Meet Goals and Manage COVID-19 Stress With My MilLife Guide

Hand holding cell phone

Current as of Dec. 29, 2020


Military life offers its share of surprises. It can be a balancing act to juggle your daily duties and responsibilities before factoring in the “new normal” of COVID-19. You may feel drained – especially when you’re worried about loved ones and trying to keep up with changes due to the pandemic.

A new text-based service from the Military Health System and Military OneSource can help you get back on track. My MiLife Guide is like having a portable health and wellness coach, that will regularly send you texts, or  “GuideTips,” to support you as you take care of yourself and your family. These texts will lead you to proven resources developed for the military community.

How My MilLife Guide works

My MilLife Guide harnesses the expertise and resources of Military OneSource, the Military Health System and other government agencies, then delivers them to your mobile device. When you sign up for My MilLife Guide as a service member or a military spouse, you will receive targeted text messages four times per week during the eight-week program. You can sign up now by texting the following keywords to GOV311 (468311): “MilLife SM“ if you’re a service member or “MilLife Spouse” if you’re a military spouse.
My Life Guide example text
My MilLife Guide starts each week with a text asking you to set a small goal, such as accomplishing a task on your to-do list or going to bed 30 minutes early. During the week, you will receive three more texts with reminders, tips and suggestions for small, easy-to-accomplish tasks. The texts will connect you with free tools and resources exclusively for the military community. MilLife Guide can help with:

  • Stress management and overall wellness
  • Relationship stress
  • Sleep issues
  • Parenting
  • Personal finance
  • Career goals
  • Education
  • Health care
  • Non-medical counseling

My MilLife Guide connects you with resources, including:

  • Wellness apps and podcasts
  • Virtual health and well-being tools
  • Military OneSource specialty consultation information
  • Parenting resources
  • And much more!

Reclaim control over COVID-19 stress and focus on your well-being by signing up for the My MilLife Guide program. Text ”MilLife SM” to GOV311 (468311) if you’re a service member. If you’re a military spouse, text “MilLife Spouse” to GOV311 (468311).

 

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:

Recognizing the Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Service member tying boots

People who live through a traumatic event sometimes suffer its effects long after the real danger has passed. This is called post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. While PTSD is often associated with combat veterans, any survivor of a natural disaster, physical abuse or other traumatic event may suffer from it. The good news is that with professional help, PTSD is treatable. But the first steps in getting help are learning the risk factors, recognizing the symptoms and understanding the treatment options.

Knowing the risk factors

Several factors play a role in developing PTSD, such as individual personality, severity of the event, proximity to the event, the people involved in the event, duration of the trauma and the amount of support the person receives afterward. You may be at higher risk if you:

  • Were directly involved in the traumatic event
  • Were injured or had a near-death experience
  • Survived an especially long-lasting or severe traumatic event
  • Truly believed your life or that of someone around you was in danger
  • Had a strong emotional or physical reaction during the event
  • Received little or no support following the event
  • Have multiple other sources of stress in your life

Recognizing the symptoms

Just as individual reactions to trauma vary, PTSD symptoms also differ from person to person. Symptoms may appear immediately after a traumatic event or they may appear weeks, months or even years later. Although the symptoms of a “typical” stress reaction can resemble those of PTSD, true PTSD symptoms continue for a prolonged time period and often interfere with a person’s daily routines and commitments. While only a trained medical professional can diagnose PTSD, possible signs of the disorder include:

  • Re-experiencing trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder frequently includes flashbacks, or moments in which the person relives the initial traumatic event or re-experiences the intense feelings of fear that surrounded it.
  • Avoidance/numbness. As a result of flashbacks or other negative feelings, people suffering from PTSD may avoid conversations or situations that remind them of the frightening event they survived.
  • Hyper arousal. Feeling constantly on edge, feeling irritable and having difficulty sleeping or concentrating are all possible signs of PTSD.

Children can also suffer from PTSD. In children, PTSD symptoms may differ from those seen in adults and may include trouble sleeping, acting out or regression in toilet training, speech or behavior. Parents of children with PTSD may notice that the children’s artwork or pretend play involves dark or violent themes or details.

Understanding the treatment options

Even suspecting you have PTSD is reason enough to get a professional opinion, especially when free help is available around the clock to service members and their families. If you’re not sure whom to talk to, start with any of the following:

  • Military treatment facility or covered services. You can locate the nearest military treatment facility and covered services in the civilian community near you through the TRICARE website.
  • Your healthcare provider. If you receive health care in the community through a civilian provider, you can start by talking to your doctor.
  • Local Department of Veterans Affairs hospital. If you are eligible to receive care through a VA hospital or clinic, find the nearest facility through the Veterans Health Administration website.
  • Military Crisis Line. If you or anyone you know ever experiences thoughts of suicide, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255. The Military Crisis Line staff can connect you with mental health support and crisis counseling services for a wide range of issues.

Remember, you are not alone. Free help is available 24/7 to service members and their families. Seeking help is a sign of strength that helps to protect your loved ones, your career, and your mental and physical health.

Note: Military OneSource does not provide medical counseling services for issues such as depression, substance abuse, suicide prevention or post-traumatic stress disorder. This article is intended for informational purposes only. Military OneSource can provide referrals to your local military treatment facility, TRICARE or another appropriate resource.

Resources for Military Parents As COVID-19 Continues

Child writing on whiteboard with mom looking on

Current as of Oct. 1, 2020


Parents are facing a variety of new and ongoing challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Virus conditions keep changing, and work and school schedules vary. It’s easy to feel stressed about making the best choices for your family, and bogged down by decision fatigue.

Military OneSource is committed to helping families thrive during these challenging times. Whether you are looking for official updates from government agencies, information about virtual learning, flexible child care, or tips for taking care of yourself and your family, we’ve got you covered. Check out the following resources.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resources

The CDC offers extensive resources for keeping families healthy as COVID-19 continues. The latest CDC guidance includes everything from school planning to preparing for daily activities such as running errands, playing sports, social gatherings and much more. Check out the CDC’s:

Department of Education resources

The Department of Education also offers a variety of resources to ensure students can continue to pursue their educational goals during the pandemic:

  • Resources for learning at home with links for activities from the Library of Congress, NASA, the Kennedy Space Center, the Smithsonian Institution and more
  • Pandemic relief measures in place through Dec. 31, 2020, for those who currently have Department of Education-held federal student loans

Distance learning and general wellness resources

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry provides a wide variety of resources for helping kids and parents. Links include guidelines for talking to kids about COVID-19, stress management for teens, support for parents of children with disabilities, online educational activities for kids and more.

The Department of Defense Education Activity also offers a comprehensive list of parent resources including:

  • Guidance on returning to school, with information on virtual learning options, health and safety, and frequently asked questions and answers
  • Extensive links for activities for students at home for children in prekindergarten through fifth grade, such as:
    • DODEA activities in math, science, social studies and language arts­­
    • Ideas for indoor and outdoor physical activities
    • Recipes and experiments from America’s Test Kitchen Kids
    • Programs such as EarSketch and ScratchJr that teach computer coding skills
    • Best Virtual Events with concerts, story times and classes to stream from home
    • SciShow and Sick Science! for fun science activities
    • Online museum tours, field trips, jigsaw puzzles and much more

Military OneSource resources

Learn about more COVID-19 resources on the Military OneSource COVID-19 page. Find information about a wide range of military family topics, including:

If you have questions about COVID-19 issues or any other aspect of military life, Military OneSource consultants are available to help 24/7/365. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS dialing options or schedule a live chat.

Understanding of COVID-19 continues to change, so check our Coronavirus Updates for Our Military Community page. Want to find the phone number for your installation’s housing office or Military and Family Support Center? Find those and more on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS, an online information directory for military installations worldwide. For updates and information specific to your location, visit your installation’s official website. You can also follow your installation’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram platforms.

For Department of Defense updates for the military community:

Taking Care of Yourself During Times of Stress and Grief

Woman relaxing at home

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.

Understanding and Dealing With Combat Stress and PTSD

Service member relaxing

Combat stress, also known as battle fatigue, is a common response to the mental and emotional strain that can result from dangerous and traumatic experiences. It is a natural reaction to the wear and tear of the body and mind after extended and demanding operations.

Recognizing combat stress and stress symptoms

It can be difficult to detect combat stress because the symptoms include a range of physical, behavioral and emotional signs. However, there are some key symptoms, which include:

  • Irritability and anger outbursts
  • Excessive fear and worry
  • Headaches and fatigue
  • Depression and apathy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Problems sleeping
  • Changes in behavior or personality

How to deal with combat stress

It is important not to blame yourself or a family member for experiencing combat stress. It has nothing to do with weakness or a character flaw. Like an overused muscle, the brain simply needs to heal from too much exposure to trauma and stress. Here are a few steps you can take to recover:

  • Attend to your health. Stress can be an important signal that we are overextending our bodies. It is important to stop and attend to the body’s needs by eating right, exercising and getting adequate rest.
  • Rest. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Sleep restores the body and can protect you from the negative consequences of too much stress.
  • Reach out for help. Working with a counselor can be very helpful in identifying some thoughts and behaviors that might be worsening your stress. A trained expert can also share some strategies that will promote positive health. Military OneSource confidential non-medical counseling provides service members and their loved ones with resources and support to address a variety of issues and build important skills to tackle life’s challenges. Consultants are available 24/7/365. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS dialing options, or schedule a live chat.

    If you feel as though you are in crisis, or know anyone who is in crisis, please call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, and press 1.

  • Practice relaxation techniques. You can decrease stress and build resilience by learning how to relax and pay attention to positive things. Do things during the day that you enjoy – listen to music, take a walk, remind yourself of things you are grateful for, and use your sense of humor. Simple breathing exercises can also release stress by relaxing the central nervous system. Check out these Department of Defense recommended wellness apps, and resilience tools. These mobile applications are free and for iOS and/or Android devices.

Combat stress or PTSD?

Combat stress is often confused with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, which can occur after someone goes through a traumatic event like war, assault or disaster. While many of the symptoms are similar between the two conditions, they are different.

Combat stress usually happens for brief periods of time and is considered a natural reaction to the traumatic events that service members experience. Symptoms often disappear after a service member is home for a few months, or even weeks.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, on the other hand, is more severe. It can often interfere with a person’s daily responsibilities and demands a more aggressive treatment. PTSD usually requires sessions with a mental health professional and methods to process difficult emotions.

A person diagnosed with PTSD often experiences specific symptoms – such as recurrent dreams or flashbacks – following a traumatic event as part of the combat experience.

In summary, PTSD tends to be more severe and usually requires working with a mental health professional. Combat stress is a more common reaction to demanding and traumatic experiences. Service members can usually recover and resume their everyday lives by following some simple strategies and taking time to heal.

Be Stronger Than Stress With the Military and Family Life Counseling Program

American Flag

Everyone experiences stress from time to time, but military life can bring additional stressors with things like deployments and frequent moves. Who wouldn’t get a little bent out of shape over a box of broken dishes following a move? To face these challenges head on, you need to be both physically and emotionally healthy, and that means taking care of yourself. The Military and Family Life Counseling Program is here to help.

What is the Military and Family Life Counseling Program? Is it for you?

The Military and Family Life Counseling Program offers free short-term, non-medical counseling to:

  • Active-duty service members
  • National Guard members
  • Reserve members (regardless of activation status)
  • Department of Defense expeditionary civilians
  • Immediate family members or surviving family members of any of the above

Counselors understand what military life brings to the table. A typical counseling session could help you identify your feelings and a chance to talk through those thoughts. One-on-one, couple, or group – let a counselor help you manage:

  • The first (or middle…or last) months of deployment
  • Stress management
  • Moving preparations and getting settled
  • Relationship building
  • A problem at work
  • The grieving process following the death of a loved one or colleague

If you’re facing something that a counselor can’t address, you can receive a referral for medical counseling services in your community through a military treatment facility or TRICARE. In general, military and family life counselors do not address:

  • Abuse cases
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Other mental health issues that may require long-term attention or medication

Don’t stress, it’s confidential

You don’t have to worry that improving your emotional health will impact your service member’s career. Services offered through the Military and Family Life Counseling Program:

  • Are confidential
  • Do not impact a service member’s security clearance
  • Are not reported to the command

How to reach a military and family life counselor

When you are ready to focus on your emotional health, reach out for support. Contact your installation’s Military and Family Support Center.

You can also find support for the youngest member of your military family. Contact a child and youth behavioral military and family life counselor through:

  • A child development center
  • Your child’s school
  • Your child’s military youth summer camp
  • The commander or unit training point of contact

With your emotional health in tip-top shape, you can face those challenges military life throws your way head-on.