Category Archives: Every Sailor Every Day

Connectedness: Relationships Strengthen Resilience

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How connected are you? Many people value their self-reliance – the ability to solve and manage problems on their own. While self-reliance and grit are important qualities, relationships are one of the key principles of resilience.

What is Connectedness?

In its Suicide Prevention Strategic Direction published in 2011, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines connectedness as “the degree to which a person or group is socially close, interrelated, or shares resources with other persons or groups.” Connectedness can include relationships with friends, a spouse or other family members, as well as professional relationships and community ties. No matter what type of relationship is involved, the connection created can have significant positive effects on a person’s well-being. According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Network (2019), “positive and supportive social relationships and community connections can help buffer the effects of risk factors in people’s lives.”

Is There a Connectedness Crisis?

In today’s world, it appears like we are more connected than ever – at least with technology. Social media and mobile communication seem to make it easier to stay close to others. However, a 2018  survey by global health company Cigna of more than 20,000 U.S. adults showed increasing levels of loneliness despite the ability to stay in touch. Some of the key takeaways from the survey were:

  • Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out.
  • Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful and that they are isolated from others.
  • One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people or feel like there are people they can talk to.
  • Only around half of Americans have meaningful in-person social interactions on a daily basis, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family.
  • Generation Z is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.

It’s important to find a balance between healthy use of social media, maintenance of in-person social connection and opportunities to create new relationships. Check out this article from the NavyNavStress blog for tips to help you reset your relationship with social media and your relationship with yourself.

Building Community Connectedness

In addition to unit cohesion and finding meaning in the mission, belonging to a social group can increase a person’s sense of personal value and feelings of connectedness with others. It also gives people access to a larger source of support. According to the CDC (2011), these effects indicate that people who belong to social groups may be more capable of healthy coping in stressful situations. Additionally, group members can notice when someone is struggling with a problem and offer support to that individual. Stronger ties to community organizations may also benefit people by providing better access to formal helping resources outside of the group itself.

A social group may be a formal organization, like a faith-based study group or a petty officer association. They can also be informal, like coworkers who grab lunch together or gym buddies who work out together a few times a week. What’s most important is that the social group is positive and supportive for its members.

For Sailors and their families, two resources to find opportunities for social connection are the Fleet and Family Support Program (FFSP) and the Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) program.  FFSPs support individual and family readiness through a full array of programs and resources which help Navy families to be resilient, well-informed and adaptable to the Navy environment. MWR offers diverse programs with something to interest almost everyone, and the offerings are great opportunities to meet others who share similar interests.

Connecting with a Spouse or Significant Other

A romantic relationship is the closest form of social connectedness for many people. Conversely, the loss of a romantic partner can cause significant loneliness and stress. Navy life can be tough on romantic relationships. Unpredictable schedules, time apart and other factors can make it difficult to sustain and grow romantic partnerships. There are many resources to help, though. One of the most productive options to consider is to attend some form of counseling, and the Navy has several options for Sailors and their loved ones to reclaim their connection. Those resources include non-medical counseling through Military and Family Life Counseling, Navy Counseling, Advocacy and Prevention services  at Fleet and Family Support Centers (FFSCs); Navy chaplains and medical counseling available through a Military Treatment Facility.

Building Connection 1 Small ACT at a Time

Caring is at the heart of connectedness. When interacting with others, remember that 1 Small ACT can make a difference. Like U.S. Navy Operational Stress Control on Facebook or follow @NavStress on Twitter for information from the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign. For additional resources, messages and materials, download the FY-19 1 Small ACT Toolkit.

Resolve to Build Trust in 2019

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Trust is one of the key principles of resilience and stress control.  What makes a person trustworthy and how can you build trust within your own relationships and teams? Building trust takes time and commitment and there are no shortcuts. The new year is a great opportunity to make building trust one of your resolutions. The rewards, both personally and professionally, are immense.

Why is Trust so Important and How Do You Build It?

Trust plays a critical role in withstanding hardships and extends beyond individual relationships. A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research reported living in a high-trust environment makes people more resilient to adversity. The authors of the paper examined data from three large international surveys, and determined even negative situations like ill-health or unemployment were much less damaging to those living in trustworthy environments. Conversely, a loss of trust can erode stress control efforts and increase risk of psychological difficulties. Trust is built through experience and includes certain expectations. Keep these three simple steps in mind to build and maintain trust when communicating with your shipmates. Strong relationships are imperative to our ability to navigate stress.

  1. Act with integrity. It may seem simple, but showing integrity is the cornerstone of trust. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Honor your commitments, and if you aren’t able to complete something you said you would do, let your team know as soon as possible.
  2. Listen with respect and empathy. If you want to be trusted, those around you must feel comfortable sharing their perspectives. Communication can’t thrive in an environment of judgement and criticism. Use active listening to show you understand and can relate.
  3. Trust others. To be trustworthy, you have to be willing to trust those around you. Trust is never a one-way street, and this goes double for those in leadership positions. Micro-managers aren’t willing to trust, and their teams reciprocate that energy.

Trust Tips for Leaders

Developing trust is critical for people in supervisory and leadership positions. Along with the general tips for building trust, some specific characteristics are helpful to develop the relationship between superiors and subordinates. On the Military Leader website, Phillip Gift, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and helicopter pilot, describes the components as “the three C’s.”

  1. Competence. A leader doesn’t have to be the best at the task, but he or she does need to be competent. Being competent means being mentally, physically and emotionally ready to accomplish duties. If others are always having to correct the leader’s work, or to remind the leader of tasks, then there will be a lack of trust. Stay on top of your game in your field and encourage others to do the same.
  2. Caring. There’s an old saying, “People don’t care how much you know; they want to know how much you care.” This is especially true of leaders and supervisors. Gift cites three levels of caring: Caring for yourself, caring for the organization and caring for others. A leader must authentically care about personal development, as well as about the mission and the team. Take time to learn about yourself and those around you.
  3. Open communication fosters trust. People must be able to speak freely but with respect for all parties to communicate effectively. A good way to develop communication is to make time to have one-on-one conversations in a relaxed but professional manner.

These tips can be particularly helpful for trust-building with Millennial and Gen Z generations (people born from the early 1980’s to late 1990’s), who make up a big portion of most Navy workplaces. For people in these generations, trust is crucial, valuable and hard to earn. Millennials and those from Gen Z consistently rank as less trusting in general when compared to other generations. In order to bridge the gap, remember that age and experience aren’t automatic keys to authority, but competence, mentorship, authenticity and accountability can be. It’s also important to check in often. Your Sailors may not ask for feedback, but many expect frequent input on their work and their progress. Use texts or other instant communication channels as appropriate and make yourself available for interaction.

Additional Resources

Trust is just one of the principles of resilience that can lead to better well-being for you and your teams. For more information on the principles of resilience and stress control, like U.S. Navy Operational Stress Control on Facebook or follow @NavStress on Twitter. For additional resources, messages and materials, download the FY-19 1 Small ACT Toolkit.

Responsible Alcohol Use for the Non-Drinker: Pledge to Give the Gift of a DD

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December is Impaired Driving Prevention Month. So, what does that mean for non-drinkers?

A number of Sailors choose not to drink alcohol. Their reasons are as diverse as our Navy family. If you’re among the “zero-proof” cocktail crowd this holiday season, you can still play a big part in promoting responsible choices for those who do choose to drink. Pledge to “Give the Gift of a Designated Driver” (DD) and to help others make it home (and back) safely this year.

The Navy Alcohol Abuse Prevention (NAAP) office’s Keep What You’ve Earned (KWYE) Campaign recently launched this quick and anonymous online pledge encouraging Sailors, their friends and family to serve as designated drivers this holiday season. To take the pledge, visit https://go.usa.gov/xnj86 and then head to the KWYE webpage to print a gift card that can be given to a friend or loved one to be used in exchange for a safe ride home. The pledge runs through Dec. 31.

These cards are the perfect one-size-fits-all gift for those who choose to drink. Show them how much you care by committing your time – No long lines or gift wrap needed!

Follow these tips to make the experience a win for you and your friends.

  1. Get the keys before heading out.
  2. Make a plan (where you’ll meet, where you’re going and when you’ll call it a night).
  3. Make sure your phone is on, charged and set to vibrate and ring.
  4. Turn up, but turn down the alcohol – no exceptions!

To help illustrate what’s on the line should Sailors choose to drink and drive, KWYE has developed three short videos exploring the financial impacts of a Driving Under the Influence conviction, ranging from impacts to military retirement benefits, to loss of rank and subsequent loss of pay, and other short term impacts. You can encourage Sailors to find a safe ride home this month and all year long by sharing these videos on your social media channels, which can be found on https://www.youtube.com/user/NavyNADAP.

If your friends need additional support setting healthy limits around their alcohol intake, this Health.mil article offers signs of problematic drinking, practical tips and helpful resources, including KWYE campaign’s Pier Pressure mobile application. View the article at https://health.mil/News/Articles/2018/11/09/To-drink-or-not-to-drink.

For more information and materials to help Sailors keep what they’ve earned, check out the campaign’s website.

Practice Self-Care with Healthy Boundaries

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Trying to keep the happy in people’s holidays and avoid rocking their boats can be demanding and draining to one’s physical, emotional and psychological health. Sometimes you may feel that you must please everyone in your life, even to your own detriment – especially during the season of giving. People-pleasing can come in the form of agreeing to every favor, task or assignment. It could be allowing people to be present in personal space even when preferring to be alone. Or it may be putting up with behaviors that cause feelings of anger, frustration or sadness but never acknowledging offenses to the offender.

These actions may indicate a need to explore the process of setting boundaries. A boundary is the deliberate space that you establish between yourself and someone else. Boundaries define the behaviors, actions and characteristics that are not tolerable within a relationship. It is important to determine what you will and will not accept in all relationships, including those with family, friends or shipmates.

Benefits of Boundaries

Setting boundaries limits unwanted behaviors and treatment from the people in your life. It indicates that while your relationship with others is important to you, you still prioritize your own feelings and emotions. Boundaries can prompt loved ones, friends or fellow Sailors to realize they should also consider your feelings in their interactions with you and respect the limits that you have established.

Remembering that “no” is a complete sentence is essential in the process of setting boundaries. Comfortably saying “no” to unwanted requests or inconsiderate actions tells your family members, friends, romantic partners and fellow Sailors that you are not afraid to advocate for yourself. For family or romantic partners, navigating situations involving household tasks or frequency of communication may require setting boundaries and saying “no.” Social situations involving drinking or unethical actions could arise and require you to be assertive and say “no” to a fellow Sailor. Whatever the situation may be, maintaining boundaries signals to others that you do not feel obligated to accept unwanted actions or requests and promotes healthy relationships with friends, family and shipmates and also with yourself.

Steps for Setting Boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries can be a difficult process, but it is a necessary act of self-care that is crucial for psychological well-being and for maintaining integrity in your relationships with others. Here are some tips for setting and maintaining boundaries in your relationships:

  • Understand and acknowledge your values and your feelings. When someone engages in a certain unwanted behavior towards you, take a mental or even written note of what feelings the behavior causes, but do this when you are away from the person. Understanding and centering your own feelings and emotions over those of others is necessary for establishing boundaries. It could also be helpful to have a mentor that can help you navigate your feelings as well.
  • Make your boundaries and consequences clear. Unless you clearly communicate to the people in your life what your boundaries are, they will never know what they are or how to avoid overstepping them. Be assertive and explain the results that would accompany their disregard for your boundaries. Avoid making compromises that may still cause you to feel uncomfortable or upset.
  • Do not feel bad about setting boundaries. Remember that setting boundaries is a necessary part of a comprehensive self-care routine. Maintaining boundaries allows you to focus on your own physical, emotional and psychological health. Just as you may have regular doctor’s appointments that take precedence over other things, your own immediate needs should also come first. Saying “no” to things that may cause you undue stress should not cause guilt, and you do not have to provide an explanation of your feelings. Know your personal worth and expect others to respect you.
  • Know when your boundaries are not being respected and respond accordingly. Explore the actions of those with whom you have established boundaries, and understand your options. If someone oversteps a boundary that you have clearly set, acknowledge it. Explain that you have already communicated your boundary and that you will have to resort to the consequences. Respect your own boundaries in this situation, and do not feel pressured to give multiple chances to someone who has a clear understanding of your boundaries but still refuses to acknowledge them.

Relationships After Setting Boundaries

People may feel hurt when you establish and enforce boundaries because they realize that they will no longer be able to interact with you in ways that are only beneficial to them (and potentially damaging to you). When someone does not respect a boundary you have set, it is a sign that they may also not respect you. For some, the frustration with your boundaries may be temporary, but for others, it could be the tipping point toward the end of your relationship.

The people you should allow in your life are those who respect you and realize that maintaining boundaries is a necessary part of demonstrating that respect and maintaining their relationship with you. No matter what, adhering to your boundaries and refusing to allow negotiation is crucial. That is a part of the process of learning to prioritize and take care of yourself.

Reaching out for Help

Problems in your relationships can be difficult to deal with. If you or a shipmate are dealing with psychological health concerns or issues with a spouse, family member or children, the Fleet and Family Support Program provides support through counseling services. Be sure to follow U.S. Navy Operational Stress Control on Facebook, on Twitter and our holiday hashtag #HealthyHolidays for ongoing self-care tips throughout the holiday season and into the New Year.

A Different Kind of Grief: How to Help Survivors of Suicide Loss

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International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is November 17. When someone loses a colleague or loved one to suicide, grief can be compounded by feelings of guilt, confusion and even anger and embarrassment. How can you help?

What You Can Do

CAPT Tara Smith, Ph.D., clinical psychologist for Navy Suicide Prevention Branch, OPNAV N171, offers these tips to help someone who is dealing with the loss of a loved one by suicide:

1. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the death. Extend your condolences, express your feelings of sorrow. Talking about the loss lets the person know you’re a safe and understanding per-son in whom they can confide.

2. Ask the survivor if and how you can help. Though they may not be ready to accept help, asking signifies that you are there—not avoiding or distancing during this tragic event. Be prepared to offer specific support, such as providing meals, offering childcare or a coffee break.

3. Encourage openness. Do your best to be non-judgmental and be prepared for a wide variety of emotional responses. There is no one way to grieve. Be accepting of however survivors need to express their feelings. It may be with silence, with sadness or even anger.

4. Be patient. Don’t set a time limit for a survivor’s grief. Complicated grief can take years to process. Moreover, don’t limit a survivor’s need to share and repeat stories, conversations or wishes. Repetition is a key factor in grief recovery.

5. Be a compassionate listener. This means resisting the urge to try to “fix” things. The greatest gift you can give someone you care about who has survived a suicide loss is your time, reassurance and love. It’s perfectly okay to not know what to say or do. Simply being present is often the best support.

Every Sailor, Every Day

Losing someone to suicide can feel very isolating, not just for the immediate family, but for members of the entire community. Be physically and emotionally present for the grieving person. Strong relationships built on trust are key principles of resilience that can promote recovery after experiencing loss.
Every member of the Navy community is responsible for contributing to a culture that supports psychological and physical health, encourages seeking help for challenges and promotes a constructive dialogue about stress and suicide.

Finding Support

There are many resources available on Navy Suicide Prevention’s website at www.suicide.navy.mil to help you communicate safely about psychological health and suicide, find support and more. Confidential help is available through the Military Crisis Line (call 800-273-TALK and Press 1 or text 838255) and your command chaplain. Additional resources for survivors of suicide loss are also available at: