Self-Care for Those Supporting Others

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If you’ve ever provided support to a loved one when they are facing a crisis, challenge, traumatic or stressful event, you may know how difficult it can be to maintain your own emotional and mental health. While practicing self-care is important throughout life’s ups and downs, it is especially critical to remember when supporting others during trying times. Whether you’re helping a friend that has a mental health challenge or a family member dealing with substance misuse, maintaining your self-care plan is critical to ensuring your own well-being.

Although it may feel selfish or unwarranted to practice personal self-care when a loved one is facing challenges, continuing to make healthy choices will ultimately empower you to better take care of them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights how “taking care of your emotional health during an emergency will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family. Self-care during an emergency will help your long-term healing.”

Here are a few ways to take care of yourself when supporting a loved one:

Stay close to your routine. A huge part of self-care is upholding your established schedule. Eat healthy meals, get a full night of sleep and exercise when you can. Focus on work and family responsibilities one task at a time.

Talk to someone. Tap in to your own support network to bolster your relationship health when caring for others. The National Institutes of Health’s Social Wellness Toolkit offers several checklists for how to build healthy relationships during a variety of situations. Even though it may feel uncomfortable to ask for individual help while a loved one is suffering, connecting with others will help you stay sharp and motivated. Go to an event, plan a meal with family or video chat with a trusted friend.

Let go of negative feelings. If you have decision-making power over a loved one’s stressful or traumatic event, try to reframe your perspective in order to protect your own health. Caregiver.org recommends the following: “Change ‘guilt’ to ‘regret.’ Guilt is you did something wrong, regret is that you are in a difficult situation and sometimes you have to make difficult decisions, but they are not wrong.” Keep in mind that the situation your loved one is facing is likely temporary. Recognizing small positive moments on a daily basis is also a useful way to maintain a more resilient headspace.

Dedicate time for full-on relaxation. You may feel like you’re tied to your phone to receive the latest updates on a loved one’s challenges, and then even more pressure to relay updates to other friends and family. When your attention is concentrated on helping someone, allot specific times to put your digital devices away and redirect your focus to a relaxing activity. Consider journaling, reading a book, going for a walk or doing a deep breathing exercise to meditate. Try to take regular breaks, even if you can only step away for a few minutes throughout the day to unwind.

Remove the noise. Consider unsubscribing to social media and email push notifications on your phone to allow for more space to focus on what’s most important to you. Reducing the amount of unnecessary information coming your way may help you feel less overwhelmed when supporting a loved one. Pressing pause on your news consumption can also help you clear your mind. Minimize any pressure you may be putting on yourself to respond quickly to outside friends and family that may not know what you or your loved one is going through.

Understand your role and its limits. As much as you may think that caring for or supporting your loved one falls on your shoulders, you will likely not be able to solve all of their problems alone. Ask people in your support network for resources and nudge your loved one to consider meeting with a mental health specialist or other relevant medical provider if necessary. Setting boundaries and fostering a wider support network for your friend or family member will help you navigate your own stressors and create some potentially needed distance from the situation.

For a full list of mental health hotlines and other resources, review this article.

Tips for Staying Positive during Uncertain Times

Relaxed adult man breathing fresh air in a forestCurrent conversations about COVID-19 are pervasive. Whether you’re talking to your fellow Sailors in-person about the latest updates or connecting with friends and family digitally, concern about the impact of COVID-19 remains widespread across the globe. Uncertainty and ambiguous situations can often produce negative emotions, but there are many healthy ways to cope.

If you are finding yourself with limited mobility or feeling a heightened sense of stress, you are not alone. Consider these activities and related NavyNavStress blog posts for improving your health and well-being:

Reach out to your support network. Since social distancing continues to be recommended by federal public health professionals, it is important to determine new and creative ways to connect with your loved ones. Consider setting up regular times to video chat with your friends, plan virtual dinner dates with your long-distance partner or organize a digital happy hour with your friends or colleagues. You can also do a workout routine with a shipmate over a video chat and send funny photos or memes to your friends to let them know you care. For more:

Maintain your healthy habits. If your typical work and family routine feels disrupted, remain flexible in upholding your established activities. Go on walks for fresh air and cook meals with your family. Reframe this uncertain time as an opportunity to even develop new practices to improve your well-being. Be kind to yourself and others when adjusting to new schedules. For more:

Practice mindfulness. With the news changing every day, it may feel like you’ve lost a sense of control over your psychological and emotional wellness. Take time to push pause and cultivate gratitude for the little joys in life. Relish in small, positive tasks like reading a book or writing a letter to a loved one. You may have more time to dedicate to activities that fall by the wayside during your normal daily responsibilities. For more:

To learn more about mental health in the time of COVID-19, check out the following posts:

For the latest military-centric updates on COVID-19, visit the following resource hubs:

For additional holistic health and wellness tips, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Relax and Recharge for a Good Night of Sleep

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Going to sleep at night can be easier said than done. Whether you’re up late reflecting on the past or thinking about the future, our minds may need additional prompting in order to slow down before bed. From our emotional well-being, to our safety, to supporting our circadian rhythm, maintaining healthy sleep habits and routines positively impacts several aspects of our health.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute outlines how sleep deficiency occurs if you have one or more of the following experiences:

  • You don’t get enough sleep (sleep deprivation)
  • You sleep at the wrong time of day (that is, you’re out of sync with your body’s natural clock)
  • You don’t sleep well or get all of the different types of sleep that your body needs
  • You have a sleep disorder that prevents you from getting enough sleep or causes poor quality sleep

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute discusses how sleep deficiency can make you “have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night for optimal health.

Here are a few ideas on how to unwind before going to sleep:

Read a hardcover book or magazine. Scrolling through social media accounts, watching online videos or reading articles from a phone or laptop does not help our minds relax and get ready for sleep. Many sleep experts even recommend removing all digital devices from your bedroom or sleeping area. Although we live in a world of constant digital connectivity, swapping your phone for a book will help you relax and sleep more peacefully through the night.

Write down your thoughts. Instead of ruminating about an experience, take time to journal about your thoughts and experiences to help contextualize them before you go to sleep. For tips on how to get started journaling, check out this article.

Practice physical self-care. Exercise, stretch and/or take a bath to relax your muscles before going to sleep. Consistent exercise and movement throughout the day will also help you sleep better.

Do some light cleaning. Whether it’s your room, apartment, barracks or living space, take time before you go to bed to fold laundry, wipe down your counters or straighten up your papers. Focusing on small tasks each night will help you settle down with a sense of accomplishment and lead to a more relaxing wake up.

Meditate in a way that works for you. Several mobile applications now focus on guiding individuals through breathing and meditation activities. If you have already found a successful way to meditate, consider expanding your sensory experience by using a white noise machine or listening to nature sounds.

Prep for the next day. If you are feeling anxious about what the next day may bring, consider ways for how you can feel more empowered to take on new challenges and opportunities. Consider creating a to-do or goals list for the next day, checking the weather or packing your lunch.

For more ideas on how to get a better night of sleep, review the following items:

Five Unexpected Ways to Start a Conversation about Food

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Living a healthier lifestyle boils down to the choices we make. What we decide to eat impacts our well-being. Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet can help you feel more energized during a longer gym session, boost your immunity and improve your mood. March is National Nutrition Month, so take some time to test your own nutritional knowledge and encourage your shipmates to refresh their own healthy habits.

Here are five ways to mindfully think about food with yourself and your fellow Sailors this month:

Learn about portion sizes. Think you know how the average size of a chicken Caesar salad or pepperoni pizza changed over time? Take the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Portion Distortion quiz to see what a portion 20 years ago compares to a portion now.

Learn about nutrition labels. Unhealthy snacks are pervasive in our culture, which makes learning how to choose the right snacks so important. Engage with the Snack Shack Game from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to become a more knowledgeable consumer.

Leverage barracks basics. The Navy Bachelor Housing Barracks Cookbook offers healthy and simple meal options directly from your fellow Sailors. Round up some buddies from your unit to try making these Sailor-endorsed meals.

Challenge yourself. Eating more fruits and vegetables will never go out of style. Consider completing the 30-Day Fruit and Veggie Challenge from the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center to jumpstart healthy habits. If you want to help yourself and your team adhere to a fitness or nutrition plan, try the Crews Into Shape challenge.

Play Suduko – with a twist. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers Nutrition Suduko, a fun way to think about healthy choices. Check out the easy Nutrition Suduko and moderate Nutrition Suduko options, and challenge your friends to play other games.

15 Simple Ways to Show Someone You Care

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By establishing and maintaining a thriving support network, you can improve your own well-being. No matter the type of relationship, investing in your connections can strengthen your communication skills and help build personal resilience. Although building trust and rapport with others take time, the healthy relationships you prioritize in your life can help you navigate challenging situations and find new opportunities for growth. Whether it’s a shipmate, a coworker, a friend, a family member or someone else important to you, it is important to show others that you care about them. Cultivating strong social bonds often directly influences our own happiness.

Consider these easy ways to show someone close to you that you care this year:

Ask them how they are doing. This may seem like a no brainer, but some of your fellow Sailors may need a bit of a nudge to share something that’s on their mind. Stay in touch with family, friends and neighbors in person, online or by phone to see how they are doing. Use active listening: focus on what someone else is saying before responding with your insight and perspective.

Write them a handwritten letter. Writing a heartfelt note to a friend can brighten their day and show your appreciation for their presence in your life. Whether it’s for their birthday, or to provide support to them during a difficult time, or to thank a shipmate for going above and beyond, taking the time to put pen to paper highlights your ability to support them. Be authentic, open and emotive in your messages.

Give them a shout out on social media. For a more public way to highlight your camaraderie, give your friend or family member a quick shout out on social media. Post a picture of you with them and express the qualities that make them special to you.

Make them their favorite drink. Surprise a shipmate by giving them a tea, coffee, juice or blended smoothie to help boost their mood. Carving out a mindful moment may be just what someone needs to get through a stressful time.

Create a curated playlist. Show someone you care through creative means by making them a tailored music or podcast playlist. Consider working collaboratively with your shipmates or unit to make a list of songs, artists or podcast episodes to enjoy together.

Lend them your favorite book. If you have a book that’s impacted you positively, consider loaning it out to someone. For an extra dose of thoughtfulness, annotate parts of the book that remind you of the person or your favorite passages for easy skimming.

Send them a motivational quote. Although it may sound cheesy, passing on words of wisdom may help a shipmate have a refreshed perspective on a situation. Everyone interprets information and experiences differently, but encouraging and positive quotes may help establish connectedness.

Initiate plans on a consistent basis. Invite them to join you in a healthy activity – go to the gym with a fellow Sailor, attend a cultural event with your family or bring a friend to a cooking class for a new way to get creative. This will show them that you are committed to investing in your relationship and excited about spending quality time together.

Help free up their schedule. If a shipmate needs help caring for a baby, dog or cat, offer to take a shift so they have time to complete other activities. Even if they have not asked for help, expressing that you are available and willing to provide support will go a long way.

Introduce them to someone new. If you think one person close to you would benefit from getting to know someone else in your support network, make an introduction to bring them together. You may help foster new friendships or mentoring opportunities.

Give them a compliment. Expressing kind words is an instant way to open the door to increased positivity and connection. For ideas on how to give professional compliments to your fellow Sailors, check out this blog post.

Celebrate their successes. When your shipmate or someone else close to you succeeds, take a moment to recognize them – send them flowers, share their good news with others or treat them to something special. They will appreciate your support and feel even more confident about their recent win.

Offer to teach them something. Informally mentoring someone may help them discover new passion or hobby. If you’re an expert at using gym equipment for a full body workout or a photography pro, volunteer to show them the ropes.

Use direct language. Consider opportunities to say things like, “I’m thinking of you” or “This [event, idea, statement] made me think of you.” Showing people that you are actively taking the role they play in your life seriously is an easy way to be considerate.

Respect their need for space. If someone close to you is going through a particularly busy time or another trying life event, maintain healthy boundaries to ensure they can improve their well-being.

For additional holistic health and wellness tips for Sailors and families, visit us on Facebook and Twitter.