Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital
Building a healthy life post-COVID life
Building a healthy life post-COVID life: mental health
By Matthew Moeller
You did it. You always wore your mask, washed your hands and socially distanced. Now you're fully vaccinated and ready to hit the reset button on a challenging year.
But before you head out safely this summer, consider checking inside for some self-care. Many may find themselves mentally changed as the world slowly reopens.
"There's no manual on how to survive a pandemic before now. There are a lot of factors that impact mental health, but isolation this past year is one that has really impacted people," said Rachel Morales, a licensed clinical social worker at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital. "It's important for Veterans to recognize when they're feeling down and feeling more anxious than usual and know that's it's okay to reach out if you're struggling to adjust to a life post-COVID."
According to Morales, Veterans have many resources available if they need help settling into their new routine.
"Through the VA, one of the best ways to connect to mental health services is by calling the mental health clinic at 708-202-2002, or you can talk to any of your other providers, and they can connect you," Morales explained. "There are also mental health providers embedded in primary care clinics that can help address short-term mental health challenges or connect you to long-term services."
Morales also noted Hines' 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.
However, sometimes reflection is the best medicine.
"Resiliency comes from living through challenges," Morales said. "The Veteran population is unique in that a lot have experienced really challenging things and made it through. Reflecting on previous experiences, even military experiences, and thinking, 'how did I survive this?' 'What did I do to overcome this?' 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, Hines is here to help.
"There are still a lot of new and uncertain things around a post-COVID world and what that looks like," Morales explained. "So, 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."