Choose safe behaviors to relieve COVID-19 stress

With COVID-19 causing social isolation, employment and financial worries, along with health fears, one could easy turn to alcohol to escape the pressures of daily life.

However, avoiding alcohol is important during this health crisis, said officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because drinking, especially heavy use, weakens the immune system and reduces an individual’s ability to cope with infectious diseases. These health experts also noted that using marijuana and other inhaled substances, including cigarettes and e-cigarettes or vaping devices, can be dangerous because of their negative effects on the body’s pulmonary system.

Albert Mack, the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s Army Substance Abuse Program manager, encouraged the JBM-HH community to choose safe alternatives to relieve their loneliness, stress and anxiety. He also reminded military and civilian personnel that though they may be working from home, military codes of conduct are still in force and should guide decision making.

Mack offered several tips for community members to follow to not only protect their well-being, but also remain productive as they work from home at this time.

• “Take precautions to stay healthy and if you find yourself, because of a long period of social isolation, making an unhealthy choice, break your routine,” suggested Mack. “Go out for a walk to get some fresh air or just go sit in your backyard if you have one.”

• “Music is a great stress reliever,” Mack noted. “Find some nice soothing music, put your feet up, close your eyes and think about positive thoughts or situations in your life that have brought joy.”

• “Avoid too much exposure to social media,” he advised. “Much of what we are seeing on our phones or devices is negative. For example, I only watch the first 15 minutes of a news broadcast, because after 15 minutes it just repeats itself. You don’t want to make yourself feel hopeless by hearing the same negative news over and over again.”

• “Focus on positive things that are going on in the world, like people making safety masks or helping others who are struggling,” he said.

• “Add color to your life, and what I mean by that is maybe get a plant,” Mack said. “Plants add color to your environment. Watching them grow is fulfilling especially now when it seems all we hear about is COVID-19 deaths. Seeing plants thrive gives a sense of joy and something positive to focus on.”

• “Avoid unhealthy urges by tackling a project in your house,” he offered. “Do something around the house that you’ve been putting off. Clean a room or go through a closet and find things to donate. That will help you fill the time to avoid boredom and take your mind off harmful choices.”

• “Stay away from alcohol or banned substances when you’re hungry, angry or tired. Alcohol is a depressant and it will just amplify those moods,” Mack explained.

• “Stay in contact with family and friends, people you haven’t talked to in a while,” he recommended. “You’ve got time, give them a call. Don’t send a text — you want to hear their voice and let them hear yours, so you feel more connected.”

If an individual feels he or she is having problems with alcohol or substance abuse, Mack said that there are ways to seek help during COVID restrictions. He said that Soldiers can call Rader Clinic at (833) 853-1392 to reach behavioral health services for counseling. Mack recommended that civilians call their health care provider for counseling referrals. Civilian employees who are retired military are eligible to receive help through Rader Clinic’s behavior health services on a space available basis.

He also encouraged leaders to look for possible problems among their staff and Soldiers during this period of teleworking.

“Stay engaged with your people and pay attention to what they say and how they say it.” Mack stressed. “They may be giving you some verbal clues but if you don’t pay attention you may miss that message. It could be an important message about the kind of struggles they are having.

“We ask people every day how they are doing and they may say ‘fine.’ But pay attention. If they don’t look fine or sound fine, you need to ask another question or two to make sure they are fine.”

For more information on stress relief solutions, visit the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html. Military OneSource also has helpful information for the whole family at https://www.militaryonesource.mil/health-wellness/healthy-living/managing-stress/follow-these-stress-relief-tips.