Category Archives: Self-Care

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:

Self-Care for Those Supporting Others

Women Female Feminism Lady Madam Friends Concept

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.

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.

Relax and Recharge for a Good Night of Sleep

Woman on bed reading book and drinking coffee

Going to sleep at night can be easier said than done. Whether you’re up late reflecting on the past or thinking about the future, our minds may need additional prompting in order to slow down before bed. From our emotional well-being, to our safety, to supporting our circadian rhythm, maintaining healthy sleep habits and routines positively impacts several aspects of our health.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute outlines how sleep deficiency occurs if you have one or more of the following experiences:

  • You don’t get enough sleep (sleep deprivation)
  • You sleep at the wrong time of day (that is, you’re out of sync with your body’s natural clock)
  • You don’t sleep well or get all of the different types of sleep that your body needs
  • You have a sleep disorder that prevents you from getting enough sleep or causes poor quality sleep

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute discusses how sleep deficiency can make you “have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night for optimal health.

Here are a few ideas on how to unwind before going to sleep:

Read a hardcover book or magazine. Scrolling through social media accounts, watching online videos or reading articles from a phone or laptop does not help our minds relax and get ready for sleep. Many sleep experts even recommend removing all digital devices from your bedroom or sleeping area. Although we live in a world of constant digital connectivity, swapping your phone for a book will help you relax and sleep more peacefully through the night.

Write down your thoughts. Instead of ruminating about an experience, take time to journal about your thoughts and experiences to help contextualize them before you go to sleep. For tips on how to get started journaling, check out this article.

Practice physical self-care. Exercise, stretch and/or take a bath to relax your muscles before going to sleep. Consistent exercise and movement throughout the day will also help you sleep better.

Do some light cleaning. Whether it’s your room, apartment, barracks or living space, take time before you go to bed to fold laundry, wipe down your counters or straighten up your papers. Focusing on small tasks each night will help you settle down with a sense of accomplishment and lead to a more relaxing wake up.

Meditate in a way that works for you. Several mobile applications now focus on guiding individuals through breathing and meditation activities. If you have already found a successful way to meditate, consider expanding your sensory experience by using a white noise machine or listening to nature sounds.

Prep for the next day. If you are feeling anxious about what the next day may bring, consider ways for how you can feel more empowered to take on new challenges and opportunities. Consider creating a to-do or goals list for the next day, checking the weather or packing your lunch.

For more ideas on how to get a better night of sleep, review the following items:

Three Easy Tips for Improving Your Heart Health

Healthy lifestyle concept, clean food good health dietary in heart dish with sporty gym aerobic body exercise workout training class equipment, weight scale and sports shoes in fitness center

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.