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The Importance of Practicing Self-Care During Times of Stress

Current as of Oct. 6, 2021

You’re used to giving it your all. It’s what providers, service members and military families do. But prolonged crises like the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic can take a toll on your well-being. When stress is high with little relief in sight, taking care of yourself is key so you’ll be there for your loved ones and those you serve.

The importance of self-care

It’s hard to break away – even temporarily – when people depend on you. But it’s unrealistic to be on the go 24/7 when stress is already high. Neglecting yourself puts you at risk for burnout, compassion fatigue and secondary traumatic stress.

Think of your response to an ongoing crisis like COVID-19 as a marathon, not a sprint. The only way to get through it is to pace yourself so you can see to your own needs as well as those of others.

Three steps to self-care

Safeguarding your mental health and well-being is just as important as using the right tools for the job. You can’t function well without them. Practice self-care with these three steps:

  1. Recognize the signs of burnout: anxiety, irritability, disengagement, low mood and exhaustion.
  2. Take a break: Even 10 minutes to yourself can help you recharge. Use the time to do something that lifts your spirits. Take a brisk walk, practice deep breathing, check out the free digital health tools below. If you tend to lose track of time when you’re busy, set a reminder on your phone or wearable device.
  3. Help create a positive environment. We’re all in this together, both at work and at home. It’s important to lift each other up. Let your coworkers and family know you appreciate them. Be generous with praise, notice their accomplishments, be helpful and kind.

Resilience tools

The Defense Health Agency recommends a number of digital self-care apps found on the Military OneSource Recommended Wellness Apps page. These free tools were developed by the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, psychologists and other partners. They include:

  • Breathe2Relax: This app offers deep-breathing techniques to relax and unwind. Use it on the go to tap into your breathing.
  • Virtual Hope Box: This app includes personalized tools to help you cope, relax, avoid distractions and connect to others. There’s plenty here to help you learn how to handle stress and anxiety during self-care breaks.

The Defense Health Agency also recommends the following podcast:

  • Military Meditation Coach: This podcast offers relaxation exercises and tips to keep your mental health on track. Tune in during your self-care breaks to relax and clear your mind.

For providers

The Defense Health Agency’s Provider Resilience Toolkit includes the apps and podcast above as well as:

  • Provider Resilience was developed specifically for frontline care teams. It offers self-assessments, stress reduction tools and a dashboard to track your daily resilience rating. It can be found on our Recommended Wellness Apps page.

Stay up to date on all the latest information on COVID-19. For Department of Defense updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19, view the following sites

When stress is high with little relief in sight, taking care of yourself is key so you’ll be there for your loved ones and those you serve.

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