If you find yourself struggling with your mental health during this pandemic, you’re not alone. A recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that 31% of adults have been experiencing depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and thoughts of suicide during the pandemic. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the pandemic has also brought some unique challenges to military life – including extended deployments, virtual learning, social distancing, and travel limitations – that have made things more difficult for families all over the world.
Military families pride themselves on their adaptability. Rising to the challenge, however, has been more difficult during the pandemic. A majority of families live far from their immediate families, and so they rely on the support systems formed by the friends they have made at their duty stations. Social distancing rules have placed significant strains on families who rely on these support systems, and for the first time, families feel like they’re really alone. Virtual learning has also placed more stress on families, with children being relegated to learning from their computer rather than in a classroom with their peers. Parents have also been thrust into the role of teacher practically overnight, which has placed a great deal of strain on them and their relationships with their children.
Needless to say, this pandemic has caused many families, including my own, to go into “survival mode”. Our fight-or-flight responses have been in overdrive since March, and now that the pandemic is surging again, we feel like there is no end in sight. Thus, we are doing everything we can to avoid the inevitable feelings of anxiety and despair that await us at the end of our trial. However, most of us have already begun feeling the anxiety and depression that have been associated with this pandemic.
So, how do we cope when nothing feels normal and the world seems to be crashing down all around us? What do we do when we can’t rely on the things that would normally get us through a crisis? Here’s what I suggest:
Take it day by day.
Chances are, your normal routine has been disrupted by this pandemic in some way. I know that mine has! Instead of throwing in the towel and chalking the day up to being terrible, I advise to aim smaller. Set small goals to achieve each day – whether you aim to wash, fold AND (gasp!) put away laundry in the same day, make something nice for dinner, or finish organizing your office – give yourself something to do. Even if you do nothing else other than keep yourself and your kids, if you have them, alive, consider it a win.
Dance it out!
Did you know that movement helps relieve stress and anxiety? Sounds like the perfect excuse to put on some music and dance it out! Let your kids and spouse join in with you for some added fun! If you don’t like dancing, you can always substitute your favorite workout routine.
Sunlight is good for you. Science says so! If you need a mood boost, consider stepping outside for a while. Play with your kids, walk your dog, or go for a walk/run. Chances are, you’ll come back feeling better than you did earlier.
Be kind to yourself.
These are unprecedented times, and those impossible standards you are holding onto for yourself aren’t working anymore. Take some time for you every day to recharge. Read a good book. Play a video game. Have a hot bath and a glass of wine – whatever it takes! And drink more water. Remember that you are a human being with needs, too, and your worth is not measured by all of the things you do.