COVID-19 has brought a wave of new challenges to most communities, including members of the military and veterans. To address these new stressors, the American Red Cross is offering a solution by launching a virtual, interactive workshop to help the military community manage pandemic-related stress and learn healthy coping methods.
Although the military community is accustomed to handling constant change and uncertainty, COVID-19 is adding a host of different stressors. They are finding themselves in situations where families may have delayed reunions, uncertain deployment schedules, veterans are having to seek out broader support systems, difficulty accessing community resources, and many other unique issues.
“We have been able to reach a lot of people that may have not been able to come to their meetings before. They are simply able to find a quiet place in their home,” said Dr. Melissa Milanak a Red Cross Resiliency Workshop Facilitator. “We are also providing practical skills that they can immediately start using. Whether that is a relaxation technique or possibly a communication strategy.”
Dr. Melissa Milanak has been volunteering and helping the Red Cross serve our military, veterans and their families for some time. She has helped facilitate dozens of in-person resiliency workshops and just recently helped facilitate the first virtual workshop alongside Dr. Ja’net Bishop.
“The whole opportunity of virtual training is not new. We now can embrace it and it is powerful. This may meet the need of that person that is immobile that may not be able to come to a church or a building for the workshop. Doing this virtually extends the reach of our ability to help people,” said Dr. Bishop who also serves a facilitator. “It is a good experience to be able to facilitate that conversation to help a person evolve from hopeless to hopefulness in the comfort from their home or even from their cell phone.”
Dr. Bishop is a veteran herself as well as her two sons and her late husband.
“Becoming resilient is like building a muscle. It can be done, and it takes work. That helps empower these people to become the best version of themselves,” said Dr. Bishop.
Two mental health facilitators will run each virtual workshop, which is about 60-90 minutes in length and will have no more than 12 participants. All service members, veterans and their family members are welcome and encouraged to attend the sessions.
To try and recreate an in-person environment, each participant will be encouraged to join the discussion and share their experiences. Workshop topics will include:
- Managing the stress of isolation, multitasking, working from home, supporting children, managing health, caring for family members and career interruptions
- Defining stress and recognizing its impact
- Healthy communication during highly stressful times
- Learning relaxation exercises
- Setting goals for building wellness plans
- Getting healthy sleep
- Finding a positive perspective
“Distancing does not mean isolation. To simply know that you are not alone, and that other people are having these same experiences,” said Dr. Milanak.
Dr. Bishop added, “although physically distant, we as service providers, must find ways to help our military and veterans stay socially connected.”
To sign up for a virtual workshop or learn more, call your local Red Cross chapter or contact them by visiting redcross.org and type in your zip code.
The American Red Cross was founded on the mission of service to the armed forces with Clara Barton tending to injured soldiers during the Civil War. Honoring Clara Barton’s legacy, the Red Cross proudly supports our nation’s military and veteran communities of all eras in many areas. To learn more about the scope of support offered please visit, redcross.org/saf or download the Red Cross Hero Care App, available in your smartphone app store.