Clinic assists in dealing with COVID- related stress

Story by Becca Castellano
U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart

The Stuttgart Army Medical Clinic team
The Stuttgart Army Medical Clinic team find themselves pushed to the forefront in the fight against COVID-19. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas Mort.

Maj. Michael Oganovich cannot imagine doing anything other than being a psychologist and helping people make changes they thought were impossible. To do both in the U.S. Army is the dream environment for the Director of Psychological Health at U.S. Army Health Clinic-Stuttgart.

When COVID-19 hit the Stuttgart community and forced the behavioral health team to ramp up virtual services, he knew the need to provide appointments would be more important than ever.

“People were isolated, working under new and different environments and had increased opportunities for substance abuse,” said Oganovich. “And even if people weren’t going into the office, the reduction of garrison services likely increased some stress to our community. There are really too many stress factors related to COVID to list.”

While Oganovich says most providers still prefer face-to-face discussions with patients, there are added benefits to virtual sessions. Besides decreasing time spent out of the office due to travel, it also gives patients who might be less comfortable in a face-to-face appointment another option to receive care.

“Physically distancing does not mean you have to socially distance yourself from the world.”

For those feeling overwhelmed due to the uncertainty that COVID-19 creates, Oganovich shared some tips to help keep life predictable. He recommends developing routines and planning daily activities, as well as using social media resources to join groups for things that you are interested in like crafting or meditation. Other ways to reduce stress include watching live music streams or exercising with YouTube videos or apps.

Oganovich emphasized that physically distancing does not mean you have to socially distance yourself from the world.
“Use innovative platforms like FaceTime and Zoom to stay connected,” said Oganovich who shared the Rebtel app as a way to call stateside for free. “Reach out to old friends you’ve been meaning to catch up with, or that aunt you haven’t talked to in years.”

Behavioral Health Team Lead, Bradley Singer meets with a Soldier during a behavioral health counseling session. Photo by Zach Rehnstrom.

Finally, Oganovich reminds everyone to manage expectations and change their mindset. “Try to find humor in the little things,” he added. “And communicate your needs to your children or spouse. If you need a minute or some space, ask for it. And remember, how you think dictates how you feel.”

If stress is piling up and feelings of being overwhelmed set in, Oganovich and the team at behavioral health are just a phone call away.

“Do not suffer in silence,” he stressed. “There are so many people in this community and in your unit that are ready to act and help. Please reach out in whichever way you’re comfortable with and send up a flare. Someone will respond.”

In-person as well as virtual appointments for behavioral health can be made at DSN: 590-1615 or CIV: 06371-9464-1615.