The fight to stop the spread of the coronavirus has caused many Department of Defense employees to quickly transition from regular work schedules to teleworking, social distancing and homeschooling.
Adapting to a new lifestyle is not easy though and can cause stress and discouragement, said Chaplain Col. Mark Frederick, Space and Missile Defense Command. He emphasized that the key to dealing with difficult times, like the COVID-19 pandemic, is resiliency.
“Resiliency is important because it equips people with a higher ability to cope with difficult situations,” Frederick said. “People with strong resilience can adjust to difficult and stressful events, and accelerate their return to normalcy.”
The Army recognizes resiliency as a necessary skill to maintain health and wellness while facing the challenges presented in daily life, military careers and difficult situations.
“The military is always preaching resiliency,” Frederick said. “We always try to teach our Soldiers ways to be resilient to help them prepare for difficult times like these.”
The Army outlines the road map to resiliency with five pillars of wellness: emotional wellness, physical wellness, spiritual wellness, family wellness and social wellness.
Emotional wellness includes being able to recognize and manage your emotions in a constructive way. Managing emotional wellness can mean journaling feelings, practicing yoga or deep breathing to relax and reduce stress. Another good way to maintain emotional wellness is to practice optimism by taking stressful situations and putting positive spins on them.
Frederick said that while teleworking and social distancing are not ideal, many families are discovering ways to make it a more positive experience, by viewing it as the opportunity to spend more time with their families.
Physical wellness includes choosing healthy and balanced meals, and getting regular exercise. While gyms across the nation are closed during the pandemic, workout options from home are still available for the whole family. Online workouts, jogging outside, taking regular walks and riding bikes are ways to stay active.
SMDC team members are finding ways to be active while challenging others to follow suit. Command Sgt. Maj. Sean Gerner, 53rd Signal Battalion command sergeant major, started a 3,000 burpee challenge April 1. The challenge was to complete 100 burpees every day for the entire month. In addition, Staff Sgt. Trent Huntsinger, SMDC G3 noncommissioned officer in charge, is issuing a weekly fitness challenge and two daily fitness challenges each week to the command’s noncommissioned officer corps to inspire others with ways to stay active.
Spiritual wellness means finding meaning and purpose in life, and creating an awareness and unity with something greater then oneself. Frederick said spiritual resiliency is vital and provides the capability to withstand life’s unexpected challenges.
“It is the ability to find spiritual strength and adjust when one is faced with adversity or tragedy,” he said. “Spiritual resiliency should grow stronger in difficult times.”
Not everyone finds spiritual strength in the same place though – it can be found in nature, personal values or religion. Frederick recommended connecting with faith, family and friends to maintain spiritual resilience, and said his spiritual resilience comes from his faith in God.
“When I read the Bible, I see examples of how God brought people out of difficult times and that gives me hope,” he said. “I know that God is in control. I do not always understand why bad things happen, but I know God has a purpose.”
While some people are spending more time with family and others are unable to see loved ones, family wellness remains vital to resiliency. During uncertain or trying times, friends and family can provide the love and encouragement needed to cope with difficult situations.
“Family has given me strength during troubling times, and friends are paramount to resilience,” Frederick said. “They can walk with you through some of the most challenging struggles in life.”
Frederick said another important factor in staying resilient is avoiding total isolation. Though social distancing is vital to reducing the spread of the coronavirus, social wellness is necessary to stay resilient – being completely shut off from others is not healthy for people.
“If you’re single, widowed or divorced, it’s easy to isolate yourself at this time, but that’s not healthy,” Frederick said. ”Reach out to your co-workers, family and friends. We’re all just a phone call away.”
Frederick said video chatting is a great way to stay connected with others and feel less isolated. The chaplain has been making numerous calls himself, reaching out to command team members to check on them. He continues to work daily on his mission to monitor the resiliency of his team members.
While times may seem challenging now, Frederick said, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and resilience during this crisis will make everyone stronger.
“Resilience can make you stronger as you face life’s challenges,” he said. “This pandemic will be a learning and growing experience in many ways.”