A Different Struggle: How Veterans Can Find Relief During a Pandemic

By: Patrice Hartsfield, MA, LPC; Women Veterans Program

Mental health matters. Call Catholic Charities if you need to talk.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a struggle for many families. Active duty, veterans and their families have additional challenges brought on by the new normal.

Not everyone struggles to settle into the new social norm during the pandemic. While many deal with feelings of isolation from staying home, there is a group of people that feel the world is acknowledging their social norm for the first time: veterans with combat experience who are managing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

When the “Stay Home, Work Safe” orders were implemented, veterans with PTSD were relieved of the pressure of everyday stressors such as driving on busy highways or being in crowded restaurants, grocery stores, or movie theaters.

Veterans are expected to adapt and overcome a world unfamiliar to them after their military service. The pandemic has given them time to rest. There are no pressures to go out and have uncomfortable interactions. They are being told to do what they were accustomed to in the military: “remain in your quarters.”

Transitioning to a New Normal

Despite the break from anxious interactions, the transition into a new normal can still provoke anxiety. Many veterans have underlying conditions that may make them especially vulnerable as businesses begin to reopen.

People with symptoms of PTSD may need to constantly remind themselves that they are safe, and no one is there to hurt them or the people around them. Now that people are wearing masks and only a person’s eyes are visible, identifying their intentions is more difficult. For someone with PTSD, not seeing someone’s face could make them feel anxious or unsafe.

How to Manage Anxiety and Stress

What can you do to help manage this transition into a new normal? Start by knowing that you are not alone.

If you’re a veteran and find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the “new normal,” remember you can contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1; reach out to your local crisis hotline; or contact a mental health professional or peer that you can trust.

Honoring yourself and what you are experiencing during this time is important to identifying new and different ways to cope. Understand that the transition into the new norm is a time to pause and reassess your needs and new ways to feel safe.

Remember to take it one day at a time, and most importantly have compassion with yourself. We are all figuring this out with you.

Are you a veteran and need to talk? We’re here to listen. Call Catholic Charities’ Counseling at 713-874-6590 to make an appointment or request more information.

Mental health for active duty, veterans and their families. Catholic Charities can help! Free Virtual Wellness Workshop for Active Duty, Veterans and Their Families

Join Catholic Charities’ Women Veterans Program for a free online workshop to explore mindfulness and help manage anxiety and stress.

Friday, July 31, 2020 at noon. Hosted through Zoom. Register here