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Mental health maintenance essential in times like these

Like many communities throughout the United States, Joint Base San Antonio is feeling the effects of the global coronavirus pandemic.The installation’s Health Protection Condition has been increased to level C and its number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise.

Like many communities throughout the United States, Joint Base San Antonio is feeling the effects of the global coronavirus pandemic. The installation’s Health Protection Condition has been increased to level C and its number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Alexa Culbert)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- The combination of physical isolation and social distancing can have varying impacts on mental health, and officials from the 66th Medical Squadron are offering tips to keep mental health in check.

Anxiety and depression are common reactions to the unknown, but recognizing individual warning signs and developing healthy coping skills can make all the difference for a person’s mental health.  

“This unique situation is especially challenging because most of us are used to taking action to solve a problem, but right now it’s inaction that’s required of us,” said Lt. Col. Alicia Ottati, 66 MDS Mental Health Flight chief.

When the structure and stability of daily routines are dismantled, Ottati says it’s important to keep as much familiarity as possible.

“It’s very easy in this situation for our routines of getting up, getting ready and heading to work to be thrown off,” she said. “It’s especially important to keep a routine when it comes to meals, bedtime and getting up in the morning. It makes a big difference.”

While working from home, when there are no coworkers present and likely fewer meetings to help break up the day, Ottati says it’s easy to forget to take mental breaks.

“When we’re at home, we don’t have the daily interruptions, so it’s easy to just push through,” she said. “This can be a recipe for more stress and leave us feeling more burnt out.”

Ottati says maintaining basic needs is key to keeping mentally healthy. She recommends staying active with body weight exercise, yoga, going for walks outside within the recommendations of physical distancing and, most importantly, staying socially connected through phone or video calls.

Active and creative outlets are examples of healthy coping skills, and Ottati says working on projects and being productive can keep the mind healthy.

“Seemingly small steps can make a big difference in how we feel,” she said. “Instead of focusing on what we can’t do right now, focus on what we can.”

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