Veterans know a thing or two about challenging situations that take you out of your comfort zone on a daily basis, and most know what it’s like to be isolated from loved ones while serving duty.
But this COVID-19 pandemic is a different kind of enemy. It’s the silent, unseen kind that can creep up on you, triggering anxiety in people from all walks of life, young and old.
Though you may feel understandably isolated during these last few months, take some comfort in knowing that we are all dealing with many of the same frustrations. You may know someone who contracted coronavirus, or you may have had it yourself. In any case, you are among the millions of Americans whose lives have been interrupted, and if you’re struggling with being on lockdown, know that you are not alone.
Here are some important tips for Veterans to be aware of during this challenging time, as well as some tips to help keep your wits about you.
Stay Informed, but Not Overwhelmed
It is essential to stay informed every day about what is going on in the world. At the same time, having cable news on all day long in the background is not such a good idea. Immersing yourself in 24/7 alarming reports will not change the situation, and it is definitely not good for your health.
Walk It Out
Physical activity doesn’t need to be complicated. Doctors suggest that something as simple as a brisk daily walk can help you live a healthier life. According to the Mayo Clinic, these are some of the benefits of walking:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes
- Strengthen your bones and muscles
- Improve your mood
- Improve your balance and coordination
The faster, farther, and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits.
Consider Your Technique
Turning your regular walk into a fitness stride requires good posture and purposeful movements. Ideally, here’s how you’ll look when you’re walking:
- Your head is up. You’re looking forward, not at the ground.
- Your neck, shoulders, and back are relaxed, not stiffly upright.
- You’re swinging your arms freely with a slight bend in your elbows. A little pumping with your arms is OK.
- Your stomach muscles are slightly tightened, and your back is straight, not arched forward or backward.
- You’re walking smoothly, rolling your foot from heel to toe.
Walking can also prevent arthritis from developing, or if you have it already, it can provide some relief as it lubricates your joints. One study found that walking five to six miles a day can fend off arthritis.
What’s more, walking has also been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and keep you mentally sharp.
Most importantly, you’re out of the house! As long as you wear a mask and avoid crowded parks and paths, this is a great way to pass the time while doing a body good.
Work It Out
Nothing works better to combat frustration and boredom by getting your heart rate up, improving your circulation, and moving your body. You don’t need fancy equipment to get a good home workout. Here are just a few things you can do to stay in shape at home:
- Exercise videos
- Bodyweight exercises
- Online workouts
- Fitness apps
These days you can enter any keyword search on YouTube and come up with workouts to do at home, from Tabata to pilates, yoga, strength training, hip hop, and Zumba dancing.
Here are a few great workouts that we found:
With just enough tough love in his YouTube videos, trainer Mike Donavanik is basically going to be your virtual sweat BFF. His workout videos range from kettlebells to kickboxing. You’ll love how he maximizes every minute – without being too harsh or too peppy “rah-rah.” You can often hear him huffing and puffing alongside you!
Christian Finn has many YouTube videos with great tips on building muscle after 40.
If you’ve always wanted to check out yoga, try Austin yogi Yoga with Adriene. Adriene provides high-quality yoga and mindfulness practices at no cost to inspire people of all ages, shapes, and sizes across the globe.
There is something to be said for the healing power of music. Whether you’re looking for exercise motivation, stress reduction, or a sleep aid – just to name a few – listening to music just makes you feel better.
If you can’t go to a concert, let the concert come to you!
Many amazing artists from Alicia Keys, Brandi Carlile, David Guetta, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, and so many others are involved in concerts and events, which you can check out here on Billboard’s website.
Organize your record collection, make new playlists, dance in your living room – no one is watching!
DVDs, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and television are also great ways to pass the time. In case you haven’t seen any of these great recent TV shows, this is a list from Rotten Tomatoes of their recommendations of binge-worthy shows, including:
- 30 Rock
- The Alienist
- Room 104
- The Umbrella Academy
There have been so many great movies that came out in the last few years now is a great time to catch up and enjoy some great entertainment. One of the most recent award-winning military films is Dunkirk.
Writer-director Christopher Nolan wants us to see this World War II experience as the soldiers did, so he shoots in IMAX and tells their stories in their own timeframes – a week on the beach, a day at sea, an hour in the air, all unfolding at the same time in a patchwork that somehow approximates the shattering terror of war. Tommy’s frustrating week-long struggle to get off that beach as bombs explode…as one critic so succinctly put it: “With a dedication to excellent ‘show don’t tell’ presentation, stunning cinematography and a downright scary soundtrack and score, Dunkirk succeeds at putting viewers in the thick of an unsung but no less dark time of the Second World War.”
Other excellent films to check out, from IndieWire’s list of films with authentic, engaging representation of America’s Veterans:
- American Sniper
- Coming Home
- Born on the Fourth of July
- Legends of the Fall
- Saving Private Ryan
Get lost in a great book you can grab off the shelf or purchase online. If you get the audible app you can listen to books read by the likes of Tom Hanks (The Dutch House), Carly Simon (Boys in the Trees), Leah Remini (Troublemaker), Tracy Morgan (I Am the New Black), and Katie Couric (The Best Advice I Ever Got).
One of our favorite hardcovers is Touching the Dragon by James Hatch.
James Hatch is a former special-ops Navy SEAL senior chief, master naval parachutist, and expert military dog trainer and handler. On his fateful final mission in Afghanistan, his SEAL team was sent to recover Bowe Bergdahl – the soldier who deserted his post and fell into Al-Qaida and the Taliban’s hands. The mission went south, and Hatch was left with a shattered femur from an AK-47 round, and the SEAL dog who fought alongside him was dead. As a result of his horrific leg wound, his 24-year military career came to an end – and with it the only life he’d ever known.
In Touching the Dragon, we witness his long road to recovery. Well, we don’t want any spoilers, you just have to check it out for yourself.
Unbroken – If you haven’t read Louis Zamperini’s biography by Laura Hillenbrand (the book is way better than the movie), you are in for a real treat.
The Importance of Connection
People are social creatures. Some are more social than others, but this is challenging for everyone in different ways. If you can’t get together with your family and friends in person, you can call, Zoom, do a Google Meet, FaceTime, or WhatsApp video call.
Lend a helping hand. If you can positively impact someone else’s life, it can help bring meaning to your day, giving you a sense of purpose and a good feeling knowing that you can make a difference. Reach out to friends and family who may be in need. Check out things going on in your community where you might be able to have an impact.
If possible, join a support group or discussion board specifically for people who are in quarantine. Talking to others who are going through the same thing can provide a sense of community and empowerment.
Don’t tough it out – reach out for connection. Reach out for help.
If you are beginning to feel depressed, know that depression is a serious illness, but this common mental health problem is also highly treatable. Find out how to access depression health services through VA.
How do I talk to someone right now?
Find out how to get support anytime day or night.
If you’re a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one, connect with our caring, qualified Veterans Crisis Line responders for confidential help. Many of them are Veterans themselves. This service is private, free, and available 24/7.
To connect with a Veterans Crisis Line responder anytime day or night:
- Call 800-273-8255, then select 1.
- Start a confidential chat.
- Text 838255.
- If you have hearing loss, call TTY: 800-799-4889.
You can also:
- Call 911.
- Go to the nearest emergency room.
- Go directly to your nearest VA medical center. It doesn’t matter what your discharge status is or if you’re enrolled in VA health care. Find your nearest VA medical center
If you need medical attention:
The V.A. has some very capable people who work on emergency preparedness. Virtual Care is a great option:
Last year, veterans had over 20 million virtual engagements with VA. Any vet who qualifies to receive care from the VA is eligible to use virtual care. Staying home can be easier for you and safer for the community by helping contain the spread of infectious diseases. Check out this site for helpful information:
The VA uses cutting-edge technology to improve services in the form of a brand new chatbot that is there specifically to help Veterans with their COVID-19 concerns.
In a recent article in the LA Times Steve Cole, a UCLA researcher who studies the physiological effects of loneliness, says, “Actively seeking social connection is essential to staying not only emotionally healthy but physically healthy as people isolate from each other. With social support, you can interrupt a lot of that threat-related physiology. Staying connected to purpose and meaning in your life is the single most powerful resilience against that impact.”
You’ve Got This
At the end of the interview with Cole, he speaks about coming out of quarantine stronger than ever. He talks about one of his early studies where he found that Navy personnel assigned to the Arctic in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s had fewer hospital admissions and mental health problems when they returned home.
“The idea is if you can survive an experience like this,” he said, “it results in a sense of accomplishment and a feeling like, ‘I can handle anything.’”
You have coped with this considerable stress in your life, and you’ve been self-sufficient. When we come out on the other side, we can all put this behind us and be proud of how we took care of ourselves.