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Joint Base Andrews News

NEWS | April 6, 2020

Maintaining mental fitness during COVID-19

By Airman 1st Class Spencer Slocum 11th Wing Public Affairs

The novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has become a global pandemic, physically affecting more than a million people with symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As more and more states implement guidance to keep everyone at a distance, the 11th Medical Group Mental Health Clinic urges people to be mindful of the effects it can have on mental health and offers guidance on how to remain mentally fit.

“None of us can be certain of what’s going to happen in the coming weeks and months, but we can control what we do now as individuals,” said Maj. Ryan Kalpinski, 11th Medical Operations Squadron clinical health psychologist. “Taking stock of what you can do, being mindful of current events and keeping connections with others are some easy steps people can take to stay focused and socially engaged.”

Remaining focused on the necessities is a way to help prevent over-preparing, explained Kalpinski.

“You may have observed people over-planning for tough times,” said Kalpinski. “Just be reasonable in your approach and be a good steward of public resources so others may also have the necessary means to thrive.”

Captain Jessica Davis, 11th MDOS clinical psychology resident, echoes Kalpinski’s sentiments and believes this reaction is normal in inherently uncertain situations. She encourages folks to respond to their natural worry with a kind, balanced perspective. She also recommends focusing on what they can control such as how much media they consume and their sleep habits, rather than what is out of their control.

Kalpinski also noted the benefits of focusing on healthy habits. Specifically, retaining a consistent sleep schedule can improve judgement and help us to feel more balanced and refreshed.

“When our schedules are disrupted and the normal flow of the day is impacted by something such as teleworking, sleep can consequently be disrupted with lasting effects,” verbalized Kalpinski. “Being mindful of your sleep pattern and intentionally selecting a consistent sleep and wake time daily helps contain some normalcy in the circadian rhythm.”

Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle and Kalpinski notes that social distancing can interrupt those rhythms.

Social distancing is a way to minimize the contact with people who test positive for COVID-19 by limiting the number of people in public places and keeping a physical radius with others.

“In the media we keep hearing the term ‘social distancing,” said Davis. “This language is problematic and does not match the intent of this recommendation. The recommendation is to practice physical distancing and group gatherings in order to slow spread. We don’t want people to cut themselves off from their friends, co-workers or their community and thanks to technology, there are many ways to stay socially connected despite this pandemic.”

Maj. Kalpinski agrees now more than ever, the country as a whole should focus on social connectedness during quarantine.

“One thing that’s come out of this state of emergency is a focus on taking care of each other,” said Kalpinski. “In times like this, we should go out of our way to make sure everyone’s health and well-being is top priority.”

By maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle, people can prevent undue stress and significantly limit the spread of the virus.

Some web-based resources can help people deal with anxiety or stress during these times, they include militaryonesource.mil, cdc.gov, apa.org and nami.org.

There are also applications you can download on a smart device such as Calm, Headspace Woebot, Breathe2Relax and Virtual Hopebox.

Helplines include the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255,

National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline: 800-950-NAMI (6264) and the Crisis Textline: Text TALK to 741741.