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How to stay resilient during the coronavirus pandemic

By Christopher Larsen | Regional Health Command-Pacific | April 9, 2020

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, military moves are on hold, training is curtailed, schools are closed and people are working from home.

The Army Resilience Directorate in Washington, D.C., splits resilience into physical, psychological, social, spiritual and family components.

Soldiers, civilians, retirees and their families can apply strategies from Army resiliency programs to help them make it through disruptions caused by COVID-19.

Regional Health Command-Pacific (RHC-P) staff offered some tips on how to build and maintain resiliency during this difficult time.

Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Baker, RHC-P’s master resiliency trainer and a National Guard medic, said people sometimes go through an adjustment period “fraught with opportunity” when faced with unexpected changes to their norms.

Baker said making a schedule can be a ‘quick win’ in the effort to build resiliency during this time.

“If we are teleworking or working from home, our daily schedules may need altering in order to meet mission. This requires us to acknowledge there is a likelihood of normal battle rhythms changing,” he said. “However, we will have time throughout the day where we can structure in activities as we see fit.”

Baker said people might want to use this opportunity to try something new or change the way they spend their downtime.

“We should schedule time for activities that we find purposeful, interesting or exciting,” he said. “This may be a good time to take up a hobby. Keeping a log or journal can be particularly helpful and offers a creative way to express ourselves.”

Working from home and being physically separated from family and friends can also have an effect on mental and behavioral health.

Lawrence Edwards, a psychologist and RHC-P’s director of psychological health, said many people will experience more anxiety during this time, and with a possible increase in isolation, some may experience levels of depression as well.

Edwards said it was important to maintain a healthy lifestyle during self-quarantine or remote work.

“Some of the biggest focus should be upon getting enough sleep and exercise,” he said. “Get outside, maintain increased levels of social contact, and learn to manage your stress levels.”

Edwards said that although there are many different methods and techniques of dealing with stress, they are generally going to be specific to each individual person.

“It can be difficult to focus on any one specific technique that will work for everyone,” he said, and provided some examples of helpful techniques.

“Focus on seeing difficult situations as a challenge versus a problem,” he said. “Be committed to yourself and to your life, your friendships and relationships, and focus on situations over which you have control.”

Edwards also recommended maintaining perspective as to what’s going on around you.

“Don’t overly focus on only the negative events, as there are also positive events occurring,” he said. “Look at those positive events, and if you’re having a tough day, use them to change your focus or perspective to a more positive one.”

Edwards said the best way to stay connected is to purposefully pick a set time each day to reach out to people with whom you’d like to stay connected.

“Ensure that the time is workable for all involved,” he said, “and then make sure that all commit to connecting at the agreed-upon time, and via the agreed-upon means of communication.”

“We can set up message chat groups using mobile applications to remain in contact with our teammates and families,” said Baker, the MRT. “Phone calls and video calls are another way to keep in contact.”

Spiritual fitness is another aspect of the Army’s resiliency program and has several definitions, according to Col. David Deppmeier, RHC-P command chaplain.

“For people of faith, a relationship with God answers those questions of identity and purpose as people created by God to know him and serve his purpose,” Deppmeier said. “Their walk with God yields insight and guidance and provides hope and contentment as they navigate the challenges of life.”

Deppmeier said religious faith is just one aspect of spiritual fitness.

“It’s important to remember that many people have a ‘spiritual worldview’ that doesn’t involve a belief in God or a transcendent power,” Deppmeier said. “They may be guided by a philosophy or their own morality or core values, apart from a religion.”

The Army Public Health Center defines spirituality as a sense of connection that gives meaning and purpose to a person’s life and points out that spirituality is unique to each individual.

“A person’s spirituality isn’t just a once-a-week experience that results from a religious service,” Deppmeier said. “It’s the central part of who they are because it guides their belief system, moral conduct, and outlook on life.

“Chaplains encourage Soldiers and their family members to find hope, strength and resiliency through their own faith tradition,” Deppmeier added.

RHC-P staffers stressed that during this difficult time, service members, civilians, and family members are all in it together.

“We must remember that we remain members of the team,” Baker said, “and when needed, to remind one another we are all still here working towards a common goal: to serve, in our greatest capacity, the American people.”