Category Archives: Resilience

Ways Spirituality Improves Your Mental Health

Thinking about spirituality can happen anywhere – whether its in a place of worship like a church, synagogue or mosque or while you’re out on a walk at a park, there are several moments to consider connecting to something bigger than yourself. Spirituality comes in all shapes and sizes. For some, it may come in the form of introspective practices. For others, it may come through relationships with our loved ones or by religious activities. The Military Health System outlines how “ideological and spiritual fitness refers to your beliefs and practices that strengthen connectedness with sources of hope, meaning, and purpose.”

Even if spirituality is something you may not actively be considering, employing different life skills may indirectly bolster your spiritual health. Whether it’s through these or other means, there is no right or wrong way to express or explore your spirituality. Spiritualty helps enrich our lives by helping us find meaning and purpose. Spirituality is a contemplative practice, like meditation and journaling, that helps us focus on our attention and increase our empathy. Consider the following items to increase happiness, strengthen relationships and improve your overall well-being.

Patience
Patience means that we stick with things even when they take a long time to show the preferred results. Patient people are often better equipped to practice gratitude and take to heart the phrase “good things come to those who wait.” Someone using patience may also feel more at ease when challenging events arise.

Perseverance
Committing to a healthy goal, habit or way of thinking demonstrates perseverance. Even when faced with adversity, the ability to grow through discomfort can help you find purpose and feel a deeper connection to learning something new.

Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a deliberate choice to accept and let go of negative emotions following a harmful event from another individual in a group. The American Psychological Association discusses: “True forgiveness goes a step further … offering something positive—empathy, compassion, understanding—toward the person who hurt you.” While forgiveness is primarily considered in interpersonal dynamics, it is also important to practice self-forgiveness to grow and evolve from self-inflicted negativity. Forgiveness helps increase immunity, lower blood pressure and lead to improved psychological health.

Empathy 
Empathy focuses on listening and responding to others without judgment. Empathy helps others feel open to sharing their perspectives and creates an environment where everyone feels more understood and heard. Showing empathy helps others navigate uncertainty.

Positive Thinking
While it is important to feel all of your feelings, the act of positive thinking may help boost your mood and discover new ways to recognize and respond to different situations. After recognizing a negative thought, try brainstorming positive thoughts to counterbalance the feeling. Positive thinking envelops practices like approaching new experiences from a “glass half full” lens, not jumping to conclusions and vocalizing the happy and healthy aspects of your day-to-day experiences.

The end of the summer is a great time to check-in and reflect on how your year is going through the lens of spirituality. Introspection leads to growth and is a mindful way to help find new ways to progress. If you’re feeling burned out throughout the year, remember these skills and take time for yourself.

5 Ideas to Boost Your Mental Resilience

Conversations around psychological, mental and emotional health are evolving. While stigma still exists in some communities when it comes to discussing mental health, we all play a role in reducing these barriers. Starting open discussions with yourself and others about your thoughts and emotions is important during the COVID-19 crisis and can help make you more resilient.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and resulted in approximately 48,000 deaths in 2018. However, suicide is preventable. Talking openly about suicide without fear or shame is helpful and encourages help-seeking behavior and effective intervention.

While individuals of all backgrounds and identities may grapple with addressing or improving their mental health, men are featured as a potentially  vulnerable group due to their lower instances of help-seeking behavior. Men die at a higher rate by suicide than women.  One study notes: “too often many men do not talk about feeling down, sad, or depressed, and might not mention emotional or behavioral difficulties at all … although asking for help is difficult for many people, it is well documented that men tend to be reluctant to seek help in various contexts, including help for mental health concerns.”

Since June is Men’s Health Month, we want to highlight opportunities to support men – and everyone – in increasing their mental immunity:

Get enough sleep and rest. Sleep helps us process our experiences and recharge our mind and bodies for what’s ahead. Review common myths around sleep and ways to improve your sleep habits from Real Warriors. It’s okay to feel tired and to take time to rest. Pausing on a task or something you are working on is not a sign of giving up. Although it may seem like there are not enough hours in the day, taking short, 15-minute microbreaks may help you feel more focused and energized.

Grow and nurture your support network. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center outlines how “positive and supportive social relationships and community connections can help buffer the effects of risk factors in people’s lives.” Asking for help is a sign of strength, and building strong social ties leads to a happier and more fulfilled life. Instead of worrying about something, talk it out with a trusted friend or family member. Leaning on others when you need support does not detract from your personal strength – it just helps grow it.

Prioritize self-care. Self-care isn’t limited to cucumber face masks – it means different things to everyone and can be viewed through the lens of several health aspects. Self-care can be physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual or social, whether that means taking time to go for a relaxing bike ride, journaling your thoughts or reading a great book. Learn more about opportunities for self-care from the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center’s fact sheet on Psychological Toughness.

Role model positive behaviors and actions. Once you’ve developed a few healthy habits or found things that help you unwind, share them with others. Finding opportunities to informally mentor or provide advice to others may help you feel more refreshed. It’s okay to not have all of the answers and to ask questions.

Stay open to change. Several things in life look different over time, and we’re often faced with periods of uncertainty. You may not be able to control every aspect of your life, but you can control your response. Recognize and reflect on the good parts of the day and feel empowered to address adversity by responding more mindfully. When a stressful event occurs, take a moment to stop, regroup and ask yourself how you choose to respond. Focusing on putting energy into what you can control instead of putting energy to things outside of your control can help you feel more grounded.

If you or someone in your network is having a hard time, connect with resources that can help, like the Military Crisis Line. Call 24/7: 1-800-273-8255, press 1, text 838255 or chat.

Celebrating Inclusion Makes Us Stronger

Connection helps us grow both personally and professionally. Fostering an open and inclusive environment improves our well-being – whether we’re empowering our shipmates to succeed, deepening our bonds with our friends with humor or expressing empathy with our family members when they’re going through a rough patch. Showing someone you care and respect them – even with a small act of kindness – can go a long way in helping others feel included and supported. 

Since we often find ourselves navigating uncertainty, establishing a support network that helps us navigate life’s twists and turns is a great way to ground ourselves. Individuals inside and outside of our central circles may have helpful insights from their experiences or new perspectives on situations, that we have not yet considered. On an individual level, valuing diverse perspectives and leveraging unique mindsets fuels our own personal growth and strengthens our communities.

Inclusion promotes innovation, establishes equity across various networks and lowers instances of negative behaviors.  From an organizational perspective, the Navy continues to invest in inclusion and diversity. The Navy defines those terms as:

  • Inclusion: valuing and integrating each individual’s perspectives, ideas and contributions into the way an organization functions and makes decisions.
  • Diversity: all of the different characteristics and attributes of our Navy Team, which are consistent with Navy core values, integral to overall readiness and mission accomplishment and is reflective of the Nation we serve.

While these definitions highlight opportunities for the Navy community to build an inclusive environment, they are just as relevant when considering your day-to-day actions when engaging with others. Gaining an understanding of the different perspectives, experiences and ideas of the people around us helps give us the flexibility to be more open to change and to make sure all identities are supported and seen. These actions help ensure that everyone in the Navy is able to bring their full selves to work.

Connection is essential during times of extreme stress. Protective factors against suicide include: a strong sense of community and belonging, psychological and physical safety, strong ties with family and friends, a fulfillment of personal purpose and a contribution or responsibility to others. Investing in your relationships with others and these protective factors prior to a stressful event occurring will help you feel more confident in exercising resilience. Make an effort to regularly express how much your loved ones mean to you as well as your respect and admiration for colleagues.

Reframing Stress to Help You Grow

Stress takes on many forms and looks different for everyone. Recognizing and addressing your stressors before they escalate to distress is important. Even understanding the physical signs of stress unique to you (e.g., muscle tension, upset stomach) helps your mind feel more empowered to transform anxious thoughts to more relaxed feelings.

According to the American Institute of Stress, stress can produce both positive and negative impacts on individuals physically, emotionally or mentally. The Cleveland Clinic mentions how stress that progresses to distress may lead to headaches, elevated blood pressure, problems sleeping and a heightened sense of anxiousness. Sometimes, intrusive thoughts or memories lead to heightened anxiety. Addressing feelings when you feel them is important, even if that means trying new behavioral techniques or taking a break to help you stay healthy.

Eustress, also commonly referred to as “good stress,” may actually help you learn new skills, navigate major life changes and determine how to effectively address new roles and responsibilities. Too much eustress is not good, but when experienced in manageable moments, it can improve our well-being. Successfully overcoming smaller stressors helps build resilience and equips you with the tools to address other concerns. Positive thinking often goes hand-in-hand with eustress and may help you view perceived barriers as opportunities to grow rather than challenges that feel overwhelming or cumbersome. Setting reasonable expectations, giving yourself daily affirmations or expressing gratitude may also help boost your outlook.

The Navy Suicide Prevention Program’s Stress Navigation Plan contains actionable strategies for how to recognize and respond to stress. Thinking more positively is made easier once you’ve set healthy habits. Consider these ideas from the American Heart Association:

AMA

For more ideas on how to understand your stressors and refocus your stress, try completing activities from this worksheet from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

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: