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Holiday Stress: Tips for Coping

Begin with a one-week plan in the Mood Coach app

The countdown to Thanksgiving is on. Long, warm summer days are behind us, and the crisp scent of autumn is in the air. While a new season brings new beginnings, holidays can also bring on seasonal stress. As fall is in full effect, Veterans who regularly manage symptoms related to PTSD, pain, or other chronic conditions may struggle to keep their mood positive. VA can help this autumn with its mobile app, Mood Coach.

Mood Coach encourages Veterans to participate in positive activities and connect with important people in your life. Practicing these steps can reduce negative feelings and boost your mood. It has tools to help schedule enjoyable activities, such as going for a walk or getting dinner with a friend and monitor your mood levels. This app helps Veterans practice and learn Behavioral Activation. Currently, it's available for download to iPhones.

How to get started with Mood Coach?

After downloading Mood Coach from the VA Mobile App Store, launch the app. It'll prompt you to set up a one-week plan. Here's how to customize it in six easy steps:

  1. Choose a start date for when you want to put your plan into action

  2. Select six value areas you'd like to work on, such as friendships, mental and physical health, and employment

  3. For each value, select an activity level:

    • Easy (schedule and complete 1 activity)

    • Medium (schedule and complete 3 activities)

    • Advanced (schedule and complete 5+ activities)

  4. Once you choose all six values, you're ready to begin adding activities

  5. Rate each activity in terms of difficulty, fun, and importance

    • Once completed, you'll earn points based on those ratings

  6. Schedule the date and time for each activity, so you don't forget during the week

How to track progress

Make sure you record that you completed each scheduled activity. After the week is over, you can view your plan history and challenge yourself next week to complete more activities, or ones with higher points.

Daily mood ratings

The 'Daily Mood Ratings' feature of the app lets you record how you're feeling each day or multiple times a day on a scale of zero to ten. Use the 'Mood Rating History' section to monitor your moods and see how they change over time.

Assess my symptoms

Using the 'Assess My Symptoms' tool, you'll answer nine questions about how you've been feeling over the past two weeks and receive feedback based on your answers. Try to schedule an assessment every two weeks, so you view and monitor your progress over time in the 'Assessment History' section.

More support

Don't go it alone. The 'Get Support' feature connects you to crisis resources and helps you find a mental health care provider. You can also add names and contact information of people you trust. It's a good idea to reach out to them when you need help.

What else can I do?

VA Mobile Apps offers an entire suite of mental health apps that are designed to help Veterans manage stress, learn coping skills, and a whole lot more.

If the app isn't for you, you can take My HealtheVet's free online mental health screenings. Results are anonymous and not recorded. You can choose to discuss your results with your health care team using Secure Messaging (sign in required) or bring them with you to your next appointment.

Read more

Treating PTSD: Stay Connected

Depression vs. Blues: Know the Difference

My HealtheVet Screening Tools

Veterans Crisis Line

Created November 4, 2019