Army resiliency has taken on a different meaning in the age of the coronavirus.
Never before has the modern Army been called to prove its mettle like the past several months. While no stranger to challenges and threats, this war is different. Accustomed to banding together, now a majority of the workforce is apart. Luckily, there is a blueprint, a plan – and Soldiers and scientists like plans.
How can the workforce adapt to the challenges brought forth by COVID-19, using the five pillars of Army resiliency – emotional, family, physical, social and spiritual? The experts below have some ideas.
Handling emotions constructively right now has been a challenge when the news reports are grim and workers fear for their health and the health of their loved ones. It could be tempting to find outlets to ease those fears, outlets such as overeating, overconsumption of alcohol and even overspending. But a healthier answer might be found in a simple routine change.
“Stay informed, but don’t obsess with COVID-19 news,” Army Substance Abuse Program Division Director Gina Koger said. “In spite of 24/7 news feeds on the subject, it’s only one aspect of life.
“Get some extra sleep. Take advantage of this opportunity to put what is normally travel time to use by experimenting with adding it to sleep time. For example, if you’re used to six hours of sleep, try adding an hour and see how you feel. But the most important thing is to keep a regular sleep routine, going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time.”
Cultivating family wellness has also evolved with the safer at home order and schools transitioning e-learning. The traditional activities of springtime – sports, prom, graduation, have been canceled or dramatically altered. Family wellness involves supporting children in their questions and fears, and developing support strategies for spouses, partners or parents.
“Keep a journal of the new good and positive things you and your family are experiencing,” Koger recommended. “Make a list of things that matter most to you and that you are thankful for and add something to that list every day. Keep a list of lessons-learned during this unusual time. We are living in a time like none we have experienced before and like none we may ever experience again. Take it in, reflect on it, learn from it. Enjoy the dichotomy of being distant from others and from some of the activities that we are usually immersed in while also reconnecting with ourselves and with others, and finding new windows opening when the usual doors are closed to us.”
Proper nutrition, physical activity, and flexibility are still essential, although it has had more of an outdoors look lately. The gyms on post are still closed to civilians and contractors for the foreseeable future although some off-post are opening again. However, many do not feel comfortable resuming their pre-COVID gym routine.
“We understand people miss their home gym for not only the physical benefit but for social and mental well-being,” Family and MWR Recreation Division Chief Gaylene Wilson said. “We certainly look forward to seeing our great customers again. But the good news is a gym is not needed to exercise. I encourage people to get outside if possible and go for a walk or run. Use their own body weight to do simple exercises like push-ups, modified push-ups off the wall, squats and simple leg lifts either while laying on floor or standing using a chair. Don’t have weights? Find something at home you can use. Can goods, bucket of water, etc. There are many online resources that offer free tips on how to do at home exercises so put those phones to use. The main thing is just get off the couch and move.”
Like family wellness, social wellness is about maintaining healthy interactions with friends and acquaintances and interacting positively with your personal and social environment.
“Take multi mini-breaks,” Koger advised. “We may feel that we have to be on our computers constantly when we are teleworking. You may realize that you are working more hours than normal because you want to be accountable, to stay on task. Stay in touch with co-workers, friends and family, whether it’s through social media, email, or FaceTime. It’s important to communicate with other human beings!”
Spiritual does not necessarily mean religious. Spiritual wellness means finding meaning and purpose in your life, which are necessary to foster hope. Some find that in a pew, some find it in nature, while others find that in volunteering and helping others. And none of those are mutually exclusive, as spiritual wellness is uniquely personal. All are healthy ways to stay spiritually strong.
“Start your day with mediation, prayer, journaling, whatever keeps you grounded,” Koger said. “Take regular short breaks to ‘smell the roses’ and find rays of sunshine to brighten your day.”