Holiday Stress Toolkit for Military Families

Co-authored by Christi Garner, LMFT CYT

Stress around the holidays is a common experience. According to the American Psychological Association, 38% of adults report a significant increase in stress levels during the holidays. Military families may experience additional sources of stress related to the unique challenges of military life, including:

  • Deployment of the service member
  • Living far from hometowns or families
  • Being unable to take leave to travel to be with friends or family
  • Financial stress

Utilizing the self-care practices below, along with connecting with a Military and Family Life Counselor (MFLC), can provide much-needed support to service members and their families during the holiday season.

Tips for Navigating the Holidays During Deployment

Sometimes being with family is not possible during the holidays, even when the service member is not deployed. Feeling homesick or missing home during the holidays is very common. Here are some ways to connect with family and friends during deployment:

  • Communicate as much as possible; schedule time to connect and virtually exchange presents and stories.
  • Think of creative ways to continue family traditions during deployment—reenact them virtually or share through pictures.
  • To support children of deployed parents, consider facilitating activities through arts and crafts, such as creating a “feelings tree.”
  • Facilitate psychoeducation about mindfulness, which is linked to improve personal stress management.
  • Use the Chill Drills app from Military OneSource.

Tips for Handling Holiday Financial Stress

The holidays can be an especially expensive and demanding time. Here are some tips to consider to help plan for common financial pressures:

  • Set a S.M.A.R.T money goal—Write down your goal, and make sure it is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, and the Time you will complete it. This will help you get it accomplished.
  • For more help—Find a Personal Financial Counselor here.

Food Insecurity Resources

Many military families find it difficult to access healthy meals and maintain a high level of food security. Use these resources to connect with viable resources.

Tips for Holiday Stress Management

Resilience refers to the ability to handle stress when it arises and to protect oneself against future stress. Research has shown that there are many qualities that contribute to resilience, including social support, optimism, sense of humor, spirituality, self-esteem, and adaptability. Use the tips below to foster resilience in your life during the holidays.

Self-Care To Build Resilience

  • Self-care also means taking care of yourself. This means eating regular meals, getting enough sleep, caring for personal hygiene, and anything else that maintains good health.
  • Make self-care a priority. There will always be other things to do, but don’t let these interrupt the time you set aside for self-care. Self-care should be given the same importance as other responsibilities.
  • Make self-care a habit. Just like eating one apple doesn’t eliminate health problems, using self-care just once won’t have much effect on reducing stress. Choose activities that you can do often, and that you will stick with.
  • Unhealthy activities don’t count as self-care. Substance use, over-eating, and other unhealthy behaviors might hide stress temporarily, but they cause more problems in the long run.
  • A few minutes of self-care is better than no self-care. Set an alarm reminding you to take regular breaks, even if it’s just a walk around the block, or an uninterrupted snack. Oftentimes, stepping away will energize you to work more efficiently when you return.

Relaxation to Build Resilience

  • There are many ways to practice relaxation and help to regulate your parasympathetic nervous system. Some ideas: progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, deep breathing, being in nature.
  • Plan where relaxation can fit into a daily routine. It may help to set an alarm as a reminder or connect relaxation practice with another activity. For example, practicing deep breathing for 10 minutes before bed or after leaving work on the drive home or in the driveway before going inside.
  • Keep practicing even if the positive effects are small. The benefits of relaxation accumulate and grow with practice.
  • Relaxation techniques not only provide immediate stress relief, but the effects also generalize to other parts of life. This means the benefits of relaxation continue to be felt long after the exercise is complete. These techniques work best when done regularly and during times of calm, rather than exclusively when stress is at its peak.

Self-Regulation Resources

Military OneSource Recommended Wellness Apps

  • Mood Hacker—To help you improve your mood and enjoy life more, Military OneSource offers MoodHacker, a free resilience tool that lets you track, understand and improve how you’re feeling.
  • Breathe2Relax—Trains you on the “belly breathing” technique that has proven benefits for your overall mental health. Use the app’s breathing exercises to learn and practice on your own or as part of a stress management program supervised by your health care provider.
  • Chill Drills—Chill Drills is a free collection of simple audio mindfulness exercises to relax the body and mind.
  • Virtual Hope Box—The app contains simple tools to help users with coping, relaxation, distraction and positive thinking using personalized audio, video, pictures, games, mindfulness exercises, activity planning, inspirational quotes and coping statements.
  • Breathe, Think, Do: Sesame Street—Laugh and learn as you help a Sesame Street monster friend calm down and solve everyday challenges. This app helps your child learn Sesame’s Breathe, Think, Do strategy for problem solving.

Stress Relief Resources


  • Dunham, T. (2022). “When the Tinsel Gets Tangled: How to Cope with Holiday Stress.” DoD Psychological Center for Excellence, Health.mil.
  • Rice, V. J., Liu, B., Allison, S. C., & Schroeder, P. J. (2019). Mindfulness training offered in-person and in a virtual world—weekly self-reports of stress, energy, pain, and sleepiness among US military active duty and veteran personnel. Mindfulness,10, 1815-1827.
  • Grafton, E., Gillespie, B., & Henderson, S. (2010) Resilience: the power withing. Oncology Nursing forum (Vol. 37, No. 6, p. 698).
  • Rash, J. A., Matsuba, M. K., & Prkachin, K. M. (2011). Gratitude and well‐being: Who benefits the most from a gratitude intervention?. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3(3), 350-369.
  • Esch, T., & Stefano, G. B. (2010). The neurobiology of stress management. Neuroendocrinology letters, 31(1), 19-39.

    Christi Garner, LMFT CYTChristi Garner, LMFT CYT, is a Learning & Development Director at Magellan Federal. Christi has served in the Military and Family Life Counseling (MFLC) program since 2016 in various roles, including CONUS and OCONUS MFLC, Regional Supervisor, and training coordinator. Prior to MFLC, Christi dedicated over 15 years as a trauma therapist, clinical trainer, and adjunct instructor. Christi is a military spouse who is passionate about helping other service members and families.

Five Ways to Enhance Your Mental Wellbeing

It’s Monday—again! You wake up to another busy day of worrying how you’ll manage juggling work, family and personal commitments. As the day progresses, stress begins to take its toll, and you feel overwhelmed. Don’t worry! There’s a simple solution. Focusing a few minutes every day on enhancing your mental wellbeing can increase your resilience and help you manage stress. It’s never too late to start, even if this is something you’ve never done before.

So, let’s explore five powerful, easy-to-implement tips to improve your mental wellbeing and embark on a journey towards a calmer, happier and more fulfilling life.

Practice mindfulness

Living in the present moment without judgment can help you be more positive and better manage difficult situations when they arise. Practicing mindfulness or quieting your mind with meditation can help you to stop dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Try physical routines such as yoga, Tai chi, and qigong to prompt mindfulness and focus on your breathing. You can learn to live your best life right now.

Take a break

Find time to do things you enjoy in small increments. Small moments of self-care can have an extremely positive impact on your mental wellbeing. Dive into the captivating world of books. Sit outside and connect with nature. Immerse yourself in thought-provoking podcasts that inspire and uplift your spirits. Or just simply unwind and let go in whatever way brings you joy.

Spend quality time with the ones you love

When you’re with loved ones, take the time to deepen connections and foster stronger relationships. Engage in conversations that help you learn more about each other’s dreams, aspirations and challenges so you can provide support to one another. Consider embarking on new adventures together, such as cooking a new recipe or taking up a fun sport. Or if you’re really up for a challenge, you can try learning a new language or how to play a musical instrument together. Explore new areas in your neighborhood, city or state, like art galleries, parks or gardens, vintage or thrift stores, farmer’s markets, specialty boutiques or shops, cultural or historical landmarks, and hidden trails or scenic spots. Discovering hidden gems with family and friends can create lasting memories. Or tantalize your taste buds by venturing into a new restaurant and indulging in a shared culinary experience. The possibilities for bonding and growth are endless when you embrace quality time with loved ones.

Prioritize sleep and healthy eating

Maintaining a regular sleep schedule and practicing proper nutrition can help you in many ways. These healthy habits work hand in hand to enhance your mood and reduce feelings of anxiety. Establishing a calming routine before bedtime can promote better sleep quality. Consider indulging in a warm bath to relax your body and mind, reading a captivating book to unwind, or listening to soothing music to create a peaceful atmosphere for restful sleep.

In addition, making mindful choices about your nutrition can help improve your mental and physical health. Choose nutrient-rich foods that nourish your body and mind. Include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your meals, such as colorful berries, leafy greens and crunchy carrots. These wholesome choices provide essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support your overall wellbeing and boost your mood.

Accept your thoughts and seek help when needed

It’s completely natural to feel down during challenging times, and it’s important to acknowledge and honor those emotions. Remember you don’t have to face hard times alone. Reaching out to the people who genuinely care about you can provide tremendous support and comfort, helping to uplift your spirits and bring comfort during difficult moments.

Additional mental health resources

For more information and resources to enhance your mental wellbeing, visit our award-wining behavioral health resources website, MagellanHealthcare.com/BH-Resources.

SOURCES:           Healthwise, Integrative Life Center

How can I help my children during COVID-19?

Many of us can now say we have experienced the trials and tribulations of parenting during a pandemic. We have attempted to juggle full-time work and regular household duties, along with being a full-time teacher or daycare worker and entertainer for our kids. While we’re all doing the best we can in taking on these new and challenging roles, some parents and caregivers may be wondering about their child’s mental health after they have missed out on so much and dealt with new stress and uncertainty – certainly as many of us know that our own mental health has been affected.

If you’re worried about your child’s mental health or noticing any issues, read on for tips and knowledge shared by Magellan’s Linda Y. Evans, MD, FAPA, child psychiatrist and medical director, and Greg Dicharry, CPRP, youth empowerment director.

Children behavior changes

Changes in your child’s behavior may be a sign of mental health difficulties that should be closely monitored. Depending on the age of your child, stress can manifest in different ways. Toddlers and young children aged 2-6, may show signs of regression and lose the ability to do things previously learned, like toilet training. School-aged children and teenagers may show a disinterest in going to school and/or begin to see falling grades. The most common symptom in teenagers is irritable mood. Kids of all ages may experience vague body complaints, like a headache or belly ache, changes in sleep or appetite, difficulty concentrating, loss of pleasure in activities previously enjoyed, and withdrawal from social interactions.

Often, even the child may not recognize these symptoms as the result of mental health issues. It is important for parents and caregivers to be a barometer for behavioral or other changes in their children – as they may be the first to notice – to be able to identify if their mental health may be suffering. When parents keep the lines of communication open, allowing their kids to share their thoughts and feelings, they are better equipped to identify any troubling signs of childhood depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions.

The child’s primary care physician (PCP) also plays a role in screening for mental health concerns and can be a good first point of contact if parents are seeking additional help. With the shortage of child psychiatrists and mental health professionals trained to work with children in our country, PCPs are increasingly adopting a model of collaborative, or whole-person, care to screen and treat children for mental health issues before they get worse because of potentially waiting long periods to see a specialist.

Interrupted school and family routines

While there’s not much we can do about changing work, school and social arrangements due to the pandemic, it’s important to consider the stability of our kids’ environment and instill predictability in their lives to the extent that’s possible.

Additionally, there are many things that parents and caregivers can do to keep their kids content and engaged amid the chaos and unprecedented change we’re all experiencing. To make up for lost in-person social time with friends and family, virtual meetups can be scheduled. That could be a fifteen-minute Facetime call with grandma and grandpa every Wednesday night at 7:00, or a periodic Zoom/interactive video game gathering with friends. Parents can also take time with their kids away from the screens to play a board game or do a project to make home-time more fun. Exploring and supporting your kids’ passions is a way to get them involved in activities that will bridge the gaps of interrupted routines and help prevent negative mental health outcomes.

Family stress affecting children

We have all been affected by the drastic changes, uncertainty, loss and isolation caused by COVID-19. And it’s not hard for our own stress and worry to be noticed or even absorbed to some extent by our kids. While we’re focusing on our family’s well-being, it’s important to practice self-care and recognize that our own mental health is of paramount importance. Having healthy caregivers is an essential component in the normal development of kids.

When parents are navigating divorce and co-parenting arrangements during COVID-19, it can be even more difficult to filter out the negativity for our kids, especially when parents have different points of view about things like in-person vs. virtual learning, the vaccine and mask wearing. Although it can be difficult to share your kids with an ex-spouse, it’s important to remember they need both of their parents. When parents work together for the benefit of their children and keep the focus on them, the impacts of divorce can be mitigated. Implementing a flexible custody arrangement during COVID-19 is also encouraged; for example, if the child wants to see a parent when it’s not their day for visitation, it might be beneficial to the child to honor their request.

To alleviate stress and some of the burden, parents and caregivers can consider connecting with others who understand the struggles and support each other. They can look for parent support groups in their communities.

Back to school and bullying

For kids who experience any level of social anxiety, the transition back to school, or even a new school, from the comfort of home may be more difficult. While some kids may be happy to get right back to the in-person learning environment, a gradual adjustment may work better for others.

Teachers can be especially helpful in ensuring that children are adjusting well and that a child withdrawing from the group is noticed. When the teacher has a trusting relationship with students, they can initiate conversations to try to understand how a child is doing and if their emotional needs are being met. The teacher’s insights are critical for parents and caregivers who cannot be with their kids at school.

Parents and teachers should be especially sensitive to look for bullying and have a zero-tolerance policy for kids being cruel to one another. Children must understand that bullying is unacceptable, as it can lead to serious and disastrous consequences for those who are targeted.

In general, what kids need for healthy development is a stable routine, predictability, a safe environment and healthy parents or caregivers. COVID-19 has disrupted all of these conditions, leading to increased mental health disorders and interrupted development. There are many things that parents and caregivers can do to nurture their child’s mental health and address what they need for healthy development. We encourage you to explore Magellan’s following resources for additional information and support:

  • Mental Health Month website for comprehensive tips and resources to support yours and your family’s mental health.
    • Be sure to check out the recording of our webinar, How are your kids doing? under “Previous events”
  • Understanding and Meeting the Needs of Children and Adolescents at High Risk: Foundations of a Model clinical monograph highlighting evidence-based research on the prevention and treatment of problematic behaviors and various types of behavioral health challenges in children and adolescents.
  • Stay Home for MY LIFE virtual youth fest, featuring inspirational speakers, uplifting entertainment, fun activities and more, taking place on the 4th Thursday of each month, from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. ET, for youth and young adults who have experience with mental health, substance use, juvenile justice and foster-care-related issues, as well as professionals and caregivers across the country.

How are our kids doing?

For our kids, disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are likely more than just that – temporary inconveniences, varying in severity, until life goes back to “normal.” Besides missing out on once-in-a-lifetime events, like graduations, birthdays and other milestones – at least in a way they would traditionally be observed – regular human interactions, part of social and emotional development, have changed. While adults may be experiencing a serious blip on the radar, children may be experiencing an interruption in brain development and/or lack the ability to fully cope in this unchartered territory.

In this post, we will contemplate these issues and draw on knowledge from Magellan Healthcare’s recently updated clinical monograph, Understanding and Meeting the Needs of Children and Adolescents at High Risk, which highlights evidence-based prevention and treatment approaches for problematic behaviors and various types of behavioral health challenges in children and adolescents.

As we think about the significance of childhood development, the following points from Magellan’s monograph provide insights:

A growing body of scientific information has confirmed the importance of the first five years of life, when the ongoing construction of brain architecture impacts youth social and emotional development, the ability to learn new behavior and skills, and how the youth evolves into adolescence.

Advances in neuroscience have contributed new understanding of adolescent development. During adolescence, the brain experiences a period of major development comparable to that of early childhood.

With much changing in our kids’ lives and environment – virtual schooling, modified in-person play arrangements with friends and reduced time with extended family – the responsibility falls on parents and caregivers, as it always does, to ensure their child’s wellbeing and adjustment. Magellan’s monograph offers the following to ponder:

While genes determine when specific brain circuits are formed, experiences actually shape their formation and are fueled by a self-initiated, inborn drive toward competence. This phenomenon depends on appropriate sensory input and stable, responsive relationships whereby adults respond to a child’s natural reaching out for interaction.

However, when parents are under unprecedented stress and often just trying to make ends meet, attending to their child’s increasing needs can understandably be overwhelming. In addition to the role of parent and full-time employee, many adults have taken on the additional roles of teacher, daycare worker and entertainer, to name a few. In some cases, however, a parent’s struggles may lead to neglect of their children. Magellan’s monograph highlights the following of child neglect:

While child abuse is more widely acknowledged and publicized, child neglect is, in fact, the most common type of child maltreatment, which frequently goes underreported. Expanding on the earlier discussion of impaired brain development, it is now understood that lack of stimulation and necessary care early in life may cause children to remain in a state of “hyperarousal” (i.e., constantly anticipating threats and/or experiencing dissociation) rather than a normal state of attentive calm. This phenomenon leads to a decreased ability to benefit from social, emotional and cognitive experiences and results in other psychosocial consequences. Together with insecure attachments, this state of hyperarousal can significantly affect normal growth and development.

Many parents are also managing their own mental health conditions and substance use disorder during the pandemic, which adds to the impact of what children and adolescents are experiencing themselves. The monograph outlines the risks for children of these parents:

There are many serious risks to children and adolescents who have a parent or both parents with mental illness. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) calls attention to the strong genetic predisposition in children for inheriting bipolar disorder, an anxiety disorder, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, alcoholism or other SUD, or depression. Recent studies have also demonstrated delayed brain development in young children of depressed mothers. Further, the AACAP notes the additional stress that mental illness places on a marriage and parenting abilities of the couple, and the risks that stem from an inconsistent, unpredictable family environment that can contribute to psychiatric illness and developmental delays in children.

It’s also appropriate to consider the older children and young adults who may lack the ability to cope with increased stress and instability. Magellan’s monograph calls attention to recent research:

A CDC report on mental health, substance use and suicidal ideation during the COVID-19 pandemic shows that while 11% of adults seriously contemplated suicide in June 2020, the same was disproportionately reported by young people aged 18 to 24 (26%).

During these difficult times, we’re all doing the best we can. And we know that brighter days are on the horizon. Until then, and always, as we’re helping ourselves and our children through, let’s remember that “information is power,” as they say. To that effect, we encourage you to learn more in our full children’s clinical monograph here.

How to cope with stress caused by current events

Anxiety is a normal response to a constant barrage of bad news. Headlines and notifications related to recent events are taking their toll on mental health in what some call “headline stress disorder.”

While this is not a medical diagnosis, the continued anxiety or stress from headlines may cause things like heart palpitations and chest tightness or insomnia. Further progression may lead to physical and mental conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, endocrine disorders or hypertension.1 The combination of civil unrest, political instability and COVID-19, and the resulting economic uncertainty, has led to an increase in stress and anxiety in society. Both adults and children may struggle to process their feelings and maintain a sense of normalcy.

Here are some tips to help you understand and manage your fears, how to help children deal with traumatic events and how to know when you or someone close might need help.

Understanding the emotional and physical reactions to traumatic events

Emotional reactions

When the initial shock of a traumatic event subsides, normal emotional responses in the hours and days that follow may come in waves and at unpredictable times. These responses include:

  • Fear and anxiety
  • Sadness and depression
  • Guilt, shame or despair
  • Anger and irritability
  • Emotional numbness
  • Feelings of separation from others

Physical reactions

Physical reactions are the result of stress hormones flooding the nervous system. Common physical symptoms include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Headache, abdominal pain or other physical pain
  • Racing heart
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Change of appetite

How to help yourself

  • Take care of yourself first. Eat healthy foods, get enough rest and exercise regularly. Physical activity can reduce anxiety and promote well-being.
  • Talk to people you trust about your concerns. A supportive network is important for emotional health.
  • Take time for hobbies and fun activities or find interesting volunteer activities. This can be a healthy distraction from everyday stress.
  • Limit your exposure to disruptive TV, radio and social media coverage.
  • Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation.

How to help children cope with traumatic events

  • Be aware of your own reactions to the event and manage your own stress. Stay calm and offer hugs and reassurance to restore your child’s sense of safety and security.
  • Share information about the event and answer your child’s questions honestly. Listen to your child’s fears and let them know that it is okay to share their feelings at any time.
  • Restrict or prevent contact with disturbing news and social media coverage of the event. Children who see graphic images or hear disturbing news can be re-traumatized.
  • Maintain as many stable routines as possible, including regular meals, bedtimes and exercise.
  • Engage in fun activities to help the children relax and get the feeling that life is back to normal.
  • Watch for signs of trauma, even after weeks have passed. Children, like adults, cope with trauma in different ways, and may show signs of sadness, anxiety or disruptive behavior weeks or months after the event.

Know when to get help

  • Common signs that you or your child may need professional help can include: excessive worrying or fear, extreme mood swings, avoidance of friends, difficulty understanding or relating to other people, changes in eating and sleeping habits and inability to engage in daily activities or deal with daily problems and stress.
  • If you are suffering from stress reactions that affect your ability to lead a normal life for six weeks or more, you may need help from a mental health professional. While everyone is different and heals at their own pace, some people develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after a traumatic event.
  • Signs of PTSD include: disturbing memories, nightmares or flashbacks, suicidal thoughts or feelings, disconnection from others, and trouble functioning at home and work. It is important to seek help if you think you might have symptoms of PTSD.


COVID-19 Vaccine and how to Manage Anxiety

As the new COVID-19 vaccine is being administered across the country, many people are feeling a mix of emotions. There is hope that the vaccine will normalize life and relief that the vaccine will save lives.  There is also anxiety about its potential side effects, long-term effectiveness and availability. For some, the stress and uncertainty caused by the pandemic are being exacerbated by vaccine concerns.

Vaccine safety

Although the two vaccines currently available were rapidly developed, they meet the safety and efficacy standards of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The data from the manufacturers and research from large clinical trials show that the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the risks of side effects and coronavirus infection. There are also other COVID-19 vaccines in development that must meet stringent safety standards before they can be released.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and FDA have expanded safety monitoring systems to continue to track possible side effects of vaccines. A new easy-to-use, smartphone-based tool called V-safe enables vaccinated individuals to notify the CDC about any side effects. V-safe also texts reminders to get the second vaccine dose.

Anxiety about the COVID-19 vaccine

Anxiety can stem from fears about the vaccine’s safety, getting a shot or not having control over when it will be available.

Here are tips to help manage it:

  • Stay informed and research credible sources. There is a lot of misinformation online about vaccinations in general. Follow credible news and information sources. Up-to-date information about the COVID-19 vaccines, side effects and benefits, and answers to frequently asked questions, are available on the CDC website.
  • Follow recommended guidelines to keep yourself safe. It will likely take months for the COVID-19 vaccine to be available to anyone who wants it. In the meantime, take precautions to protect yourself and your family by wearing masks, maintaining social distance and washing your hands frequently. Minimize your risk of contracting the virus by following CDC guidelines on travel, gatherings and other activities that can spread the virus.
  • Make self-care a priority and consistently practice ways to cope with stress. Anxiety can result from a feeling of lack of control and uncertainty, and the pandemic was the perfect storm of both. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious foods, exercise and take time every day for an activity you enjoy.

Finally, remember that feelings of stress and anxiety during difficult times are normal and will pass. If you find that anxiety continually affects your quality of life and you feel overwhelmed, consider talking to a mental health professional.

To learn more about Magellan Healthcare’s mental and behavioral health resources, click here. 

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Mental and emotional health tips during the pandemic

Find ways to deal with negative emotions

There is no question that the pandemic has affected the mental and emotional health of Americans of all ages. We have experienced months of social isolation, job changes and unemployment, school closures, and other disruptions. This has led to a surge in the number of people reporting high levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Given the uncertainty of when life will return to normal, finding ways to manage negative emotions and strengthen your mental health is important.

Building and exercising resilience skills can help protect your mental and emotional health. Try these tips:

  • Stay in touch with positive and supportive people, even if you can’t see them in person. Strong social connections can reduce stress and help you feel happier and more energetic. If you haven’t already, learn to use video platforms like FaceTime and Zoom to stay in touch with friends and family.
  • Practice ways to manage everyday stress. For some people, a daily walk eases the pressure of the day. Try meditation, reading, yoga, working on a hobby, listening to music or any other activity that you enjoy. Practice finding something you can be grateful for every day. You will feel more positive and recharged.
  • Find what motivates you. Research shows that people who feel they have a purpose in life tend to be happier and live longer. For some, being creative, helping other people or devoting their time and energy to a cause can be the best motivators.
  • Make self-care a priority. Physical and mental health are closely intertwined. In difficult times, it is important to get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet and exercise. Avoid using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs to cope with negative emotions; they can make sadness, depression and anxiety worse.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend on social media and the news. If you are constantly frustrated and upset over what you see in the news or on social media, limit or take a break from both.
  • Maintain your sense of humor and practice reframing negative thoughts. If you become aware that negative thoughts and images are invading your mind, draw your attention to your surroundings. Being present in the moment, or mindful, is one way to break a pattern of negative thinking. Humor is another way to defuse negative emotions.
  • Give others the benefit of the doubt. Everyone is affected by the pandemic in one way or another, and others’ emotions may not be obvious. Be kind in any interaction with others.

If you find that your mental health symptoms are negatively impacting your quality of life, consider talking to a professional.

To learn more about Magellan Healthcare’s behavioral health resources, click here.

Building your resilience during the second wave of COVID-19

As winter approaches, efforts in many states across the country to control a second rise in COVID-19 infections also mean continued social isolation and hardship for millions of people. High, chronic levels of stress resulting from unemployment and economic insecurity, school closures, disruption to normal routines, illness, and loss have a negative impact on mental and physical health. In addition to the burden of the pandemic, simmering political and social tensions have left many people feeling distressed and threatened.[1]

As a nation, we face a challenging winter even as coronavirus vaccination news looks promising. It will be months before a vaccine can be widely distributed across the population, and even then, life may not be back to normal. In the meantime, it is important to monitor and care for your mental health as we move through this next phase.

People at Risk

A significant number of Americans report feeling depressed and anxious as a result of the pandemic. People who are already prone to mental health problems, people with low incomes, minorities, young people and isolated older adults (especially those living in facilities) are at higher risk of depression.

If you or a loved one are struggling with persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness that last for two weeks or more, have lost interest in things you used to enjoy, have thoughts of self-harm and/or experience sleep disturbances and changes in appetite, it is important to see a doctor for an evaluation and possible treatment of your symptoms. There are effective treatments for depression, including medication and various therapies.

Building Resilience

There are several ways to build resilience and prepare emotionally for winter shutdowns. Research shows that resilience skills can be learned and include the following:

  • Social connections. A strong social support network is one of the most important parts of building resilience. If face-to-face contact is not possible, stay in touch with family and friends by phone or video. Check in on friends and neighbors who are having a hard time.
  • Pay attention to negative thoughts and practice gratitude. Resilient people tend to be optimistic and flexible in their thinking. If the constant negative bombardment of news and social media makes you anxious and unhappy, limit or take a break from your screen time.
  • Assess what you can and cannot change. Focus on positive actions that you can take, even if the possibilities seem limited. Tap into your talents: revisit an old hobby or try something you’ve always wanted to do.
  • Take care of yourself. Maintain routines, get enough sleep and exercise and eat a healthy diet. Avoid using alcohol or other drugs to combat sadness or boredom.

Having goals and a purpose can also increase resilience. The pandemic has led many to rediscover a new appreciation for their gifts, relationships and the values that give meaning to their lives. If you are doing all the right things to build your resilience and still feeling down, make an appointment with your doctor. You will get through this.

For more information and tips, visit MagellanHealthcare.com/COVID-19.


[1] Nancy Schimelpfening,“This COVID-19 Spike Will Also Hit our Mental Health with a ‘Second Wave,’” September 23, 2020, Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health-news/this-covid-19-spike-will-also-hit-our-mental-health-with-a-second-wave#Why-is-the-pandemic-putting-our-mental-health-at-risk?