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“Creating a new normal.”
This phrase has become increasingly popular as societies worldwide continue to take preventative measures to decrease the spread of COVID-19.
Since face-to-face interactions have been significantly limited, all aspects of everyday life seem to have been altered as well. While the physical aspect is readily visible, Airmen must also monitor their less obvious Comprehensive Airman Fitness pillar of mental wellness.
“In my eyes, your mindset is a big factor in everything you do,” said Airman 1st Class Darien Lee, 49th Health Care Operations Squadron mental health technician. “If you wake up with a positive mindset, you are more mentally prepared for the day. You are less likely to let things discourage you. Mentally you have to be prepared and fit to perform your job to the highest degree. You have to take care of yourself before you care for others.”
With mental health being so crucial to the success of Airmen, it is important to acknowledge how the COVID-19 pandemic can impact your mental fitness.
“COVID-19 has affected us all in a lot of ways,” said Capt. Nicholle Johnston, 49th HCOS clinical psychologist. “Some of us experience deep concern for loved one’s health, we may feel anxious, restless or lonely, and these are normal emotions to be experiencing right now. However, I have also noticed trends of caring for and protecting each other, increased positive interactions and positive wishes for others’ well-being.”
With the positive and negative influences on mental health that the COVID-19 pandemic can cause, Johnston offered advice on how to keep an uplifted mindset.
“Finding a sense of normalcy right now is one of the best things you can do,” said Johnston. “Create a routine that includes taking steps to stay physically healthy, schedule phone calls, utilize virtual exercise routines or try a new hobby. Be cautious of getting information about COVID-19 from sources that are not credible as this may increase anxiety or stress related to the current status of the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a great resource for up-to-date, credible information.”
While the shift in routine can cause anxiety and stress for some, Johnston emphasized that acknowledging the impact is critical for balanced mental well-being.
“I have personally felt the impact of feeling restless and frustrated by what I can’t go out and do,” said Johnston. “However, I acknowledge that frustration, and I try to have balanced thoughts and acknowledge that I can also take the extra time to be more productive at home with things I have been putting off.”
Even though it is good to find new hobbies and be productive while physically distancing, putting too much pressure on yourself to be active can be equally unhealthy.
“Being productive is definitely a good thing, but some of us may need to pace ourselves,” said Johnston. “It’s okay if we don’t complete our to-do list each day or if we are not productive 100 percent of each day; it’s important to find time to relax too.”
Although physical distancing can make it difficult to complete routine tasks that can affect mental fitness, maintaining a balanced healthy mindset is important for Airmen to stay fit to fight. Creating a “new normal” by forming new routines is a recommended method to try during this pandemic.
It’s also important to watch your fellow wingman and reach out if you see them struggling mentally during these uncertain times.
“During this time, you may notice others expressing increased anxiety, worry, boredom, anger, loneliness, hopelessness, or changes in sleep or appetite,” said Johnston. “Social distancing may require that we adjust how we previously supported each other, but you can still text to check-in, write a handwritten note or offer activities ideas that might help improve your fellow Airman’s mental health.”
Airmen who are struggling with maintaining their mental fitness during this time are strongly encouraged to contact Holloman Mental Health at (575) 572-5676.
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