New Training Helps Families Navigate Stress and Stay in the Green Zone

110310-N-DX615-069

Stress is characteristic of service in the Navy, with deployments, reintegration, and relocations causing tension for both Sailors and their families. The ability to efficiently navigate stress and build resilience is an integral part of maintaining mission readiness for Sailors and promoting psychological well-being. In addition to the stressors associated with military life, Navy families also deal with typical family stressors: raising children, maintaining their home, dealing with teenagers and handling conflicts with a spouse.

April is National Stress Awareness Month, and being cognizant of your stressors is essential. Stress can be helpful when it pushes us to make improvements in our lives. It can remind us of the importance of reaching out to others for support and helps us build resilience by growing and bouncing back from challenges. Adequately addressing stressors helps prevent chronic and prolonged exposure to stress and its adverse impacts on our health and overall well-being. Navy families now have a new training available from the Operational Stress Control (OSC) Program which offers numerous tools and resources to help Sailors and their families navigate stress and build resilience during and beyond the rigors of military life. This new training addresses the impact that stressors have on Navy families, focusing on challenges faced by Navy spouses, and their children with tips on how to navigate them.

The Navigating Stress for Navy Families training emerged from needs directly expressed by Sailors and commanders. The new Navy Family Framework recognizes the importance of integrating Navy spouses and families into education, awareness and support services and understands the role that they play as part of the Navy community. The Navigating Stress for Navy Families training is aligned with this framework, acknowledging that family readiness is key to mission readiness. The training is provided by veteran OSC Mobile Training Teams (MTTs) who have experienced similar challenges in military life. The training is modeled after OSC-required trainings for deck plate and senior leaders that are also delivered by these MTTs.

The course is an hour-long interactive conversation that provides useful and practical tools and techniques to families by introducing realistic scenarios. The course aims to improve families’ ability to navigate stress together by:

  • Helping to strengthen spouses, Sailors and, families;
  • Identifying problems with stress early;
  • Identifying best practices and further developing skills for building resilience and stress mitigation; and
  • Identifying available resources to help with stress issues.

Early identification of stress problems is vital. The Stress Continuum Model, depicted in the above thermometer graphic for quick reference, helps Sailors and their families readily pinpoint their stress “zone” so that they can take appropriate action, such as talking to a trusted friend when reacting to temporary stress. The earlier a Navy family identifies where they are within the Stress Continuum, the easier it is to bounce back. The goal is not to be 100% stress-free – as that is nearly impossible – but to learn how to build resilience so that stressors do not immediately move a family into the Red Zone. Sufficient sleep, open communication with loved ones, self-care and early help-seeking, are all ways to navigate stress healthily and lessen the risk of stress injury or illness.

Navigating Stress for Navy Families is currently available via in-person training. OSC and Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) are working to develop a webinar format for the course as well. For more information or to schedule training, email oscmtteast@navy.mil or oscmttwest@navy.mil. Additional OSC resources including educational materials, policy and curricula descriptions can be found on the program’s website.

Follow OSC and the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign on Facebook and Twitter for daily tips, tricks and small acts to help you and your family stay in or get back to the Green.

Mindfulness Monday – Staying in the Moment during Alcohol Awareness Month

Alcohol Awareness Month blog image

Submitted by the Keep What You’ve Earned Campaign

You’ve heard of mindful breathing…mindful eating…but what about mindful drinking? April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and awareness is key to the practice of mindful drinking.

So what does mindful drinking mean? What sounds like a new age buzz-phrase is actually a way to feel greater happiness with and control over your drinking choices.  Mindful drinking is a conscious approach to consuming alcohol. At its simplest, mindful drinking means focusing on the present moment and experience of consuming alcohol. Mindful drinkers may drink less, but the emphasis isn’t on how much alcohol is consumed. It’s about an overall healthier relationship with it.

Giving Mindful Drinking a Try

This month is a great time to check in with your drinking habits and practice a little mindfulness. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Before attending an event where you’ll consume alcohol, take a moment to reflect and center yourself. Visualize yourself enjoying the company of others and focus on how you want the event to unfold.
  2. If you’re at a party and you have a drink, concentrate on the experience of each sip. Drink slowly and savor the taste and smell. Don’t speed up out of anxiety or social pressure. Have a glass of water handy so that you can alternate between sips of alcohol to pace yourself.
  3. When you are drinking alcohol, stay attuned to the psychological and physical effects. Take notice of how you feel with each sip, and each drink, and manage your consumption accordingly.

The Perks of Paying Attention to your Alcohol Consumption

Although mindful drinking doesn’t mean abstaining or trying to limit alcohol, many people find themselves drinking less when they focus on the moment. Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption comes with its own benefits. You may notice improved mood, sleep and job performance, and find that you’re less stressed about weight gain due to liquid calories (especially around Physical Fitness Assessment time!). You may also find that you seek healthier ways to navigate stress rather than losing track of your beer count at the bar. Using alcohol in response to stress may spiral into social withdrawal, anger or rage, and decreased inhibitions—which may increase suicide risk.

Mindful drinking can also help protect your wallet. If you really savor and enjoy one drink you may not find yourself paying for several rounds. Reducing your alcohol consumption also puts you at reduced risk for Alcohol-Related Incidents (ARIs), which can impact your pay and derail your entire career.

Mindful Tools to Help You Keep What You’ve Earned

The Keep What You’ve Earned Campaign’s Pier Pressure mobile application has the tools you need to integrate mindful drinking into your life. The app’s “Resources” section features a blood alcohol content estimator to help you stay aware of the potential for alcohol to affect your mind and body, a calorie calculator (which also tells you how many push-ups it will take to burn off those beers) and one-click access to Uber and Lyft ride-sharing apps to plan ahead for a safe-ride home. The app also features a quick and anonymous self-check to help you gauge your drinking habits and engage the right resources if you have concerns about your drinking. Pier Pressure is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Mindful drinking is a practice anyone can implement, and it can make your nights out (and your mornings after) more enjoyable. Your drinking choices can impact your health, your relationships and your career. If you drink alcohol, make the most of it by staying present in the moment and tuned in to your own mind and body.

Questions or Concerns about Your Drinking?

There are several resources available to help you find appropriate treatment for alcohol misuse. Reach out to your health care provider at your local Military Treatment Facility, your command Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor (DAPA), chaplain or Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) counselor. Additionally, the Psychological Health Resource Center offers 24/7, free and confidential support provided by trained health resource consultants at 866-966-1020. For more information about Navy’s non-disciplinary self-referral process, check out the Pier Pressure app or visit www.nadap.navy.mil.

The Role of Resilience after Setbacks

Reslience After Setbacks Blog Image

Health scares, forgotten deadlines, missed promotions, and failed classes are just a few of the unexpected setbacks that life can toss our way; and most of us have or will encounter some sort of setback in life. These obstacles can be disheartening at best. At worst after facing an obstacle or multiple obstacles, we may feel like we have no control and resign to accepting the failure as permanent. We may feel depressed, angry, defeated, frustrated, experience a depleted sense of self-worth, or even all of those at once.

While they may skew our outlook temporarily, learning how to constructively deal with setbacks and other obstacles can actually improve psychological health by helping to build resilience. This resilience not only helps us bounce back from failures and defeats, but helps us thrive in future efforts.

Risk and Reward vs. Fear of Failure

Risk and reward seem like they go hand-in-hand with fast-paced military life, and service members are often thought to be fearless. When we’re successful at something we took a risk on—whether a difficult mission or an advancement exam that took months to prepare for—our brains release a chemical signal called dopamine that makes us feel good. This builds our confidence and contributes to more success. Unfortunately, it can also impact our ability to handle failure1.

After a major setback or series of repeated ones, just the thought of failing at something can be discouraging and can ignite fear. Fear is an understandable feeling, but it often prevents us from taking the risk of trying again because our brains begin to associate that risk with a threat, leading to avoidance. Courage gives us the mental and moral strength to move forward even when facing challenges. It is honesty about fears, willingness to be vulnerable, the desire to succeed and the preparation for a potential failure. Engaging in courageous acts helps break down fears. Avoiding risks may seem like the best way to avoid failure, but the reality is that you fail at anything you don’t try.

Self-Care for Setbacks

Failure after taking a risk doesn’t have to signal the end of your effort. In fact, failure can breed some of our most creative moments that can lead us back to the rewards of success. Here are some ways to productively deal with setbacks:

  • Take a step back. Naturally, after dealing with a setback, you will want to replay it, figure out what went wrong, and fix it. Just as illnesses or injuries need time to heal, so do you after encountering an obstacle. Take the time you need to process what has happened, but try not to ruminate and cause yourself additional stress. Utilizing a breathing exercise can help you stay relaxed.
  • Take ownership without blame. Once you have dealt with a setback, acknowledge it and own it. Blame is a common response to a setback, but transferring the responsibility, whether to yourself or to someone else, will not eliminate or change the situation, and it may discourage you from trying to find solutions. Journaling is a great outlet to express and understand stress, increase self-confidence, boost mood and let go of negative thoughts after dealing with a setback.
  • Find support. Looking to the family, friends, and shipmates who you trust can help you feel better when dealing with setbacks. Encouragement from those you are connected to can be reassuring during times of disappointment. Also, spirituality helps many people feel motivated to persevere, and it can help you recognize your purpose and understand the potential reasons that a situation did not work out as you wanted it to. Chaplains can help you explore spiritual factors when dealing with disappointment and uncertainty from setbacks.
  • Regain control. While certain factors that caused a setback may be unrelated to your actions, remember that you still have control. Being able to face setbacks and understand how you can apply lessons learned in the future is empowering. Try making a list of your proudest accomplishments or your favorite personal attributes to remind yourself that you have the ability to succeed and are not defined by your current circumstances.

Bouncing Back

While setbacks are disheartening, they can be a catalyst for progress. Maintaining positive thoughts after facing an obstacle can help you better navigate stress and feel encouraged to accomplish potential goals. Engaging in self-care after a setback can alleviate stress and frustration. And getting SMART about your future goals can help prevent future setbacks.

Take some time after encountering a setback to avoid rushing into finding solutions before thinking through the options. Acknowledge the setback and realize that many factors may have contributed to it. Lean on friends, family, and shipmates for support, and remember that spirituality can be helpful for understanding purpose after a setback. Keep your cool after a setback to response positively and feel empowered to make needed changes for future opportunities. And always remember that even taking a risk is a sign of courage. If things didn’t go your way this time, don’t feel defeated. See a setback as an opportunity to learn and grow. Even if you have failed, remember the words of Robert Louis Stevenson: “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

Unplugging from Social Media for Psychological Health

Unplugging from social media for psych health blog pic

Human communication and interaction have vastly changed over the past few decades. Twenty years ago, we never would have imagined that we could hold a phone in our hands and see pictures of what our friends are eating at a new restaurant in town or watch live videos of their babies’ first steps. We can only imagine the innovations to look forward to in the next ten years.

We see people scrolling on their smart phones, tapping and sharing photos, videos, and posts made by friends and family on social media platforms. Unfortunately, that scrolling can create feelings of inadequacy when the newsfeed is full of pictures of an old classmate’s new car, videos from a friend’s island vacation or posts about a cousin’s well-paying job. Social comparison is comparing yourself to the people in your social circle. With social networks, it’s much easier to engage in because of the constant barrage of updates from your connections. As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “comparison is the thief of joy.”

The Effects of Social Comparison

Social comparison can impact self-esteem. A study from the University of Toledo and a study co-conducted by the University of Michigan and University of California, Santa Barbara examined social media use and its effects on self-esteem and psychological health. These studies show that upward social comparison, or comparison to people believed to have more positive qualities, can negatively affect self-esteem, mental health, and body perception.

Social media gives us the opportunity to present ourselves in the way we wish to be perceived. We can choose not to reveal the dozen “bad” selfies that preceded the flawless one. We don’t have to post about that embarrassing thing that happened at work and relive it through others’ reactions. The perfection we see on our social media feed may not be an accurate portrayal of our connections’ overall lives.

Resetting Your Connection with Yourself

While social media helps us stay linked to friends and family, receive updates about their lives, and even get quick access to what’s going on in the news, it can also create negative consequences, especially when those updates cause feelings of inadequacy or if the news is discouraging. Additionally, excessive social media use can contribute to feelings of loneliness and isolation when we replace real-life human interaction with digital communication. It’s important to find a balance that includes healthy use of social media, maintenance of in-person social connection with family and friends and opportunities to create new relationships.

Taking a break from social media can help improve your psychological health. If you don’t think you can break away from social networks completely, but find that certain connections make you feel drained, these tips can help make your feed become less emotionally exhausting:

  • Take a break from a Facebook friend by unfollowing or using the “snooze” feature, which removes their updates from your feed for 30 days.
  • Facebook’s Messenger app can still be used even if your account is deactivated, so you don’t have to stay on Facebook to communicate with your friends on Messenger.
  • On Twitter, “muting” allows you to continue to follow someone but no longer see their tweets on your timeline.
  • While many people have difficulty navigating Snapchat after its newest update, it may help make it easier to skip the stories that you can’t stand anyway.
  • If the fitness gurus on Instagram make you notice your imperfections instead of motivating you to get in shape, unfollow them.
  • Don’t be afraid to change your settings to hide status updates or your story from anyone who you’d prefer to keep in the dark about of certain aspects of your life.

National Day of Unplugging

If you think you might want to take the plunge into disengaging with social media, try it for just 24 hours on the National Day of Unplugging, from sunset to sunset March 9th through March 10th. Use the day to get in some needed self-care. Meditate, read, go for a walk, enjoy a screen-free lunch with a friend, or get some needed sleep. Screen time, especially around bedtime, can have negative impacts on your sleep cycle, so taking a break can also help you get a better night’s rest.

Unplugging can help improve your psychological health and make you feel better about yourself. Put your social media newsfeeds on pause occasionally, so you can reconnect with yourself, friends and family in more genuine and meaningful ways that can’t be edited or photoshopped.

If you or a shipmate is dealing with psychological health concerns, the BeThere Peer Support Call and Outreach Center offers resources and information 24/7/365 via phone at 844-357-7337 or on their website at http://www.betherepeersupport.org.

Resources for Keeping Your Relationship Strong

11885223_786318294801958_4198039581992538843_n

While many couples may have been feeling love-struck by Cupid’s arrow this Valentine’s Day, that love and affection may not necessarily mean that things are always rosy. For Sailors, the stressors that come with their Navy career can have an impact on their relationships with their significant other. Whether it’s a breakdown in communication, constant arguments, or just feeling like the spark is gone, there is always hope for rebuilding the connection and enhancing the love. Counseling can help strengthen your relationship and minimize the potential for relationship stress to impact other areas of your life and well-being.

Strengthening Relationships through Counseling

Healthy communication is a vital component of healthy and resilient relationships. The ability to express yourself clearly while also being able to listen attentively can help build trust with your partner, ensuring that you both feel secure and validated. A great setting for this communication is in counseling, where licensed therapists offer unbiased facilitation of discussion among partners to help you develop practical skills. This can include talking through thoughts and feelings, and exploring different ways to think or act in the relationship. Counseling can provide a safe space to proactively work through the challenges of a new or long-time marriage, a relationship that’s been strained by long deployments and frequent transitions, and a myriad of other stressors that Navy couples may face. Finding the type of relationship counseling or support that suits both your needs and your partner’s needs may take some work, but can ultimately lead to a stronger connection.

Counseling Services Available to Sailors and their Spouses

  • Non-medical Counseling: Short-term and solutions-focused non-medical counseling is available through Military OneSource and the Military and Family Life Counseling (MFLC) Program. These free services offer counseling with trained and licensed mental health professionals that can help you and your partner navigate a variety of relationship stressors, from reintegration challenges post-deployment, to parenting issues and more. Military OneSource sessions can be conducted via phone, secure video, online chat, or in-person. MFLC services are provided in-person, with additional resources offered through briefings and presentations on and off military installations. For more information, visit militaryonesoure.mil.

 

  • Counseling, Advocacy and Prevention (CAP): CAP services offer individual, group and family counseling services, including non-medical counseling and clinical counseling for issues related to the challenges of military and family life. These services are available free of charge to active duty personnel and their families at your local Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC). A referral is not required for clinical and non-medical counseling offered through FFSCs and your command is not notified that you are seeking care. For more information and to contact your local FFSC, visit https://www.cnic.navy.mil/ffr/family_readiness/fleet_and_family_support_program/clinical_counseling.html.

 

  • Navy Chaplains: Navy chaplains provide a safe, non-judgmental and confidential space for individual Sailors and their family members (including spouses) to work through challenges, build connections and strengthen spiritual fitness. Chaplain care is available in-person through your local chaplain or you can reach out to Navy311 to be connected with one. The Navy Chaplain Corps also operates Chaplains Religious Enrichment Development Operation (CREDO). This program aims to strengthen spiritual well-being and individual resilience for Sailors, civilians, and families through workshops, seminars and retreats. Most CREDO sites have a Facebook page where you can find information on their program and any upcoming events and retreats that they may be hosting.

 

  • Medical Counseling: If there are issues with drug or alcohol abuse, physical abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, a traumatic brain injury, or other psychological health issues impacting the stability of a marriage, Sailors and spouses can be seen by a Military Treatment Facility (MTF). A great start for figuring out medical counseling eligibility and services is to check with TRICARE (typically, a referral and prior authorization is needed), your health care provider or the Psychological Health Resource Center.

For couples who are not yet married, premarital counseling is a way to learn about communication styles, conflict resolution, and understanding one another’s expectations in marriage. Counseling for both married and engaged couples may be offered by the Fleet and Family Support Center at your home installation.

Connecting with Social Support

While professional help from a therapist is extremely useful, Sailors and their spouses can tap into the benefits of peer support from those who have experienced similar challenges. Fleet and Family Readiness Groups offer social support from other spouses who understand Navy life first-hand, promoting connectedness. The DoD Be There Peer Support Call and Outreach Center, provides free and confidential peer support to individual Sailors and family members for a range of relationship and family life issues, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To connect with a BeThere Peer Counselor, call 1-844-357-PEER, text 480-360-6188 or visit www.betherepeersupport.org.

Reaching Out is a Sign of Strength

Your relationship with your partner can be a protective factor against stress and adversity. Remember that counseling for marital or family concerns not related to violence by the Sailor are not required to be reported when answering question 21 on Standard Form 86 (the questionnaire for National Security Positions). For more information on psychological health treatment and security clearances, check out this Every Sailor, Every Day campaign infographic.