National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
Healthy Living During Stressful Times
Stay Home – Stay Safe – Stay Connected – Stay Healthy
How can you stay healthy during stressful times? Here are some things you can do:
How can I manage my stress during difficult times?
- Notice your stress level. Identify and respond to stressful thoughts and emotions.
- Replace “I can’t handle this” with “This is tough and yet I am managing. I am stronger than I think,” for example.
- Steady yourself with healthy behaviors such as:
- Taking a few deep breaths.
- Talking with a friend.
- Limiting screen time, news watching, and social media.
- Use stress reduction tools, for example:
- Practice relaxation.
- Exercise or get outside and take a walk.
- Doing something you enjoy, just for fun.
- Stay connected to your support systems (family, friends, mentors, clergy, and fellow Veterans).
- Be creative - use phone, email, text messaging, video calls.
- Join a social media network that includes service members and Veterans.
- If you feel you’re in an emotional crisis: Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text 838255. Or chat online at: www.veteranscrisisline.net or go to the nearest emergency room.
How can I be safe at home during the COVID-19 Pandemic?
- To protect yourself from getting sick:
- Get vaccinated for COVID-19 if you haven’t been already, and get a booster shot so you are up to date and are fully protected.
- To learn the latest on Covid-19 vaccines visit Stay Up to Date with Your COVID-19 Vaccines | CDC.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow.
- Wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public in areas where the COVID-19 Community Level is high, regardless of vaccination status.
- See the CDC site for more information on strategies to prevent getting sick.
- If you have been in close contact with someone who has recently tested positive with COVID, or if you have a fever or other COVID symptoms, to protect yourself and others (in addition to above):
- Use over the counter self-tests. These are viral tests that can be used at home or anywhere, are easy to use, and produce rapid results. You can order free COVID-19 self-tests from COVIDTests.gov.
- Regardless of the test type you select, a positive test result means that you have an infection and should isolate and inform your close contacts to avoid spreading disease to others.
- Wear a well-fitting mask over your nose and mouth. See the CDC site for more information on how to choose and wear a mask.
- Separate yourself from other people, especially those who are vulnerable and/or unvaccinated, and pets.
- Avoid sharing personal household items.
- See the CDC site for more information on when to quarantine and isolate yourself from others.
- Look for outdoor activities.
Be Involved In Your Health Care
How can I continue to connect with my health care team and take care of my health?
- Send your healthcare team a Secure Message in My HealtheVet to talk about what appointment options might be best for you and what you need to stay healthy.
- Schedule an appointment with your provider through in-person, VA Video Connect, and Telehealth appointment options.
- Explore additional resources that can help you manage your health. through the Veterans Health Library and the VA Mobile App Store.
- NOTE: Stay up-to-date with recommended screening tests and immunizations to keep you well. Talk with your health care team about what preventive services you might need, or review the Recommendations for Men and Women.
Be Physically Active
How can I be physically active when I can’t get out as much as I’d like?
- If you can go outdoors safely:
- Take a walk or a hike.
- Ride a bike.
- Do yardwork or gardening.
- If you must stay indoors:
For more information visit:
How can I maintain a healthy diet when I am stressed or bored?
- Establish a healthy meal schedule – and stick with it.
- Practice portion control.
- Stock healthy snacks – Recognize cravings vs hunger and respond appropriately.
- Get creative in the kitchen – Try a new healthy recipe.
For more information visit:
How can I limit my drinking? I’m drinking more alcohol since I’m stressed.
- Many people have struggled with stress and increased substance use recently. It may be a good time to commit to recommended daily limits (1 drink for women and everyone over age 64; 2 drinks for men under age 65).
- Think about what is causing your urge to drink and look for other ways to respond to that stress. See Manage Stress resources for ideas, and reach out to your primary care team for additional help.
- The VA has a lot of resources to help you manage stress. See which ones appeal to you.
- Understand that drinking above the recommended limits has short-term risks (e.g., injuries and accidents, risky behaviors) and long-term health risks (e.g., high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, depression and anxiety, liver disease and digestive problems…).
- Reach out for support if you are having trouble sticking to daily limits. Talk to friends or your healthcare team or use the Rethinking Your Drinking tools for additional support.
For more information visit:
How can I sleep better? I am having trouble sleeping due to stress.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule every day and avoid napping.
- Take steps to manage stress, including regular exercise.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and electronic devices before bedtime.
For more information, visit Sleep Well - National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (va.gov) where you will learn about tools like the Path to Better Sleep: https://www.veterantraining.va.gov/insomnia/