Coping with difficult situations: Advice from Intermountain Veterans

Whether they’re deployed or not, members of the military often must endure difficult situations—separated from their families and asked to put their normal lives and routines aside. They need to perform their duties in the face of fear, loss, uncertainty, self-doubt, and loneliness. So it’s important for them to develop ways to stay focused, upbeat, and engaged.

Because of COVID-19, many of us are in similar situations—we need to continue to do our jobs even if we’re tired, scared, uncertain, and not able to see our friends and families.

Members of Intermountain Healthcare’s Military Caregiver Resource Group share some of the coping mechanisms they used during their service that are helping them now.

Maintain normal routines

Doug Opp is a chaplain with Intermountain Homecare and Hospice and a former Petty Officer with the U.S. Navy. While stationed overseas during the Vietnam era, he says he relied on training and studying, writing letters to his family, and staying active in his faith. “I continue to find reassurance through similar routines,” says Doug. He stays informed, takes health precautions, is committed to his team of hospice care providers, and keeps in touch with loved ones. He says he also engages in religious worship online, and gets out for walks, bike rides, and hikes with his spouse.

Draw strength from past experiences

Andrew Palmer, an inventory specialist at Logan Regional Hospital and former Airman, First Class, U.S. Air Force, says he draws strength from remembering not only his own experiences of endurance in the military, but the example his father, a WWII veteran, set for him. “Recalling past times of strength and survival, as well as continuing to live my values, gives me a sense of pride,” says Andrew. He and his wife also foster a supportive, positive relationship that makes difficult times easier.

Stay connected

Toby Taylor says he leans on community, both during his time in the service and during the current pandemic. The former Staff Sergeant, U.S. Air Force, is now a materials management caregiver at Layton Hospital. “It’s important is to stay connected to people who understand your situation and who you can rely on,” he says. It’s also been helpful for him to contribute to his community, to bring a positive attitude and lift people up when they’re down. “It’s been essential to have people you trust to talk to if you’re feeling anything other than your normal self,” says Toby. To his fellow caregivers, he added, “Remember that the EAP is an especially helpful resource you can use.”

Surround yourself with positive people

During her time as a Navy Reserves Medical Corpsman and Naval Line Ensign, Robin Dale learned how to stay cool during difficult times, including standing up for herself in the face of sexual harassment. Now as a physician assistant with Intermountain Connect Care, she says she continues to rely on those skills in the fight against COVID-19. “The thing that’s helped me the most—both in the service and during the pandemic—is having supportive friends to laugh with,” says Robin.