You did it. You always wore your mask, washed your hands, socially distanced and stayed healthy. Now you’re fully vaccinated and ready to hit the reset button on a challenging year. But before you head out this summer, consider checking internally for some self-care. Many may find themselves mentally changed as the world slowly reopens.

According to Rachel Morales, a licensed clinical social worker at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital, Veterans have many resources available if they need help settling into their new routine.

“There’s no manual on how to survive a pandemic before now,” Morales said. “There are a lot of factors that impact mental health, but isolation this past year is one that has really impacted people, and it’s important for Veterans to recognize when they’re feeling down and feeling more anxious than usual. They should know that’s it’s okay to reach out if they’re struggling to adjust to a life post-COVID.

“There are mental health providers embedded in primary care clinics that can help address short-term mental health challenges or connect you to long-term services,” she added.

Morales also noted VA’s diverse specialty clinics to address specific needs, such as trauma services, substance abuse and eating disorder treatments, and Whole Health.

Additionally, VA offers apps to supplement care, including COVID Coach and Mindfulness Coach, which helps Veterans learn to pay attention to what is going on in the present moment without passing judgment.

Sometimes, reflection is the best medicine

“Resiliency comes from living through challenges,” she said. “The Veteran population is unique in that they have experienced really challenging things and made it through. Reflect on previous experiences, even military experiences, and think, ‘How did I survive this?’ ‘What did I do to overcome this?’ [These thoughts] can definitely apply to life in a pandemic. It’s not an exact comparison but it’s still a challenge that you had to overcome.”

According to Morales, everyone is adjusting to a new normal, and everyone’s needs are different. But, if you are in need, VA is here to help.

“There are still a lot of new and uncertain things around a post-COVID world and what that looks like,” she added. “Allowing yourself time to adjust to those changes and figuring out what feels comfortable for you is healthy. It doesn’t have to look the same for everyone. That’s why we have so many resources available, and we are here to assist any way we can.”

Matthew Moeller is a public affairs specialist at the Hines VA Hospital.

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Published on Jun. 8, 2021

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