Category Archives: Behavioral Fitness

Words Matter: Power of Caring

Caring Cards FB 5 FINAL (002)While it may be easy to notice that a fellow shipmate or loved one isn’t acting like themselves, it may be hard to know what you can do to respond. Sometimes, all it may take to bolster someone’s outlook is a simple gesture. Whether you send a quick text or a message on social media to a friend on deployment or send a handwritten letter to a family member that lives in a different state, offering simple words of support and concern can have a positive impact on a loved one’s psychological health.

The Navy’s Suicide Prevention Program’s Every Sailor, Every Day campaign (ESED) empowers Sailors to reach out to their shipmates and ACT (Ask, Care, Treat) if they notice something out of the norm. One critical element of ACT is “Care,” which means to listen without judgment and with empathy. Gestures of “Care” do not need to be big – 1 Small ACT can make a difference and save a life.

To coincide with National Mental Health Month in May and address mental health concerns around COVID-19, the ESED campaign created “Caring Connections,” an initiative encouraging Sailors and the Navy community to actively reach out to peers, shipmates, friends, family members and their loved ones to facilitate connectedness. Several postcard-style templates can be accessed on the NavStress Facebook and Twitter. Download and share all graphics on Flickr. Use these as templates and feel free to write your own message on them for added personalization.

Caring Cards Screenshot 2For those potentially at risk for suicide, several studies have shown that regularly sharing caring words and messages can help individuals feel more connected. Protective factors against suicide include: sense of community and belonging, strong connections with family and friends, sense of purpose and personal fulfillment and contribution or responsibility to others.

To reflect on your own capacity for empathy and how you can strengthen you support to others, take this Empathy Quiz from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

For inspiration on how to curate caring messages for others, review the Caring Contacts toolkit from NowMattersNow.org.

For more resources to consider for Mental Health Month, visit the following links for actionable ideas:

If you’d like more information for Mental Health Month, check out the following organizations:

Tips for Maximizing Your Next Workout

Young couple doing their stretches in the parkIt’s tempting to immediately hit the ground running – literally. While you may be tempted to start or end your workout without much thought, it’s important to take the time to properly warm up and cool down your body. Whether you’re exercising at home or practicing safe physical distancing while working out with a friend, taking a few extra minutes before and after your workout may help increase your stamina and prevent soreness and injuries. Warming up and cooling down is beneficial to any fitness routine even if you aren’t using equipment to exercise, but is especially important during aerobic exercise.

Check out these ideas on how to effectively make the most of your fitness routine:

Getting ready to move doesn’t have to just include physical preparedness – you can also gear up your mind in tandem with your body. Starting off your fitness routine in a positive headspace may help those endorphins last the extra mile. While setting an intention or goal before exercising is commonly practiced in mindfulness-oriented exercises like yoga, it can be used in any fitness environment.

Review our other blogs on physical fitness:

 

 

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.

Three Easy Tips for Improving Your Heart Health

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While Valentine’s Day gets the majority of the heart-related attention in February, there’s another reason to celebrate – February marks American Heart Month, an observance focused on raising awareness about maintaining a healthy heart through proactive prevention. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Even if you are young and healthy, it is important to begin tracking and monitoring your heart’s health. Healthy habits formed in early adulthood can have long-lasting positive impacts on your well-being. Although some individuals may face certain risk factors for this disease outside of their control, the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center outlines how certain medical conditions associated with heart health are “controllable, and entirely preventable in some cases with lifestyle changes.”

Here are a few ideas for improving your heart health:

Understand your potential risks. Consider making an appointment with your primary care physician at least once a year to exclusively discuss and evaluate your heart health.  Be open about your family history, discuss your current medications and routinely monitor your cholesterol. You can also use self-service blood pressure kiosks located at several pharmacies and drug stores to check-in on your levels. The American Heart Association’s My Life Check® self-assessment tool can provide insight in to your personal risk factors.

Get your heart pumping. While any form of routine exercise is likely to bolster your holistic health, this blog from Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends focusing on three types of exercise for your heart: aerobic, resistance training and flexibility-centric movements. Boosting your endurance and strength doesn’t always have to happen at a gym, and you can always consult your Command Fitness Leader for new ideas on how to stay active. No matter your preferred activity, reducing your stress levels through exercise can also improve your heart health.

Practice healthy eating. Ingredients found in processed food may lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and even heart disease. Building balanced meals and incorporating healthy options as much as possible is important to maintaining your health. NHLBI’s comprehensive set of heart healthy eating resources offers recipe ideas and tailored eating plans. From avocado and shrimp spring rolls to banana oat cookies, this list of aggregated recipes by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Million Hearts® 2022 initiative outlines creative ideas for eating mindfully.

Improving your overall health doesn’t just start and end with making sure your heart is strong. Push forward with your other 2020 resolutions and your heart, as well as the rest of your body and mind, will thank you.

Resources for Establishing Healthy Relationships and Boundaries

Phone call from unknown number late at night. Scam, fraud or phishing with smartphone concept. Prank caller, scammer or stranger. Man answering to incoming call. Hoax person with fake identity.

Healthy relationships are built on fundamental tenants of respect, honesty, support and equality.  The beginning of the year is a great time to check in on your interpersonal relationships with your friends, family and peers to set healthy boundaries.  Recognizing and responding to unhealthy behaviors in your interpersonal relationships is critical to your emotional and relationship health.  January marks National Stalking Awareness Month, a time to educate yourself and others about stalking.

Recognized as a crime in all 50 states, the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women defines stalking as “engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress.”  In 2015, The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that nearly 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men were victims of stalking.

Stalking can be difficult to recognize, especially when the entertainment industry often romanticizes persistence in relationships as a form of flattery.  The National Center for Victims of Crime’s Stalking Resource center outlines the following behaviors of stalkers:

  • Repeatedly call you, including hang-ups.
  • Follow you and show up wherever you are.
  • Send unwanted gifts, letters, texts, or e-mails.
  • Damage your home, car, or other property.
  • Monitor your phone calls or computer use.
  • Use technology, like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS), to track where you go.
  • Drive by or hang out at your home, school, or work.
  • Threaten to hurt you, your family, friends, or pets.
  • Find out about you by using public records or on-line search services, hiring investigators, going through your garbage, or contacting friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers.
  • Other actions that control, track, or frighten you.

To learn more about stalking and other unhealthy relationship behaviors, visit the following resources:

If you or someone you know needs help, utilize the following hotlines:

  • National Center for Victims of Crime: 1-855-4-VICTIM (1-855-484-2846)
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−7233
  • The National Sexual Assault Hotline:  1-800-656-HOPE (4673)