These are seemingly unprecedented times we’re living in. As COVID-19 impacts our workplaces and dominates world news and social media, along with it comes the anxiety and fear of impending instability. The loss of control and the fear we experience as a result can create feelings of turmoil that wreak havoc on our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits. If left unchecked, our mental and emotional states seem only to worsen an already extremely challenging situation, sometimes becoming more detrimental than the outside threat itself. That’s why — perhaps now more than ever — it’s important to develop and adapt coping skills to manage our stress, and also create opportunities for growth.

Here are six things you can do today to cope effectively with the pandemic.

1) Keep consistency where you can. Consistency provides repetition that creates habit, and that strengthens connections in the brain. With children, especially, consistency provides opportunities for relaxation and learning, feelings of safety, and examples of how to manage their own behavior. That being said, it works wonders for adults too! 

2) Find and take ownership of the things you can control. Although the word ‘control’ is often used in a negative context in our culture, the truth is that it is an innate human desire to crave agency (aka: control). During this time, there are going to be many things that are out of our control. And as part of the military family community, I’d dare to say we’re probably more used to that than a lot of folks out there. So look around and see the things you can shift, leverage and adapt so that they work for you and your family during this time. 

Some examples could be:

  • Maintaining sleep/wake times and meal times
  • Following social distancing guidelines
  • Maintaining physical activity — even if the routines themselves have changed. Maybe you used to go to the gym, but now you’re going on a walk or run. It counts.
  • Redirecting the time you used to spend commuting to work towards self-care. Whatever that means for you.

3) Favor quality over quantity, and limit your exposure. Want to know an amazing way to feel awful? Keep the news on 24/7. Seriously, don’t do it. Unless it’s your actual job. And choose your outlets carefully. Centers for Disease Control (CDC.gov), World Health Organization (WHO.int), and National Institutes of Health (NIH.gov) are going to be more reliable in this situation than your favorite media celebrity. The local news channel or military installation’s social media/website are good for information specific to your location. Try to limit your exposure to 2x’s per day — once in the morning and once in the evening should be sufficient.

Side note: When I wrote this tip, I was specifically thinking of the media, however, limiting your exposure to the media only to attend 15 “Zoom Happy Hours” with people who are only talking about the horrors of the pandemic isn’t going to help your mood either. Instead, connect with people who are realistic, but also take on an attitude of responsibility and positivity. 

Continue reading on page 12 of the April 2020 issue of Modern Military Magazine

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