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:

Five Unexpected Ways to Start a Conversation about Food

Asian man choosing orange juice in supermarket using smartphone to check shopping list. Male shopper with shopping cart selecting beverage bottle product in grocery store.

Living a healthier lifestyle boils down to the choices we make. What we decide to eat impacts our well-being. Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet can help you feel more energized during a longer gym session, boost your immunity and improve your mood. March is National Nutrition Month, so take some time to test your own nutritional knowledge and encourage your shipmates to refresh their own healthy habits.

Here are five ways to mindfully think about food with yourself and your fellow Sailors this month:

Learn about portion sizes. Think you know how the average size of a chicken Caesar salad or pepperoni pizza changed over time? Take the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Portion Distortion quiz to see what a portion 20 years ago compares to a portion now.

Learn about nutrition labels. Unhealthy snacks are pervasive in our culture, which makes learning how to choose the right snacks so important. Engage with the Snack Shack Game from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to become a more knowledgeable consumer.

Leverage barracks basics. The Navy Bachelor Housing Barracks Cookbook offers healthy and simple meal options directly from your fellow Sailors. Round up some buddies from your unit to try making these Sailor-endorsed meals.

Challenge yourself. Eating more fruits and vegetables will never go out of style. Consider completing the 30-Day Fruit and Veggie Challenge from the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center to jumpstart healthy habits. If you want to help yourself and your team adhere to a fitness or nutrition plan, try the Crews Into Shape challenge.

Play Suduko – with a twist. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers Nutrition Suduko, a fun way to think about healthy choices. Check out the easy Nutrition Suduko and moderate Nutrition Suduko options, and challenge your friends to play other games.

15 Simple Ways to Show Someone You Care

Smiling guy receiving support from friend

By establishing and maintaining a thriving support network, you can improve your own well-being. No matter the type of relationship, investing in your connections can strengthen your communication skills and help build personal resilience. Although building trust and rapport with others take time, the healthy relationships you prioritize in your life can help you navigate challenging situations and find new opportunities for growth. Whether it’s a shipmate, a coworker, a friend, a family member or someone else important to you, it is important to show others that you care about them. Cultivating strong social bonds often directly influences our own happiness.

Consider these easy ways to show someone close to you that you care this year:

Ask them how they are doing. This may seem like a no brainer, but some of your fellow Sailors may need a bit of a nudge to share something that’s on their mind. Stay in touch with family, friends and neighbors in person, online or by phone to see how they are doing. Use active listening: focus on what someone else is saying before responding with your insight and perspective.

Write them a handwritten letter. Writing a heartfelt note to a friend can brighten their day and show your appreciation for their presence in your life. Whether it’s for their birthday, or to provide support to them during a difficult time, or to thank a shipmate for going above and beyond, taking the time to put pen to paper highlights your ability to support them. Be authentic, open and emotive in your messages.

Give them a shout out on social media. For a more public way to highlight your camaraderie, give your friend or family member a quick shout out on social media. Post a picture of you with them and express the qualities that make them special to you.

Make them their favorite drink. Surprise a shipmate by giving them a tea, coffee, juice or blended smoothie to help boost their mood. Carving out a mindful moment may be just what someone needs to get through a stressful time.

Create a curated playlist. Show someone you care through creative means by making them a tailored music or podcast playlist. Consider working collaboratively with your shipmates or unit to make a list of songs, artists or podcast episodes to enjoy together.

Lend them your favorite book. If you have a book that’s impacted you positively, consider loaning it out to someone. For an extra dose of thoughtfulness, annotate parts of the book that remind you of the person or your favorite passages for easy skimming.

Send them a motivational quote. Although it may sound cheesy, passing on words of wisdom may help a shipmate have a refreshed perspective on a situation. Everyone interprets information and experiences differently, but encouraging and positive quotes may help establish connectedness.

Initiate plans on a consistent basis. Invite them to join you in a healthy activity – go to the gym with a fellow Sailor, attend a cultural event with your family or bring a friend to a cooking class for a new way to get creative. This will show them that you are committed to investing in your relationship and excited about spending quality time together.

Help free up their schedule. If a shipmate needs help caring for a baby, dog or cat, offer to take a shift so they have time to complete other activities. Even if they have not asked for help, expressing that you are available and willing to provide support will go a long way.

Introduce them to someone new. If you think one person close to you would benefit from getting to know someone else in your support network, make an introduction to bring them together. You may help foster new friendships or mentoring opportunities.

Give them a compliment. Expressing kind words is an instant way to open the door to increased positivity and connection. For ideas on how to give professional compliments to your fellow Sailors, check out this blog post.

Celebrate their successes. When your shipmate or someone else close to you succeeds, take a moment to recognize them – send them flowers, share their good news with others or treat them to something special. They will appreciate your support and feel even more confident about their recent win.

Offer to teach them something. Informally mentoring someone may help them discover new passion or hobby. If you’re an expert at using gym equipment for a full body workout or a photography pro, volunteer to show them the ropes.

Use direct language. Consider opportunities to say things like, “I’m thinking of you” or “This [event, idea, statement] made me think of you.” Showing people that you are actively taking the role they play in your life seriously is an easy way to be considerate.

Respect their need for space. If someone close to you is going through a particularly busy time or another trying life event, maintain healthy boundaries to ensure they can improve their well-being.

For additional holistic health and wellness tips for Sailors and families, visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Resources for Establishing Healthy Relationships and Boundaries

Phone call from unknown number late at night. Scam, fraud or phishing with smartphone concept. Prank caller, scammer or stranger. Man answering to incoming call. Hoax person with fake identity.

Healthy relationships are built on fundamental tenants of respect, honesty, support and equality.  The beginning of the year is a great time to check in on your interpersonal relationships with your friends, family and peers to set healthy boundaries.  Recognizing and responding to unhealthy behaviors in your interpersonal relationships is critical to your emotional and relationship health.  January marks National Stalking Awareness Month, a time to educate yourself and others about stalking.

Recognized as a crime in all 50 states, the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women defines stalking as “engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress.”  In 2015, The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that nearly 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men were victims of stalking.

Stalking can be difficult to recognize, especially when the entertainment industry often romanticizes persistence in relationships as a form of flattery.  The National Center for Victims of Crime’s Stalking Resource center outlines the following behaviors of stalkers:

  • Repeatedly call you, including hang-ups.
  • Follow you and show up wherever you are.
  • Send unwanted gifts, letters, texts, or e-mails.
  • Damage your home, car, or other property.
  • Monitor your phone calls or computer use.
  • Use technology, like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS), to track where you go.
  • Drive by or hang out at your home, school, or work.
  • Threaten to hurt you, your family, friends, or pets.
  • Find out about you by using public records or on-line search services, hiring investigators, going through your garbage, or contacting friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers.
  • Other actions that control, track, or frighten you.

To learn more about stalking and other unhealthy relationship behaviors, visit the following resources:

If you or someone you know needs help, utilize the following hotlines:

  • National Center for Victims of Crime: 1-855-4-VICTIM (1-855-484-2846)
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−7233
  • The National Sexual Assault Hotline:  1-800-656-HOPE (4673)