Maintaining and Enhancing Your Mental Health and Well-Being During the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic
Stay Up to Date with Your Vaccines
If you haven’t already, we encourage you to get your vaccine as soon as you can and to follow up with the recommended additional doses or booster doses. It’s the best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community against COVID-19. Here are a few ways to stay up to date:
- Get vaccinated at VA. VA now offers COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Veterans and their spouses and caregivers.
- Use this vaccine finder to find all the vaccine options in your area.
- Learn about the CDC’s guidance on who should get a booster dose and when.
How To Balance Stress, Anxiety and Physical Distancing: Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic
Taking care of your well-being, including your mental health, is essential during this time. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. Many people may experience stress, fear, anxiety, or feelings of depression. This is normal. There are things that you can do to manage your stress and anxiety:
- Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth will help stop the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, even if you’re vaccinated. Try strategies to help you feel more comfortable wearing a mask.
- Exercise regularly, try to eat well-balanced meals, and get plenty of sleep.
- Limit alcohol.
- Practice breathing exercises and/or meditation. VA has many free mental health apps for Veterans like COVID Coach and Mindfulness Coach.
- Take breaks from the news (see below for tips).
- Stay connected with others while practicing physical distancing (see below for tips).
- Participate in activities or hobbies that you enjoy, or learn a new one.
- Keep your current mental health appointments. VA offers both video and phone telemental health options that do not require you to go to your closest facility in-person should you have a medical concern or need to follow specific physical distancing guidelines in your community.
- Learn ways to connect with VA providers using telehealth options and schedule or reschedule your appointment online. If you are requesting a new mental health appointment, please call your local VA and they will work to arrange an appointment for you. If you need same day access for mental health services, call your local VA to request this and you will be connected to care.
- Continue to follow your wellness plan, or create a wellness plan if you do not have one.
- If you take medication, make sure you have enough on hand and set reminder alarms to stay on schedule. Many medications can be obtained by mail, or even overnight.
- Keep the routines you have developed that make you feel good, like exercising and cooking. Modify those routines as necessary to maintain physical distancing. Learn more about steps you can take for healthier sleep here.
- Focus on what is within your control right now.
- Participate in daily physical and cognitive exercises like puzzles or reading.
- Try to focus on what you can accomplish in the next minute, hour, or day, such as taking deep breaths, preparing a favorite meal, or talking to a loved one.
- Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that things are hard right now and you are doing the best you can. Ask yourself what activities give your life joy and meaning, and spend time doing them if possible, or do something related to the activities you enjoy.
- Think about stress management strategies that have worked for you in the past as you overcame other challenges. Draw on those strategies regularly now.
Also, see these great resources on managing stress and anxiety related to COVID-19:
- Moving Forward
- National Center for PTSD Guidance on Managing Stress
- CDC Guidance on COVID-19 Mental Health Support
Avoid Too Much Exposure to News
Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. If you feel anxious or stressed from the information, struggle to turn off the TV or log off of social media, or have trouble sleeping, you might want to limit the amount and type of news you are viewing. Try to do enjoyable activities, return to normal life as much as possible, and check for updates between breaks.
Take Care of Your Physical Health
Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. Smoking harms the lungs, heart, and nearly every organ in the body. Smoking may increase your risk for being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and increase your chance of experiencing severe illness. What is well-known in any case is the fact that quitting will not only improve your health — your breathing improves within a few days of stopping — it will also save you money. Make a plan to quit:
- Set a quit date
- Tell your family and friends
- Anticipate and plan for challenges
- Removes cigarettes from your home and car
- Talk to your doctor – ask about medications and counseling supports
During times of physical distancing, it is normal to have increased feelings of loneliness, sadness, fear, or anxiety. It is important for everyone to stay connected. Here are some ways to feel more connected:
- Seek support from family, friends, mentors, clergy, and those who are in similar circumstances. While face-to-face communication may be difficult, be flexible and creative using phone, email, text messaging, and video calls. Sign up or join a virtual social network that includes service members and Veterans.
- Keep in touch with fellow Veterans and assist them in navigating this environment if they are having a hard time. Teach them how to use VA Video Connect through the VA mobile app store as VA increases virtual health and mental health appointment availability.
- As a Veteran, you have been uniquely trained in emergency response situations. Your resilience and strength can assist others during these times. Connection can also happen when you give back to your community by sharing your expertise and support with family, friends, and neighbors through acts of kindness and volunteer opportunities which will arise.
- Stay engaged with VA information as it becomes available so you can continue to maintain your health. VA’s Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) webpage has the most current information and VA’s Coronavirus FAQs page provides answers to many important questions.
- Stay connected of Coronavirus information as it becomes available by visiting the CDC’s Coronavirus page.
- Stay up-to-date on what the federal government is doing in response to the pandemic at the USA.gov page.