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Combat COVID-19 stress

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Schriever Air Force Base leaders are implementing changes in daily operations and asking Airmen to practice social distancing, quarantine or isolation measures in an effort to slow the disease’s spread. Airmen are encouraged to exercise caution and sound judgement to avoid large, close-contact gatherings (15 or more people) to the maximum extent possible. Hand shaking and other forms of physical contact are discouraged. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Airman Amanda Lovelace)

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Schriever Air Force Base leaders are implementing changes in daily operations and asking Airmen to practice social distancing, quarantine or isolation measures in an effort to slow the disease’s spread. Airmen are encouraged to exercise caution and sound judgement to avoid large, close-contact gatherings (15 or more people) to the maximum extent possible. Hand shaking and other forms of physical contact are discouraged. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Airman Amanda Lovelace)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Schriever Air Force Base leaders are implementing changes in daily operations and asking Airmen to practice social distancing, quarantine or isolation measures to slow transmission of the virus.

These changes play a vital role in protecting Airmen and maintaining the base’s missions, but they may prove difficult for some.

“This is a big stressor that can have similar affects like any other stressor might have on your life,” said Maj. Louis Pagano, 21st Medical Squadron director of psychological health. “It’s normal to have some concerns about obtaining food, personal supplies, taking time off work and fulfilling family obligations.”

According to the American Psychological Association, common reactions to social distancing, quarantine and isolation include fear, anxiety, depression, boredom, anger and irritability.

“I can’t emphasize enough that the disruption in your routine can be a big downer,” he said. “We don’t want people to get into this funk where they stop showering, or start thinking, ‘I don’t have to leave my house today. I’m not going to change out of my pajamas. I’m not going to brush my teeth.’ Those little, tiny behaviors that we just kind of forget about, those really start to add up over time. That’s when depression and isolation really sink in.”

To help combat these feelings, he recommends reaching out to healthcare providers and authorities for current and accurate information on the disease, its diagnosis and treatment.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Pagano said. “Clear communication with a healthcare provider may help reduce the distress associated with social distancing or being at home unexpectedly for longer periods of time.”

Pagano said obtaining information about COVID-19 is good to a point, but consuming too much can worsen any negative feelings or worry that might already exist. APA psychologists recommend balancing time spent on news and social media with other activities unrelated to quarantine or isolation.

Trusted organizations for information on COVID-19 include the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the World Health Organization. Changes to base operations and updates can be found on the base Facebook page and on the Schriever page of the AF Connect app.

“Being at home or being away from work might be a really great opportunity to work on your physical fitness,” Pagano said. “If you don’t have to stay inside because you’re not quarantined with active symptoms, go outside. Colorado has a lot of beautiful parks and hiking trails, all of which you can use while safely staying an acceptable distance away from other people that might be there.”

Additionally, he urges Team Schriever members to stay connected with others and maintain a healthy social life.

“Just because you’re socially isolated from your work peers doesn’t mean you have to be socially isolated from friends and family,” he said. “Use Skype, FaceTime, Google Duo or texting. Call that friend you haven’t spoken to in months. Call the relative you’ve always said, ‘Man, I wish I had time to catch up with them.’”

Changes have been made to nearly every facility on base, including the clinic, in order to protect Schriever teammates.

“We want to make sure everyone knows we’re still here for you, and there’s lots of other community and national resources that are here for you as well,” Pagano said. “We’re still offering services, with the exception of Health Promotion’s services, here at the 21st Medical Squadron, but the manner in which they’re delivered may be a little different since we’re a healthcare facility and we have to follow certain rules and precautions. Individuals are encouraged to call the appointment line with questions.”

If someone’s at a significant risk of harming themselves or others, the same services are still available. They can go into the clinic, call 911, call the national suicide hotline or present to the emergency room.

“Even though face-to-face services may be limited for others in lieu of virtual or telephonic appointments, we’ll still see individuals at greater risk for suicide face-to-face,” he said.

Individuals who aren’t at a significant risk and still want care can call the clinic. The clinic staff will help find the right resources or schedule appointments for the soonest date possible.

“Another great resource is Military OneSource,” said Pagano. “Military OneSource is a good resource for folks because they’ve actually been doing telehealth for some time. So while the rest of the county and the country are starting to limit or change the delivery method of services, they already have resources in place where you can text, talk or video chat with a provider.”

To call the National Suicide Hotline, dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

To contact Military OneSource, dial 1-800-342-9647.

To schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider, call the CARE line at 524-CARE (2273).

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