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Mind, Body, and Soul

by Jacquelynn Fisher
13 June 2020 Stress runs in two directions. Work load, family obligations, traffic, lack of rest, deployment schedule … these are all sources of stress, and can cause exponential problems when they occur together. Boredom can be another source of stress, especially for those of us “Type A” personalities. Boredom may be more difficult to identify as a source of stress, but both overwork and underwork may be combated.

When you become overstressed, you may feel a bit sideways, but you are not sure what to do, so you just press on. Do not ignore that feeling, even if you cannot name it. And it is OK. You, the Navy, the country, the world are all experiencing an unfamiliar and constant pressure from dealing with the worldwide pandemic officially called SARS-CoV-2, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2. COVID-19 is the name of the disease caused by this new strand of coronavirus.

Naval Information Forces (NAVIFOR) recently hosted a three-person board of subject matter experts (SME) for a live Facebook Town Hall to field questions on ‘Mental / Behavioral / Spiritual Health and Building Resiliency during COVID-19.’ Capt. Bryan M. Davidson is a Clinical Health Psychologist in the US Public Health Service and serves as the Associate Department Head for Mental Health at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. Capt. Melvin ‘Buck’ Underwood is NAVIFOR’s Force Chaplain; and participating in her third live Facebook Town Hall, is NAVIFOR Force Surgeon, Capt. Elizabeth Adriano.
 

The panel of three responded to questions emailed in advance or posted to Facebook during the Town Hall. A variety of topics were covered with many questions overlapping mental health and wellness, and physical and spiritual disciplines. ‘Discipline’ is a key component, as across the board most responses were prefaced or ended with, “You have to make a decision to … ”, “Set goals to … “ and “Take advantage of this time to … ” Or as Adriano stated, “We have weapons in our arsenal to fight anxiety and stress caused by this dramatic shift in our lives. It comes down to making good lifestyle choices.”

“Turn off the news,” was Davidson’s advice to protect your mental health. “I saw this with the 9-11 crisis. Whether by nature of the story or the source, news is designed to spike anxiety and keep you tuned in. Be mindful of information overload. It’s good to be informed, but at reasonable intervals.”

“Be grateful and thankful. These are spiritual disciplines that require you making a choice. We are conditioned to ‘do’ so much; we forget to just ‘be’. In that quiet time as well as throughout the day, focus on what you do have and what is good in your life, and express that thankfulness as gratitude to the Creator,” said Underwood. “As people of faith, we should live above and beyond ourselves. I have friends who have lost their income and their ability to work at their jobs. See what you can do to help someone. Then you will find that you are not so focused on yourself.”

“Sleep is a powerful weapon in our arsenal. At least seven to eight hours of sleep will shore you up to handle the day ahead,” Adriano states. Then she listed of few things not to do to help with getting a good nights’ sleep. “You already know to stay away from stimulants like caffeine just prior to sleeping. Alcohol will also disrupt your sleep cycle, even if it initially relaxes you. A nice shower or hot bath feel good, but heating your body up prior to sleep will have the reverse effect. It’s best to keep your room cool if possible, this will enhance your ability to get to sleep and stay asleep. Also, limit your intake of fluids for a few hours prior to bedtime. That will allow you to sleep uninterrupted by your bladder.” Both Adriano and Davidson stressed the importance of keeping your sleeping space work-zone free. “Your sleeping hours are for rejuvenating yourself,” said Adriano.

With max telework implemented for both military and civilians, it is important to establish boundaries between ‘work’ and ‘home’ environments. If possible, establish your work space separate from your living and family spaces. Davidson added, “Laptops, phones, and TVs are counter-productive to that goal. It is important to keep set hours for work.”

Eat balanced meals at appropriate times for your work schedule, and do not eat out of boredom. “Many of the things we’re telling you to do we should have been doing pre-COVID, and we should continue doing post-COVID,” Adriano said. “Simple thinks like frequently washing your hands, cleaning kitchen surfaces especially during and after food preparation, getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and daily exercise … all these elements combined help you to stay healthy and handle stressful situations.”

All three SME’s offered advice along the same line for taking advantage of this time to clean out your mental closet, your closets at home, and even your spiritual closet. It does come down to making good decisions, but also knowing where to go should help be needed.

“Connecting with your command chaplain is a good starting point, and those conversations are completely privileged,” stated Underwood.

Stay connected with your chain of command for the latest on how the Navy is working to transition from Health Protection Condition-Charlie, or HPCON-C, back to HPCON-B & A, as well as for the reopening of military hospitals, Branch Health Clinics, and Dentistry in your local area. The Secretary of Defense is working with the Chief of Naval Operations to craft guidance governing this transition safely. That guidance is forthcoming.

The hour-long Town Hall is pinned to the top of NAVIFOR’s command Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/USNavyInformationDominanceForces. Answers to questions that were not addressed during the Town Hall are posted in the comments.

 
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