Stay Safe and Connected
June 15, 2020 | 2-minute read
These unprecedented times have forced people to change their lives and daily routines. For many, that means hunkering down in their homes, limiting trips to stores, and learning to distance themselves from their families and friends.
But even when we’re called on to keep our physical distance, it’s important to prevent social isolation from setting in. In fact, during these stressful times, it may be more important than ever to find ways to connect emotionally with others, which is an essential part of self-care.
Protect your social connections. Social connections can enhance our physical and emotional health. It’s important to sustain strong relationships by interacting with family members and friends in positive ways and asking them for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed or in need of support.
Even while physically distancing, you can build your support network and social connections by taking classes online or joining a group that shares your interests on social media. Follow Make the Connection on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to hear inspiring stories of recovery from Veterans and to find an online community of support.
You may also feel more connected by watching your fellow Veterans tell their stories at the site’s video gallery, where you can filter hundreds of videos by gender, service branch and era, and mental health condition or symptom. You can learn from other Veterans what solutions helped them overcome depression, relationship problems, feelings of isolation, and many other common challenges.
Practice self-care. Maintaining social connections is one of several basic forms of self-care recommended by the National Institutes of Health. Combined with a variety of VA resources and advice from fellow Veterans, these self-care practices can support your mental health during challenging times.
- Brighten your outlook. Give yourself credit for the good things you do, and when you make a mistake, learn from it and forgive yourself. Staying in touch regularly with positive, healthy friends can help lift your mood while maintaining your social connections. You can also visit Make the Connection to learn how other Veterans overcame a lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed, as well as feelings of hopelessness, edginess, anger and irritability, and other unpleasant emotions.
If you think you may be experiencing signs or symptoms of depression, this confidential self-assessment may give you some direction, but don’t let it take the place of talking with someone at VA.
- Manage your stress. This advice always sounds easier said than done, but it’s one of the most important factors in protecting both your mental and physical health. Lean on your social network for support. Prioritize your current responsibilities, and don’t take on new ones if they will overload you. Focus on the positive and find a relaxation method that works for you. Hear from other Veterans who worked through their stress to learn how they did it.
- Get good sleep. Sleep trouble, including nightmares, can be common among Veterans, especially during uncertain times. Sleep affects your mental and physical well-being. To get the most out of sleep, try to go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Limit the things that can interfere with quality sleep, such as using electronics before bed, consuming alcohol and caffeine late in the day, and using nicotine at any time. It can help to relax before bedtime with a bath or a book, and to sleep in a dark, quiet, comfortable environment. If you have trouble sleeping, explore these tips to help get a good night’s rest.
- Be mindful. Mindfulness is an ancient practice that just means being aware of your present and not living life on autopilot. Deep breathing exercises, taking casual walks and appreciating your surroundings, and participating in online yoga and meditation classes can help manage your emotions and relieve your worries.
Finally, remember that if you’re having trouble coping — whether it’s with everyday activities or an unusual new reality like physical distancing — tell your VA health care provider.