A monthly exploration of the many benefits available to you through your TRICARE health plan.
The Doctor Is In offers tools, information and resources focused on topics that are trending and may be affecting you and your family. Your TRICARE health benefit is robust – and we want to make sure you take advantage of everything your benefit has to offer.
Written by Dr. Joyce Grissom, HNFS Chief Medical Officer
I am so happy to welcome the New Year, a time to turn the page on the previous year and start anew. While the pandemic continues, we are seeing that the current omicron variant generally produces illnesses that don’t last as long and are less clinically severe. My sincere hope for 2022 is that we are well on our way to learning how to live with this new virus safely so we can not only recover our inner peace, but our relationships with each other. Please, everyone – keep up with your vaccinations and use caution before attending get-togethers.
Let’s leave this topic for now and move on to a renewed focus on a healthy physical and mental lifestyle for the New Year.
During the pandemic, we’ve seen increases in sales of home fitness equipment and downloads of fitness apps. Many people discovered or rediscovered inexpensive approaches to fitness such as walking or jogging or the use of inexpensive resistance bands. And yet, an estimated 39% of patients gained weight during the pandemic? I was one of those. My excuse is stress. An increase in cortisol (our stress hormone) can be tied to an increased intake of comfort foods, many of which are high in salt or fat or both. High levels of cortisol are also associated with increased belly fat and reduced lean muscle mass. Muscle burns fat, and the less muscle we have, the fewer calories we burn at rest. You can see the cycle. My personal journey to combat this will be to replace that burnt out fuse in my treadmill and hit the heavy bag and rowing machine the kids got me for Christmas. What will your journey look like?
Looking to quit tobacco in the New Year? Cigarette sales increased 1% in 2020 compared to an annual decline of 4-5% since 2015. Tobacco use can harm nearly every organ system in your body. Using tobacco can also worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression. I encourage you to check out the multiple tobacco cessation resources available, including the Department of Defense’s YouCanQuit2 program and Health Net Federal Services’ Time to Quit online course.
Sleep is often overlooked as a lifestyle and health promotion opportunity. According to the National Institutes of Health, the pandemic has increased problems with sleep for many, resulting in widespread “corona-somnia.” Lack of sleep affects our immune system, our metabolism, even our success in negotiating work, school and relationships successfully! Sleep deficits are associated with heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and mortality, in general. Sleep deprivation can increase the risk of workplace and vehicular accidents. If stress from the ongoing pandemic is impacting your sleep habits, our Stress Management online course may help.
The start of a New Year is a time many people use to make changes. Resolutions are promises we make largely to ourselves. Yet, research suggests that fewer than half of our New Year’s resolutions survive to see the end of January. Successful resolutions are kept relatively easy and attainable. Start with small, incremental goals instead of giant changes. It is not too late to start now for 2022 – identify a few small and attainable goals that you can achieve this year. Or focus on just one small goal at a time and maybe pick up a second goal once you reach the first. Give yourself permission to slip up without abandoning the effort entirely. We are human, everyone has setbacks – the most important part is for you to keep trying.
Health Net Federal Services offers wellness programs that can help you make those healthy changes in the New Year – or whenever you’re ready to start. Practice does not have to make us perfect. Even a little effort makes us better. Here’s to your health and mine in 2022.
1. Harvard Gazette: Did we really gain weight during the pandemic?