This is perhaps the most stressful and anxiety-producing time the world has seen in many years, at least one of this scale. We’re still in the grips of a viral pandemic that medical professionals are trying to understand, while the economy is suffering under the weight of uncertainty. This can create a perfect storm of mental health complications, especially if you were facing mental health issues before COVID-19. Regardless of how bad things may seem, there is hope.
Understand That It Is OK
I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder before leaving the Army in 2015, so I understand how a global event of this magnitude can make certain feelings stir up. I’ve dealt with it over the last couple of months in spurts due to COVID-19. You may be concerned about your health or the health of a family member. Maybe you’re experiencing economic hardships that have you worried. You just may have “cabin fever” from being socially isolated at home. Whatever is going on, just know it’s OK. However, I advise any veteran who is unable to manage their mental health complications with the ongoing pandemic to seek professional help. The VA is offering various types of remote assistance for those enrolled in VA Health Care, including smartphone apps and telemental health options. If you’re not enrolled in VA Health Care, you may still be eligible for assistance by calling the VA Hotline at 1-800-827-1000. If all else fails, you can always contact the Veterans Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
There are things you can do at home to manage your mental health. Try to find something fun to take your mind off things, even if it’s just for a little while. For starters, tune out the news and social media for a bit. Instead, stream a new TV show, find an interesting podcast, start a new book or restart family game nights. You can also try to maintain an active lifestyle to keep your mind occupied. My wife and I have started morning walks recently and it’s helped to tamp down my anxiety. We’re both working from home and these morning walks have also helped us focus better on our jobs. I’ve also been using my kids’ VR headset to do cardio a few times a week. Good distractions can go a long way toward managing mental health during these difficult times.
Stay Connected With Others
Just because we’re socially isolated doesn’t mean we’re socially cut off from each other. You can call, text or even use virtual face-to-face communication apps, like Zoom, to talk to loved ones near and far. You could even arrange a virtual happy hour with co-workers (drink responsibly, of course). Lastly, never underestimate sending or receiving a good old-fashioned letter in the mail.
Everything I talked about is not going to work for everyone. Some people may be able to manage things on their own and that’s fine. Others may need that extra bit of help. Either way, just know that whatever you’re dealing with, whether its PTSD, anxiety or the COVID-19 blues, it’s OK to feel what you feel. Remember, you are not and never will be alone.