Five Ways to Cope with COVID-19, Brought to You by the U.S. Military

A group of soldiers cheering  - Embrace the Suck - #MilPsychJargon
PHCoE graphic
By Navy Captain Carrie Kennedy, Ph.D.
April 3, 2020

There are a lot of parallels between military service and the conditions many Americans are experiencing during the coronavirus crisis.

Think about this. The norm of military service, deployments, and remote and overseas duty stations include:

  • Being confined with others on bases or in quarters for long periods of time
  • Having leaders dictate where people are allowed to go and when they are allowed to go there
  • Functioning in a constant state of the unknown and the unpredictable
  • Living with a sense of danger and not knowing when an enemy might attack and who might be wounded or killed
  • Not being able to help out friends and family in need due to geographic separation and not being able to travel to see them

Does this sound like the current COVID-19 experience? Lessons learned from the military are very applicable here. Service members are taught general coping principles beginning on day one and these are repeated at every stage of military service.

Let’s look at five concepts from our ongoing #MilPsychJargon campaign that are tried and true in military life, keeping in mind that humor is one of the human race’s best coping strategies.

  • Embrace the Suck – There is no doubt that the current situation sucks, however there are silver linings in all clouds (or at least that’s what my mom told me). You are going to overcome obstacles, be stronger at the other end of this, and experience an important event in history. Embrace it and your experience of it will be transformed.

  • Battle Buddy – We all need support from others right now. You know who your Battle Buddies are and finding ways to keep in touch with them is only limited by your imagination. The internet, social media, the phone, etc. can keep you connected to just about anyone. Reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Organize a remote social event online, on the phone, or through a number of web conferencing platforms. Create a social media group in which people can commiserate.

  • Wave Off – Seriously, you don’t need to go anywhere right now. Assess your needs versus wants and Wave Off all requests which will prevent social distancing. Also Wave Off consuming too much news. Follow one or two reputable news sources and Wave Off the rest.

  • Left of Bang – We are all trying to stay Left of Bang, “bang” of course being a positive test for COVID-19. Follow the CDC recommendations to wash your hands often, avoid touching your face, and put distance between yourself and others to prevent the spread of the virus.

  • Improvise, Adapt and Overcome – If you weren’t able to buy any toilet paper, this may take on important meaning for you! As the situation goes longer, you will find yourself eating foods prepared with creative ingredients. Your work meetings, doctor appointments, church services and other events will be held virtually for awhile. Human ingenuity is an amazing thing, and we will get through this.

Follow #MilPsychJargon on Facebook or Twitter or visit our website for more military phrases geared to increase stress management and coping skills. Read about addressing emotional responses to the coronavirus. And reach out to friends and family for support during this challenging time or better yet, CONTACT YOUR NEAREST VETERAN, who likely has all the skills needed to weather the current storm.

Captain Kennedy is the division chief of the Psychological Health Center of Excellence and the Navy’s clinical psychology specialty leader. She is board certified in clinical psychology and police and public safety psychology.

The views expressed in Clinician's Corner blogs are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Psychological Health Center of Excellence or Department of Defense.


  • Loved this insight, I have daughters that I've heard a few of these phrases from but some I have not. I'm sure there are things they don't tell me about their experiences and that's ok too. Thank you for writing this article and giving even more reason to be here. When I took that oath the first day in orientation, I cried a few tears because I've heard my daughters and husband say the exact same oath and I always wanted to say it! I'm glad I'm here at this time in my place of work to be a part of this historical medical moment. We are still waiting on the surge here, we hope it isn't too bad. Thanks again, Cindy

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