Coping during COVID-19 and beyond

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Katrina M. Brisbin
  • Headquarters Air Reserve Personnel Center

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed nearly every aspect of daily living for most of us. We all react to change and stress differently. Fear and anxiety about the disease itself in the present can be overwhelming for some while uncertainty of the future is of greater concern to others.

To help members navigate the uncharted waters of these times, HQ ARPC leadership teamed up with Chaplain Justin Combs, 566th Intelligence Squadron, to present a virtual coping course, which was held Friday, April 17th. Team members had the option to use video or audio to call in, connect with one another, and learn more about coping in all types of stressful situations - not just COVID-19.

Ch. Combs guided the conversation, defining what it means to cope. He also described some distress signs so attendees know what to look for in themselves and in others. Those are listed at the end of this article along with multiple ways to manage stress, depending on your personal preferences.

Throughout the event, members shared their personal experiences of times when they felt overwhelmed. After all, the current global pandemic is not the first time—nor will it be the last—any of us experienced life events we had to find ways to cope with and get through.

Chief Master Sgt. Billie Baber, HQ ARPC command chief, and Senior Master Sgt. Tony Peel, HQ ARPC first sergeant, were able to provide coping techniques based on real-world experiences using specific scenarios and examples. They discussed how successful coping methods during deployments and other high-stress operations can also be used during our current COVID environment.

<blockquote> “Everyone is being affected by this,” said Peel. “Although it’s tough for all of us, consider how our deployed wingmen are getting through this. I place myself in their shoes and wonder what I would do. How would I feel if this worldwide event was delaying my return to my family? I’ve learned to cope with these sorts of events by focusing my energy on what I can control and handling everything else in small, manageable bites.” </blockquote>

While coping seems like an activity we do solely for ourselves, it isn’t just an inward activity.

“One of the best ways to get through our current situation is to encourage others,” said Baber. “I like to call encouragement the gift that keeps on giving, because encouragement not only builds up those around you, it lifts you up as well.”

Another outward coping mechanism, shared by the chaplain, is gratitude.

“I like to take this a step further,” said Baber. “Don’t only be grateful for the amazing things in your life, be grateful for all the amazing things you bring into the lives of others."

The collaborative environment empowered attendees to share their own ways of coping with stressful situations. All in all, it’s important for everyone to know themselves and know their triggers so they can plan, prepare and cope with stressful situations. Everyone has a unique response to stress; there is no “one size fits all” solution to managing it. 

A few signs of distress are:
- Low energy
- Headaches
- Upset stomach
- Body aches
- Insomnia
- Frequent colds and infections
- Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
- Changes in appetite (over/under-eating)
- Avoiding others
- Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and    moody
- Feeling overwhelmed, like you’re losing control
- Having difficulty relaxing/quieting your mind
- Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem),
- Feeling lonely, worthless and/or depressed
- Constantly worrying

Here are some stress management activities that were discussed during the call:

Identify stressors
Make a list of the situations, concerns or challenges that trigger a stress response. Take a look at the list and identify which stressors are events that organically happen and which ones originate from within. Recognizing what you can control is key to managing internal expectations and stress.

Organize your chaos
The current situation has lasted longer than expected. Look at ways to establish a new “normal” in order to thrive through this, rather than just exist. Balance work and play.

Learn how to say “no”
Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, taking on more than you can handle is a surefire recipe for stress. Distinguish between the “should do’s” and the “must do’s” and, when possible, say “no” to taking on too much.

Practice gratitude
Wake up every day and find something you are grateful for, your family, your morning workout, that first cup of coffee. Starting your day thinking about what you are grateful for, will set the tone. Start well, end well.

Take care of yourself
Eat right, drink plenty of water, get quality rest, and exercise. Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, even just taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood, can act as a stress reliever.

Encourage yourself and others often
Helping others is psychologically rewarding for us, but we must remember to also encourage ourselves at the same time.


Chaplain: 720-847-4631
Mental Health: 720-847-6451
Family Advocacy: 720-847-6451
Disaster Distress Helpline: 800-985-5990
Air Force Aid: 703-972-2650,
Airman & Family Readiness Center: 720-847-6681
Veterans Crisis Line: Call 800-273-8255, Text 838255
Employee Assistance Program (For Civilians): 866-580-9078
Military OneSource: 800-342-9647,
Behavioral Health Optimization Program (BHOP): 720-847-7492
Alcohol & Drug Abuse Prevention & Treatment Program: 720-847-6451
Military & Family Life Counselor (MFLC): 720-862-4118 & 720-206-5002