Addressing the struggles many people are now facing while sheltering in place, as directed by Bell County Judge David Blackburn on March 23, Behavioral Health Officers Capt. Qwanquita Wright and Capt Karolina Przegienda, from 3rd Cavalry Regiment’s Embedded Behavioral Health Clinic 4, said people will find creative ways to remain connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Human contact is kind of like a basic need,” Wright, a licensed clinical social worker with EBH4, said. “It makes us feel safe. When we’re not around those people we have relationships with, there’s a huge detachment that forms.”

Przegienda, a licensed clinical psychologist with the EBH4, said humans are social creatures who are not meant to be in isolation for very long because it is not good for their overall health. She said while a lot of people initially thought it would be great to be isolated from other people, that mentality is now changing.

“We’re slowly diving into that zone where we’re missing that human contact, that human interaction,” Przegienda added.

Social distancing has not stopped the EBH4 team from continuing to serve their patients, they just had to think outside the box and discover unique ways to continue providing care.

“Of course, taking into consideration risk and safety, we want to make sure our patients still have availability to get what they need,” Wright said. “We’re being creative because this time calls us to kind of step outside our comfort zone and think, ‘How can we still provide care as licensed providers?’”

Until everything is back to normal, the clinic will be conducting business via telephone, helping their patients through a good old-fashioned phone call.

They know now is a very stressful time for everyone, but those with already heightened anxiety are probably having very real problems. Wright encourages people to take notice of people and provide support.

“Even when we go into the grocery store … we go in and we see people kind of in a state of panic when we look them in the eyes. Honestly, that’s anxiety,” Wright said. “What do we do when our anxiety is higher than normal?

She said small gestures, such as just checking in with your neighbors and asking if they need anything are great ways to support those with high anxiety or even elderly who are at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus.

EBH4 serves Soldiers within 3rd Cav. Regt., who made “AI-EE-YAH” the unit’s famous battle cry. Przegienda and Wright shared how they are using the phrase to help Soldiers during this time:

A – Awareness. Be aware of what is going on in your own life and inside your body. Be aware of what increases anxiety. If it’s the TV, turn it off.

I – Isolation. While being isolated, continue to maintain your relationships. See how others manage the stress of being indoors.

E – Escape. This is about psychologically escaping. Step outside of negative thoughts and do things that will take your mind off of the panic that’s going around.

E – Exercise. Exercise is a way to pump positive endorphins into our body. Setting aside time to exercise also takes your mind off of the negativity.

Y – You. Only you can really sense what’s going on in your body. We know when we’re feeling anxious or feeling tense. Exercising, dancing, journaling, writing letters, Facetiming. Stay aware of what’s happening in your body.

A – Activities. Doing laundry, mowing the lawn, playing board games.

H – Humor. Laughter is really good for us. Don’t forget to smile or laugh. Share good positive quotes or memes to bring someone some laughter.

The last thing Wright and Przegienda want people to remember is this social distancing will not last forever and until then, focus on the positives.

“Understand that change will come,” Wright said, encouraging people to be patient and focus on yourself for a change. “In the therapy world we call it mindfulness – focusing on what is good around us. Taking some time to do some meditation.”

“Close your eyes for one minute and picture a box. You’re going to open up the lid and you’re going to place, on little pieces of paper, sentences that are stressing you out, that are giving you worry. Put that sentence in one at a time, place them in there,” Przegienda said. “Then just take a final look at it, and then just look at yourself putting a lid on it and putting it on a shelf. Just let those thoughts subside for a few minutes. They’re still there, they’re still present. You are just not carrying them with you at the moment.”

Soldiers within the 3rd Cav. Regt. can call EBH4 at 254-553-8670/8671. Other units can find their EBH at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center’s website, https://www.crdamc.amedd.army.mil/behav-health/rr-ctr.aspx. For other assistance, Military OneSource provides free 24/7 support at https://www.militaryonesource.mil. The Garrison Chaplain’s office also provides assistance at 254-287-2427.