Got the Keys? 5 Tips to be a Stress-Free DD

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The following post was contributed by Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention’s Keep What You’ve Earned campaign (KWYE), helping Sailors and families drink responsibly and maintain their Behavioral Fitness. For additional KWYE resources, visit www.nadap.navy.mil.

So, you’ve decided to Give the Gift of a Designated Driver (DD) to your shipmates, saving a few dollars out of your holiday spending budget and potentially saving lives. Good move. Whether you’re a DD rookie or seasoned vet, a few tips can help you enjoy your night out sans alcohol and spare you some headaches along the way (because even though you won’t wakeup with a hangover, not planning ahead can turn a fun night into frustrating one).

  1. Choose a day that works for you.

While there’s never a bad time to a DD, you may want to give some thought to when you’ll be ready and willing to serve. Maybe Thursday nights are best for you or you prefer weekends since your days usually start early. If you don’t have a preference, consider whether there are certain circumstances where you may have a harder time totally avoiding alcohol. If you know you’ll be tempted to have a few brews while watching Monday Night Football at the bar, don’t put yourself and others at risk if you don’t think you’ll truly spend the evening alcohol-free. Plan for you and your friends to use a ride-sharing service to and from the bar instead. The Keep What You’ve Earned campaign’s Pier Pressure mobile app offers easy access to Uber and Lyft, as well as quick tools to help you gauge your drinking when you’re not serving as a DD, like a blood alcohol content estimator and calorie counter. Download on the Apple App Store or Google Play today so it’s already on your phone when you need it.

  1. Make a list and check it twice.

Who’s coming? Where are you going? What time are you leaving? Set a plan that you’re comfortable with since you’re the driver. If there are more people than there are seatbelts in the car, enlist another person to take the pledge and drive. Agree on what stops you’ll make ahead of time, what time you’ll leave and where you’ll meet at the end of the night. And—because trying to convince someone who’s had a few drinks that it’s time to go isn’t fun for anyone—make an agreement that everyone comes in together and leaves together. No exceptions.

  1. Get the keys before you head out.

Decide on whose car you’re driving and get the keys before you leave so you won’t have to wrestle for them later. This is the safest way to ensure that no one who has been drinking ends up behind the wheel. It’s also a physical reminder of your commitment to your shipmates that you won’t drink and will get everyone home safely.

  1. No alcohol – at all!

A DD isn’t just the least drunk of the bunch or the one who’s only had a sip or two – it’s the person who has agreed ahead of time not to consume any alcohol. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t drink with your friends. Toss back a mocktail (or a few since you don’t have to worry about getting drunk—just watch out for hidden sugars). Try OPNAV N17 Dietician Lt. Pamela Gregory’s “Ginger Lime Fizz.” Ask the bartender to combine three parts ginger beer and one part seltzer water with a few squeezes of lime. You can also nix the rum in a traditional mojito recipe for a mocktail version. Try it with muddled cranberries or a splash of cranberry juice for a seasonal spin. Don’t forget to alternate your rounds with water so that everyone is pacing themselves.

  1. Turn down for what?

While not consuming alcohol is one of the most important parts of your commitment, it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the party. If you show your shipmates that you can still have a good time without alcohol, they’ll be willing to step up to the plate next time and be a DD. So, turn up! You’ll surely be the winner at pool or darts, and may even score a non-alcoholic drink or appetizer courtesy the bar if they offer goodies for DDs (ask!). If you’re out with a big group, hang out with another person who isn’t drinking, like the DD for the other car. People-watch together, shoot pool, dance, watch the game…just don’t take or post videos or photos of your friends who may be partying a little too hard. They probably won’t appreciate the laughs at their expense the next morning.

Above all, be proud of yourself and connect with the meaning behind your commitment. Responsible DDs have contributed to alcohol related incidents decreasing in the Navy since 2013. While it feels good to give to others, it also doesn’t hurt if your shipmates find small ways to show their appreciation as well. After all, helping them avoid a DUI can save them anywhere from $10,000 to $1 million over their lifetime. That’s worthy of an appetizer or mocktail courtesy of your crew (shipmates, take note!).

This FITmas, give the gift of a designated driver to help your shipmates celebrate responsibly and keep what they’ve earned.

Concerned about alcohol use? The Navy has a non-disciplinary self-referral process that allows Sailors to get treatment and remain on active-duty. Learn more on the Pier Pressure app (click Tools > Self-Referral) or visit www.nadap.navy.mil.

Celebrate This FITmas!

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When you think about the holiday season, what comes to mind? Eating way too much and feeling like there’s no time to exercise? Feeling stressed out, maybe because of money issues from holiday purchases? Worrying about how to deal with family without pulling all your hair out? Having a hard time feeling grateful because it seems like there’s just always something that comes up to cause more stress? Okay, hopefully not all of that. But in spite of the great opportunity to reconnect with family and friends and share love, laughs, food, and fun, sometimes, the holidays can be a difficult time with unique challenges to navigate.

That’s where 21 Days of Total Sailor FITmas come in! From December 14, 2017 through January 3, 2018, the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign will have tools, tips and tricks to help you develop and continue to build healthy habits that you can sustain into the New Year and beyond. “Healthy habits” may sound like eating well and doing cardio, but for the 21 Days of Total Sailor FITmas, it’s much more than that. It’s about taking proactive steps that can help you reach your goals related to physical fitness, behavioral health, financial responsibility, psychological and emotional well-being, family relationship strength and spiritual wellness.

We will offer tips on maintaining your physical fitness routine when you’re short on time and space, ways that journaling and gratitude can improve your mood, the positive impacts of mindfulness, links between nutrition and stress levels, how screen time isn’t just something to worry about for toddlers and much more. Practical and helpful action steps will allow you, friends and family members to learn things to incorporate into daily life to improve multiple facets of fitness and get a head start on those New Year’s resolutions!

And, keeping with the holiday theme of connection, the 21 Days of Total Sailor FITmas will include tips from Navy partners in the 21st Century Sailor Office, the Navy & Marine Corps Public Health Center, the Navy Chaplain Corps, as well as Guard Your Health, Real Warriors Campaign and the Human Performance Resource Center.

Unwrap new FITmas tools this season by following Navy Operational Stress Control on Facebook, on Twitter and WordPress. And don’t be a Grinch! Share the resources and tips with your shipmates, friends and family, too!

What are you and your family grateful for this season? Kick off the 21 Days of Total Sailor FITmas by sharing your inspiration through the 1 Small ACT Photo Gallery:

  1. Visit http://go.usa.gov/x8qNu to select and print a 1 Small ACT Sign from the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign webpage. Choose from a seasonal gratitude sign to share what you and/or your family are grateful for, or our Small ACT Selfie sign to share your commitment to be there for yourself or others.
  2. Personalize your sign and take a photo with you and/or your family holding it.
  3. Submit your photo to navysuicideprevention@gmail.com or upload to Facebook and tag @U.S. Navy Operational Stress Control for inclusion in the gallery on Facebook and Flickr.

Stress Reduction Techniques for High-Stress Operations

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Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog provided courtesy of the Real Warriors Campaign. Navy Suicide Prevention Branch is a proud partner of the Real Warriors Campaign. To learn more, visit www.realwarriors.net.

Any role in the military can be stressful. However, for those like special operators, explosive ordinance technicians, submariners, aviators and others, stress is a significant part of the job. The extreme stress faced by these warriors, and others, can lead to psychological health concerns.

Recent research focusing on special operations forces (SOF) highlights the risks faced by service members working in any high-stress role. Heavy physical, mental and emotional strain can lead to psychological health concerns. These can include depression, anxiety or posttraumatic stress disorder.

It is important for all warriors to learn stress-management techniques. Stress can cause anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping, irritability, heavy drinking or other concerns. If you experience any of these symptoms, or have other concerns, talk to a health care provider now. Your provider can address your concerns and help you develop a stress-management plan. Getting care early helps you stay mission ready. It also avoids new or worsening symptoms.

The Effects of Stress on SOF

SOF personnel are an example of service members supporting high-stress operations. The nature of their work is sensitive, and they make frequent deployments, often on short notice. They have strong resilience skills because of SOF selection screenings and their follow-on training. However, they aren’t immune to the effects of high-stress operations. In one survey about twice as many members of SOF units reported symptoms associated with PTSD when compared to members of conventional units.

Others, like drone pilots, face similar stressors. Executing critical missions, dealing with life-and-death decisions and safeguarding classified information all adds up. That makes robust skills for managing stress crucial if you’re in these types of roles.

Skills That Aid Job Performance Under High Stress

The ability to perform under high stress is critical to mission readiness. Service members, like special operators, use stress inoculation training to stay focused and effective when the going gets tough. This type of training teaches you skills to manage stress responses at critical times by:

  • Controlling emotions. Reduce negative thinking and fear. This avoids distracting thoughts during a critical mission.
  • Calming physical reactions to stress. Use regular, slow breathing from your diaphragm and progressive muscle relaxation. This reduces your heart rate and anxiety.
  • Training with repetition. Repeat tasks that require a consistent response until you can do them on autopilot.
  • Visualizing tasks. Envision successfully using your skills in action right before you need them.
  • Learning prioritization. Order tasks to deal with information overload and manage multiple high-priority assignments at the same time.
  • Building team skills. Communicate, give constructive feedback, coordinate group efforts and ask for help when needed.

Additional skills woven into service-specific trainings for high-stress operations include:

  • Goal-setting
  • Persistence
  • Situational awareness
  • Attentional conditioning
  • Muscle control

Stress Reduction Techniques

All warriors with high-stress jobs can benefit from basic stress-reduction techniques. To reduce stress:

  • Exercise regularly. Cardio and strength training reduce stress levels and keep you mission ready.
  • Get good sleep. Poor sleep or not enough sleep has a significant negative impact on wellbeing.
  • Eat healthy. A good diet helps keep your body and mind in shape.
  • Participate in relaxing activities. Breathing-based meditation and yoga, for example, can improve symptoms and reduce anxiety.
  • Stay connected. The support of friends and family improves psychological health when facing stress.

Remember, reaching out is a sign of strength. If you or a loved one needs additional support, contact the Psychological Health Resource Center 24/7 to confidentially speak with trained health resource consultants, call 866-966-1020 or use the Real Warriors Live Chat. You can also visit our “Seek Help, Find Care” page to see a list of key psychological health resources.

Additional Resources:

Suicide Prevention Resources for Military Families

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Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog provided courtesy of the Real Warriors Campaign. Navy Suicide Prevention Branch is a proud partner of the Real Warriors Campaign. To learn more, visit www.realwarriors.net.

Suicide is a national health problem that is preventable. Its prevention is of special concern to the military community because active-duty service members and veterans account for approximately 20-22 percent of all deaths from suicide in the United States.

Use the information below to learn how to recognize suicide risk. With this knowledge, you can help your loved one get the care and support that he or she needs.

Risk Factors and Warning Signs of Suicide

Service members and veterans face many stressors that can increase their risk for suicide. Risk factors include both combat and peacetime challenges, like traumatic experiences and frequent moves. Left unaddressed, stressors can become overwhelming. Service members and veterans may be more vulnerable to substance use disorders and mood disorders because of high levels of stress. Both disorders are associated with military suicide. Other stressors that increase suicide risk include relationship problems, work problems and disciplinary or legal issues.

Some behaviors may be warning signs that indicate a warrior is at high risk for suicide. If any of the following are impacting your warrior’s daily life—or are new, persistent or worsening—you should encourage your warrior to get help right away.

  • Talking or writing about self-harm, suicide or death
  • Having trouble sleeping or oversleeping
  • Withdrawing from friends, family or society
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Engaging in risky or reckless behaviors
  • Experiencing rage or excessive anger
  • Expressing anxiety, agitation or hopelessness
  • Showing dramatic changes in mood

How to Get Help for Your Loved One

Each service has a suicide prevention program that involves observation, dialogue, support and action. Examples include the Army’s “ACE: Ask, Care, Escort” and the Navy’s “ACT: Ask, Care, Treat.” You can use any of these approaches to help a service member or veteran. It is most important to recognize when a warrior is in crisis. Then talk to that warrior, provide support and get help to prevent suicide.

If you think someone is at risk, you can:

  • Ask the person if he or she is thinking about suicide. Be caring, but direct.
  • Call 911 if they are an immediate danger to themselves or those around them.
  • Remove weapons, drugs or other dangerous items from their environment.
  • Stay with the person in crisis until help arrives.
    • If you are on the phone with a person in crisis, stay on the line with that person and use another phone to call 911.

If you or a warrior you know needs help, there are many resources available including:

Service-Specific Suicide Prevention Programs and Resources

Remember, reaching out is a sign of strength. If you or a loved one needs additional support, contact the DCoE Outreach Center 24/7 to confidentially speak with trained health resource consultants, call 866-966-1020 or use the Real Warriors Live Chat. You can also visit our “Seek Help, Find Care” page to see a list of key psychological health resources.

Fall into Healthy Stress Navigation with “Sailors on the Street”

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Self-care isn’t just important, it’s essential. Picture this:

You’re feeling overwhelmed at work. You have overdue projects piling up, both at work and at home. Perhaps you are deployed or deploying soon and your “to do” list feels endless.  It seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day, so you skip lunch one day. Then maybe you skip the gym the next, and then by Friday you have cut the number of hours you’re sleeping to four hours per night.

Any of this sound familiar?

When we’re stressed, self-care is typically the first thing to go, and that only makes matters worse. Good self-care can be a challenge for many and is unique for everyone, but overall includes basic activities that promote physical and emotional well-being.

Autumn is a great time to “fall” in love with taking care of your mind, body and spirit by taking the time to re-evaluate, adjust and establish a cohesive self-care strategy and routine. And this fall, you can gain some inspiration and motivation from your shipmates.

This October, the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign is launching a series of “Sailor on the Street” videos, with Sailors from around the fleet sharing some of their personal tips, hacks, opinions and personal experiences with stress, stress navigation and self-care. Real Sailors, giving their real take. All videos are also accompanied by Small ACTs and actionable steps that you can take to help navigate stress, such as reaching out to the DoD BeThere Peer Support Call and Outreach Center or doing a quick breathing exercise.

You can check out some of the things your shipmates are doing to get a handle on their stress here:

Like all Every Sailor, Every Day products, these videos are not a one-off, standalone effort to educate Sailors about stress navigation, but rather a sustainable and flexible way to start conversations about stress navigation and self-care strategies. These videos can be used as ice breakers for Operational Stress Control and/or life-skills trainings as well as for small group discussions. They can be shared on social media to help generate conversations and awareness about the importance of self-care strategies.

Don’t let self-care “fall” by the wayside this autumn. Even when it seems like every moment should be dedicated to work and personal life responsibilities, take some time to incorporate the things that help you feel a little less stressed into your life. And encourage your friends, family, and shipmates to do the same. Get out and do something for yourself with the people in your life you care about. Take a walk with a friend. Cook one of your favorite meals with a relative. Work out with a shipmate who may be feeling like their plate is full. Or just be there to listen to someone who needs to talk. Those Small ACTs can be a great way to reset and relieve stress.