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Taking Care of Yourself During Times of Stress and Grief

This past year has been a difficult one for many, with the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges it has brought. Caring about someone in the military can add another layer of stress and grief. You may be concerned about your service member’s health and safety, as concerns about travel keep you apart. When stress doesn’t let up, it can affect your overall well-being.

It’s important to acknowledge your stress or grief, so you can take steps to address it. Taking care of your emotional well-being will keep you strong for your service member and the other people you love.

How to overcome stress

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by things outside our control, like the pandemic or a service member’s deployment. A good first step is to focus on what you can control.

Sometimes we can’t do anything to change a situation and the only option is to learn to accept it. When you recognize the signs of anxiety or stress in yourself, try the following:

  • Take a break. Turn off the news, put down your phone, stop what you’re doing.
  • Breathe deeply. Sit still or lie down. Place one hand on your stomach and the other hand over your heart. Inhale slowly through your nose until you feel your stomach rise. Hold your breath for a moment, then exhale slowly through your mouth while your stomach falls.
  • Take a brisk walk. The combination of physical activity and fresh air can be a powerful stress reducer.

Practicing self-care every day

Practicing healthy habits can improve overall well-being. Be sure to:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Avoid processed foods and drink plenty of water.
  • Get enough sleep. Most adults need eight hours a night. If you have trouble sleeping, make sure your room is cool and dark. Turn your phone and television off before getting into bed. Get out of bed first thing upon waking, and don’t get back in until you’re ready for sleep.
  • Exercise regularly. Do something you enjoy, like running, dancing or shooting hoops. Whatever you do, aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity at least five times per week.

Self-care resources

Military OneSource offers free tools and resources to help service members and their families manage stress.

  • 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.

You can find these resources and more on the Recommended Wellness Apps page.

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 more ideas on practicing self-care, check out these articles on Military OneSource:

If larger issues outside of your control, such as national or world events, bring you stress, chances are your service member is affected by them, too. Check in to see if your service member needs your support. And continue to take care of yourself, because when you give yourself the gift of self-care, your loved ones benefit as well.

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