feeling irritable and disconnected, isolating yourself and changes in weight or appetite are all signs of someone struggling with mental health,” Houghton said. “It is important to recognize your mental health is declining when experiencing these symptoms and then seek help. Always remember, it’s okay to not be okay.”

It can sometimes be hard to find time to concentrate on self-care and mental health, especially during the New Year, but there is always something that can be done in a limited time. Meditation is a great way to calm the mind, working out in any form, taking a break from social media, writing down thoughts and goals in a journal and even having scheduled alone time are all great ways to restore mental health daily.

The Air Force Wounded Warrior, or AFW2, Program offers many resources and tools to those struggling with their mental health. There is an Adaptive Sports program that can assist any warrior who wants to get involved with sports, a Recovering Airman Mentorship Program that connects warriors of the same trauma, local area and more so that they are not going down their recovery road alone or blind-sided. The Wellness and Resiliency Program offers classes on journaling, origami, dancing, art of all forms and much more to help combat mental health struggles.

For warriors who are interested in getting involved with these programs, looking for additional resources or just wanting someone to talk to they can reach out to their Recovery Care Coordinators (RCC) or Non-Medical Case Managers (NMCM) for more assistance and direction.

“It is possible to look back and see, that despite the halting progress and discouragements, everyone has come really far and it is up to the individual to keep going and not give up,” Houghton said. “Each time a milestone is reached, there is a recovered piece of life that strength is drawn from.”