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Taking Charge of Your Military Readiness during COVID-19

By Christina R. Dean, PhD
Mar. 11, 2022

National Guard photo by Photo by Spc. Thomas LambNational Guard photo by Photo by Spc. Thomas Lamb

A few weeks ago, I was assigned (along with several members from my unit) to work at a large public hospital in support of coronavirus testing efforts. Over the span of 48 hours, I tested positive for COVID-19 along with 10 of my teammates and we were placed on isolation. Twenty other teammates were placed in quarantine for a minimum of five days. This couldn't have happened at a worse time, as the hospital and my unit were already short staffed. We were also under a lot of stress during our 12-hour workdays. I felt unprepared and overwhelmed due to the physical and mental challenges associated with being infected with coronavirus, and our mission could not be completed from home. Others in my unit told me they also experienced many of the same negative physical and emotional difficulties as a result of our COIVD-19 duties. These coping difficulties were likely to continue to strain my unit's ability to provide ongoing seamless support to the large-scale coronavirus support efforts – particularly if there was another increase in infection rates.

While the COVID-19 pandemic introduced significant and unforeseen challenges across all sectors of society, for me, it's been difficult to handle the added stress levels on my own. In addition to the common stressors faced by the public, military service members experience several additional challenges that can threaten our personal readiness (e.g., increased stress levels related to deployments, mandated relocations every two-to-three years, etc.) I felt overwhelmed and my personal readiness began to suffer as a result, so I sought help.

The military's ongoing involvement in the coronavirus pandemic response has played a significant role in our nation's ability to remain resilient when faced with unforeseen difficulties. However, the response efforts (e.g., testing and vaccination operations, monitoring overall COVID-19 trends and concerns, and providing direct hospital support in non-medical roles to transport patients and perform food and housekeeping duties) can place additional strains on personal readiness for some service members. While those assigned to the frontlines may experience increased health risks from working long hours in uncertain and stressful situations, or from being in direct contact with infected individuals, it is important to consider that those who are not assigned to provide operational COVID-19 response support may also be at an increased risk.

Maintaining Personal Readiness through Preventive Efforts

In an effort to sustain the strength of military readiness, it is important for service members to remain both physically and mentally resilient in light of unforeseen challenges.

It is vital to recognize that your personal readiness may be at an increased risk if you become infected, stressed or emotionally overwhelmed. Fortunately, there are a number of resources available to help you take charge of your mental and physical well-being to ensure personal readiness:

Practice Positive Self-Care Using ABCs1

  • Awareness: Monitor your responses and behaviors to others or events. Do they differ from your usual reactions?
  • Balance: Schedule time to take a break or avoid stress. Exercise and eat healthy foods to maintain your fitness level. Develop or reflect on personal and professional goals and accomplishments.
  • Connection: Commit to taking time out of your day to connect with others (e.g., family, colleagues, social network buddies or organizational supports), no matter how busy you are. Continued connection with others is important.

While coronavirus has had a significant impact on my own (and my unit's) stress levels, I've been able to successfully manage through the use of the ABCs of positive self-care and recommended phone apps. I continue to promote self-care to my fellow service members so they may successfully work through any additional unforeseen challenges. I remain committed to taking charge of my physical and emotional well-being, as it is essential to my readiness, the success of my unit, and to the sustainment of the fighting force. Below are some useful resources that may help you take charge of your personal readiness:


Additional Resources

If you are in crisis, or you know someone who is, there are immediate resources available to support you or your loved ones.


  1. Review to Action (n.d.). ABCs of self-care.

Dr. Dean is a contracted psychologist subject matter expert for clinical care at the Psychological Health Center of Excellence. She has a doctorate in clinical psychology and has both civilian and military experience in administrative, research, training and practice experience working with service members and veterans. She also currently serves as the Indiana Deputy State Surgeon with the Indiana Army National Guard.

Last Updated: November 29, 2022
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