Category Archives: Families

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.

Relationship Goals: Strengthen Connections this Summer

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It’s summer—also known as “PCS” season! Moving is stressful. Saying goodbye to old friends is tough and the process of moving can put a strain on our existing connections. When you arrive in a new place, it can take time to build new friendships, too.  However, relationships play an invaluable role in our lives and are one of the Principles of Resilience. All of our connections with others—from romantic and family relationships, to friendships and professional interactions—can shape our outlook, feelings of belongingness and ability to navigate stress. To keep your relationships strong and promote cohesion in your unit, family or community, consider these tips:

Be a good listener. Relationships are built on trust and support. Mutual understanding is important and can only be achieved through active listening. This is especially true during conflict resolution, when the listener is likely to be formulating a response rather than hearing what the speaker is saying. Focus your attention first on what the speaker is saying to you. Then, repeat what you think they’ve expressed in your own words. This opens the dialogue and allows the speaker to determine whether or not he or she feels understood, which can minimize emotionally charged responses and promote understanding. Check out the Human Performance Resource Center’s tips on active listening for more information.

Stay connected, even when apart. “Make new friends and keep the old” may be a nursery rhyme, but preserving relationships should be a priority no matter how old you are. If your buddy transfers to a new command, make an effort to regularly reach out to him or her throughout the transition phase and maintain that frequency in the future. It can be tough arriving to a new duty station, so a reminder that he or she still has friends in their corner can brighten rough days by preserving a sense of belonging. You can also strengthen your family and romantic relationships while navigating the separations that accompany Navy life. Start a book club with your partner and/or children, where you each read the same book and schedule time to “discuss” it through email or social media. Just pulled into a scenic port? Grab a photo of your loved one and snap a picture of it in a cool setting so that you can all “experience” the place together. Explore ways to stay involved in daily life as well, such as video chat sessions to help with homework or a virtual date with your partner. Find more tips on connecting during deployment here.

Communicate through the good and the bad. There is always an opportunity to foster a positive connection. When a shipmate does a good job, offer specific praise explaining what he or she did well. Acknowledging successes, big or small, can be motivating and build cohesion and trust. Conversely, when there is room for improvement, offer direct yet constructive feedback to help steer things in the right direction. Outright criticism can breakdown communication and result in diminished quality of the task at hand, as well as in your relationship.

Take the time to invest in your relationships. Lean on your shipmates for support, schedule time to speak with your leaders and confide in your family members. Having a strong support network can help you stay grounded and carry you through life’s challenges. Nurturing your relationships can help take the stress out of whatever is coming next.

For additional tips and resources to help you navigate transitions and other stressors, like U.S. Navy Operational Stress Control on Facebook and NavStress on Twitter..

 

 

MyNavy Family App

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Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog provided courtesy of Linda Jackson, the project manager at Naval Services Familyline. Naval Services Familyline is a volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to serving Naval spouses across the country and the world. The Naval Services Familyline provides a network of experienced, trained volunteer spouses to mentor, consult and guide families in the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. For more information visit http://www.nsfamilyline.org.

Being a Navy spouse is not easy. The challenges and demands of my husband’s Naval career touched us all. No matter the length of time we have been serving or have served as a military spouse, it didn’t take long for most of us to figure out that the strength, support and can-do spirit that we bring to the table is a crucial pillar of support for the U.S. military’s overall success. It is when our loved ones are called to deploy, on land sea or air, that military spouses are called to a greater service. We bear the responsibilities of navigating the challenges at home by keeping our families “on course and speed.”

In the words of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson in the release of the very first Navy Family Framework in 2017, “Navy families are an integral part of our Navy team and a vital contributor to mission success.” The CNO acknowledged the many contributions of Navy families that enable the Navy to achieve maximum possible performance. It raised the bar on the commitment the Navy has made to support our families through a coordinated network of programs, services and resources. As a seasoned Navy spouse, this was music to my ears and to the ears of the Navy spouses around me.

Or as Latisha Motley, a Navy spouse of 12 years eloquently put it, “to be affirmed and valued in our important role as Navy spouses as the highest level of the Navy organization fosters a greater sense of pride for all that we do in support of our spouses and in support of our nation.”

There’s An App For That

To help deliver on that promise, the Navy launched the MyNavy Family application (an app!) in the days leading up to Military Spouse Appreciation Day, which was May 10. The MyNavy Family app was developed by the Navy’s Sea Warrior Program (PMW 240) after the Navy asked spouses for feedback about their experiences and how the Navy could help make it better. As a result, over 1,100 spouses responded, including me, via online surveys and face-to-face and online focus groups. Others participated in an app development workshop. Many of us seasoned spouses provided our input from the lens of a decade or more of military spouse experiences.

As one of the new spouses said at the workshop, “one of the biggest things I would change is putting more focus and attention on communications with spouses and significant others during deployment.”

Another spouse said, “I can be a supportive spouse and struggle. I am not going to lie and say everything is fine. I see a lot of spouses do that because there is pressure to keep it together at home.”

The Navy wanted to get it right in developing this app, and it quickly became a collaborative effort between Navy leadership, Navy spouses and several non-profit organizations actively serving the military community. The MyNavy Family app is designed to be a one-stop shop – it curates information and resources from more than 22 websites hosting Navy and DoD-sponsored family programs. The app menu is organized into 11 milestone events: New Spouse, Mentorship and Networking, Employment and Adult Education, Parenthood, Special Needs Family Support, Moving and Relocation, Service Member Deployment, Counseling Services, Recreation, Lodging and Travel, Family Emergencies, and Transition and Retirement.

This app is great for new spouses. In addition to Navy resources, spouses will have immediate access to material specifically developed by spouses, for spouses. These helpful resources provide new spouses with downloadable guidelines and classes which encompass wisdom and guidance from Navy spouses of all levels of experience who have come before them on their journey as a Navy spouse. Experienced Navy spouses will also be well-served by downloading the MyNavy Family app. Many spouses never learn about the many available programs and resources which could benefit them and their family. This app allows access at a finger’s touch.

The initial version of the app will be primarily informational. As the app matures, interactive features will be added. The MyNavy Family app can be downloaded from the Navy App Locker (www.applocker.navy.mil). There will be a built-in feedback capability to allow users the ability to make comments on the app’s performance and to provide recommendations for improvement. We want you feedback!

More To Come

The MyNavy Family App is part of a larger effort underway to build the best Navy spouse experience through the Navy Family Framework. Other efforts include improving existing family programs/websites, providing Ombudsman registry access to command leadership spouses, increasing the availability of live webinars and self-directed learning activities and the development of an official MyNavy Family website. The official website will be tied to a CAC-less page on MyNavy Portal. Volunteer spouse teams, and several non-profit organizations, are working along-side the Navy creating responsive and useful tools to help Navy spouses experience smoother journeys ahead. Because stronger families equal a stronger fleet.

Mental Health Month: Finding Work-Life Balance in the Navy

Concept of harmony and balance. Balance stones against the sea.

May is Mental Health Month and cultivating a healthy work-life balance is key to navigating the stress of Navy life. The idea of work-life balance may seem at odds with the duties of a U.S. Navy Sailor.  When the Navy calls, Sailors answer. Unpredictable schedules, lengthy hours and assignments away from home are some of the many challenges Sailors face. However, there are ways to optimize your own work-life balance, no matter what your job in the Navy.

The Effects of Chronic Stress

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is key to reducing stress and preventing burnout. When professional demands prevent you from taking time for yourself, you’re at risk of living in a state of chronic stress, and that can have major impact on your mental and physical health. A 2015 study by the British Heart Foundation found that chronic stress led to less-than-optimal health choices, including poor diets, lack of exercise and excessive drinking and smoking among millions of workers. The National Institute of Mental Health also cites digestive symptoms, headaches, sleeplessness and sadness as other potential consequences of ongoing stress.

Top Tips for Work-Life Balance

So with all these consequences at risk, how can you improve work-life balance? We’ve gathered some of the top tips, including some tips that are specifically for families and for leaders.

For Everyone:

  • Prioritize and set manageable goals. When we have goals in place, and we are able to complete them, it helps us have a sense of accomplishment and control. Setting priorities every day can help you gain clarity on what really matters. Be realistic about your workload and deadlines and communicate if you need help. Don’t forget to set personal goals as well!  Choose one personal goal and consistently take one small step towards that goal – it can help you balance work demands if you are working towards something for yourself at the same time.
  • Cut yourself some slack. You’re allowed to be human and to make mistakes. Sometimes, everything won’t get done as quickly as you’d like it. It happens to everyone. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and be kind to yourself. Ask for help and be forgiving of yourself and others.

For Sailors with Families:

  • Don’t take your work home. If possible, leave your work at work. Turn off e-mail notifications when you can – in fact, ditch the phone as much as possible. Set boundaries around what you will and won’t be available for during off duty hours and stick to them.
  • Nurture your personal network. There are a million ways to stay connected these days, so take advantage of them when you’re away from home. Whether communicating in person or electronically, give those closest to you the undivided attention they deserve. Ask questions about their days, and really listen to their answers.

For Leaders:

If you’re in a leadership role, you can help others to create a healthy work-life balance by modeling one yourself. In addition to the tips above, here are some ways to impact the way your team navigates stress and competing priorities.

  • Listen to your team. Meet with your team to discuss deadlines, workloads and overtime hours. You may not be able to change mission demands, but you can find common ground with those around you about meeting those demands. Try to set realistic expectations with your team, and listen if they are struggling under workloads that could lead to burnout. Be sure to regularly ask for feedback, and practice active listening skills when you receive it.  Focusing closely on your team’s responses will help build trust within your team, so they will be more likely to provide honest, thoughtful feedback.
  • Send them home when you can. Some days will require your whole team for long hours. Most days won’t. When possible, send people home early from time to time. You can expect them to give 100% when you really need them if you try to get them home when it counts most.

Additional Resources

The Navy Operational Stress Control (OSC) Program promotes an understanding of stress, awareness of support resources, and provides practical stress navigation tools to help build resilience of Sailors, families, and commands. OSC Mobile Training Teams (MTTs) deploy to provide face-to-face training to assist Sailors and their families with navigating stress. Learn more about these courses here.

The Navy Fleet and Family Support Program offers resources and training to support service members and their families for the physical, emotional, interpersonal and logistical demands of military life. Learn more about their programs and services here.

Military OneSource has information on specialty consultations and a variety of resources to assist with the unique challenges faced by service members and their families. Learn more on their website here.

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.