Leading By Example: Small ACTs can Make a Difference in Your Life, too

1SA BlogWhile September—Suicide Prevention Month—may be over, our work to promote healthy stress navigation and proactive support continues 365 days a year. We introduced the “1 Small ACT” message to encourage simple ways to make a difference to every Sailor, every day. That commitment starts at the individual level through leading by example and taking care of your own physical and psychological health. Here are a few Small ACTs to help you build a journey toward personal wellness:

  • Personalize Your Stress Navigation Plan. Just as you would program a sober buddy’s number in your phone to avoid getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol, you should take a moment to proactively identify who you’d reach out to and what you will do when you encounter stress and adversity. Take a moment to fill out your Stress Navigation Plan (available here) to help you list your practices for safely navigating stress, and store it in an easily accessible place so that you can be more prepared during life’s inevitable stressful moments. Encourage your shipmates and family to develop their plan as well.
  • Build up to a regular fitness regimen to combat stress. Not getting in your recommended two hours and 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per week? Stop creating excuses and take small steps to build healthy habits. To help you get fit from the inside out, try breaking up your physical activity on busy days. Even a 20 minute run around your building or the deck, or a few sets of lunges each hour in your workspace, can increase endorphins, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters that play a vital role in navigating stress.
  • Swap one “junk food” item with one healthy choice each day. It’s not just about your waistline. Without proper nutrition, your brain cannot adequately communicate with the rest of your body, which can lead to changes in mood. Choosing one healthy swap per day gives you an opportunity to discover whole foods that still satisfy your craving, and may progress to bigger long-term changes. If you’re a burger lover, try using salmon instead of ground beef. The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon can help keep cortisol and adrenaline levels in check, helping to keep you calm after a stressful event.
  • Give thanks. Expressions of gratitude have been linked to greater goal achievement, improved physical health and even an improved ability to navigate memories of traumatic events. Try giving three sincere compliments or reminders of appreciation each day. We feel our best when we help others feel their best as well. After a few days, you may notice that others seem more motivated and connected, and you may feel the same.

The simple possibilities are endless. Whether you decide to make a conscious effort to get more sleep, communicate better with your family, be a more approachable leader or speak with a chaplain to help work through challenges, your actions can motivate your shipmates. When it comes to breaking down the barriers that may prevent others from taking steps toward better health, the Small ACTs we take can have a ripple effect. Check out more creative ways Sailors and members of the Navy community are choosing to support themselves and others in the 1 Small ACT Photo Gallery. Post your 1 Small ACT today—submissions will be accepted through Aug. 31, 2016!

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