Tag Archives: 1 Small ACT

5 Small ACTs to Help You Chill Out

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Whether it’s strain and pressure within your unit as you work long hours to prepare for deployment, a disagreement with your spouse over something trivial that boils over, or a seemingly innocent debate with a friend that goes the wrong way, we can all expect to be blindsided by heated moments. Your reactions come quickly and before you know it, your heart is racing, your face is red and you’re saying the first thing that comes to mind (and that thing may not necessarily help the situation).

While disagreement and tension are normal and can even contribute to strengthening relationships, they can surely leave their mark if not carefully addressed. Unchecked anger and unresolved issues can fester, impacting the individuals directly involved, other colleagues or family members, and the mission at-hand. By taking a moment to be proactive, you can help to keep the pot from boiling over by exploring strategies to defuse intense situations.

Just in time for warmer weather and Mental Health Month, here are 5 Small ACTs to help you chill out:

Push Pause. The moment you see potential for a situation or conversation to escalate, call a time out. A lengthy explanation isn’t needed; just step back and offer to address things once all parties involved have had a chance to clear their heads and approach the problem calmly. Even if it’s just five minutes, creating some space between yourself and the issue can help you get a grasp on how you feel, what’s truly important and how you can work with others to move forward.

Breathe. This simple act is often taken for granted, but is an important first step in trying to get your emotional and physiological responses in check when the tension is rising. Taking a deep breath (two to three second inhale and exhale) can help to induce calm in the midst of calamity. If you have a few moments to yourself and can find a quiet space, try this Quick Fix Breathing Exercise or check out the exercises on the National Center for Telehealth and Technology’s Breathe2Relax app.

Laugh. Laughter can help thwart the release of stress hormones, kick-starting the production of hormones that are responsible for positively balancing your mood and promoting relaxation. Look at a funny GIF, head to your favorite blog or talk to someone who knows how to bring a smile to your face. A quick laugh can help you change the channel if you’re focused on a negative situation and enable you to approach a solution with a smile :).

Hit the gym, the track or the trails. You may find that your most productive days in the gym or your best run happen when you need to vent some frustration. Building exercise into your daily routine can help to burn negativity and rewire your brain after tense times. Whether it’s a run with a friend or mentor, weightlifting, interval training or yoga, turn to your favorite fitness regimen to maximize the mood-boost.

Communicate. If your situation involves conflict with another person, addressing it directly can lead to finding some common ground and getting things back on track sooner. Staying silent may only feed your emotions, leading to continued drama. When talking it out, try to use a neutral tone, make eye contact and explain how you perceived the issue or what led to the misunderstanding from your perspective. State that you would like to find a resolution that works for all parties involved (which may include compromising), and then actively listen to the other person or people involved. Instead of listening with the intent to dispute, make a point or interrupt, actually hear and process what the person is saying to you. Then restate it back in your own words to ensure that you have an understanding. Clarify whenever necessary and allow for natural silence, even when it may feel awkward. This will enable you to respond appropriately and meaningfully, minimizing the potential for a heated exchange. Other forms of communication may help you chill out by expressing your feelings, including journaling or speaking with a neutral person, such as a peer support advocate.

Before you land in your next heated moment, take some time to acknowledge what actions, words, topics or gestures are most likely to provoke you. Then note how you may react when these buttons are pushed. Taking this honest look at yourself proactively can help you keep off-the-cuff reactions at bay, enabling you to navigate issues calmly, learn from them and move forward. You may not be able to control others’ behavior or external situations, but with a little prep you can control your responses to them.

BONUS: Anger affecting your daily life? Check out this article from our partners at Real Warriors to help you identify your signs of anger and learn to navigate them in a healthy way. For more information on the Real Warriors campaign, visit www.realwarriors.net.

Every Sailor, Every Day Starts with YOU

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September is Navy Suicide Prevention Month. The 21st Century Sailor Office’s Suicide Prevention Branch, OPNAV N171, has the resources you need to get ACTively involved in supporting yourself and others this month and throughout the year. 1 Small ACT will remain the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign’s primary message, encouraging simple actions that can make differences in others’ lives while leveraging relationships between peers and community members.

Every Sailor, Every Day doesn’t just apply to those in uniform. Research indicates that immediate family members are more likely to notice behavioral changes and stress reactions in Sailors, including those that may be less obvious to peers and leaders. No matter how minor the stress reaction may seem, ACT (Ask, Care, Treat) and start the conversation with your Sailor early to open the door for proactive intervention and support. 1 Small ACT—being there to listen, encouraging use of professional resources, and promoting health and safety at home—can lead to one big step in the right direction.

One of the many reasons service members may not seek help for mental health concerns is fear that doing so will jeopardize their clearance eligibility and careers. You can help spread the truth. Emphasize that less than one percent of security clearance denials and revocations involve psychological health concerns. In fact, seeking help to promote personal wellness and recovery may favorably impact a person’s security clearance eligibility. Remember, counseling and treatment for adjustments related to military service in a combat environment, marital or family concerns (unrelated to violence committed by the service member), grief, and sexual assault victimization do not need to be reported when answering Question 21 on the Questionnaire for National Security Positions (SF 86). Seeking help is a sign of strength and help exists in many forms, including Fleet and Family Support Centers, the Military Crisis Line, Military One Source and Navy chaplains. Navy chaplains offer 100% confidential support and cannot be compelled by the command, medical professionals or others to disclose what a service member or family member shares in confidence.

During day-to-day conversation, make stress and psychological health an active part of your family’s dialogue. When possible, enjoy a meal together as a family without distraction. Mealtime is an opportunity to bond and engage with loved ones by sharing experiences, offering support and improving communication. Research indicates that sharing meals as a family benefits emotional health and connectedness, and is linked with decreased risk-taking and destructive behavior. Another way to promote health and safety at home is to ensure that privately-owned firearms are stored unloaded, in a locked safe or cabinet and secured with a gunlock. These simple steps can not only help prevent injury among children in the household, but are proven ways to prevent suicide when loved ones are experiencing stress and psychological health concerns, placing them at increased risk.

While suicide prevention is an ongoing effort, this month’s observance is the perfect time to encourage your family to take care of themselves and each other during calm and rough seas. You can set an example by participating in the 1 Small ACT Photo Gallery on our Navy Operational Stress Control Page (www.facebook.com/navstress). Download the new “Small ACT Selfie” sign from www.suicide.navy.mil, personalize it with an example of a small act that you and/or your family can take to make a difference, snap a photo with you and/or your family holding the sign, and email it to us at navysuicideprevention@gmail.com for uploading in the gallery. Like us on Facebook to share your photo—and all of our resources—with your friends and family.

For more resources to navigate stress as a family and be there for every Sailor, every day, bookmark Navy Suicide Prevention’s webpage, subscribe to our blog, like us on and follow us on Twitter.

1 Small ACT can save a life. It starts with you.

5 Things You Need to Know About 2016 Navy Suicide Prevention Month

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1 Small ACT was introduced as the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign’s central message during 2015 Navy Suicide Prevention Month (September). This message encourages members of the Navy community to use everyday interactions as opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others, while strengthening connections through active engagement. With 2016 Navy Suicide Prevention Month around the corner, here are five things you need to know:

  1. 1 Small ACT will remain the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign’s primary message. Starting in September we will expand application of this message, focusing on individual coping skills as well as community and command-level support. Look forward to simple tips to promote self-care, such as journaling and practicing gratitude, as well as new ways to practice more familiar healthy behaviors like restful sleep and healthy eating. We will also discuss small acts that can make a difference at the peer, family and command levels, including Navy’s evidence-based intervention tools.
  2. Navy Suicide Prevention Month isn’t just a 30-day “blitz.” Each September is a month-long launch for sustainable and tailored local engagement throughout the upcoming fiscal year. Each year, new concepts and tools are introduced to educate audiences, advance the conversation and motivate positive behavior. Application of these tools can enable prevention at all levels.
  3. Suicide prevention coordinators (SPC) are key players during Navy Suicide Prevention Month and throughout the year. Feedback collected from Sailors indicates that peer interaction weighs heavily on perceptions that may motivate or discourage a desired behavior. As your command’s SPC, you are more than a program manager—you are a familiar face with a powerful and influential voice. Use this month as an opportunity to foster open and ongoing dialogue, reenergize local efforts and keep your shipmates engaged. Learn more by registering for our webinar on Aug. 30 at 12:00 eastern, co-hosted by Navy & Marine Corps Public Health Center. Register here.
  4. Navy Suicide Prevention Branch will release an updated toolkit with resources to support local engagement. This toolkit will be available mid-August and will be distributed directly to SPCs and other key influencers who have subscribed to Navy Suicide Prevention Branch’s distribution list (sign up here). It will be available for download from www.suicide.navy.mil and will include key messages, event ideas, sample social media messages and plan of the day notes, a sample Suicide Prevention Month proclamation, new graphics and more.
  5. The 1 Small ACT Photo Gallery will remain open for submission. Last year more than 400 “Small ACT Selfies” were submitted for the photo gallery, highlighting the many ways to be there for others. This year, participants can also share ideas on how to take care of themselves as individuals (self-care). How many selfies or group photos can you encourage your shipmates and family members to submit? Updated 1 Small ACT signs and details are available at www.suicide.navy.mil > Every Sailor, Every Day.

Five Small ACTs to Strengthen your Mental Health

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Promoting mental health involves a combination of strategies supporting psychological, emotional and social well-being. While mental health is often discussed in relation to mental illness, it is defined as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her own community.” [1]

In honor of Mental Health Month (May), try incorporating these five small ACTs into your daily routine to build strength from the inside out:

  1. Practice self-care.
    Whether you’re navigating life’s daily stressors or are working through ongoing challenges, self-care is an important mental health tool. Journal writing is a self-care technique that can help you relieve stress, find meaning during adversity, and process thoughts and emotions in a healthy manner. To build this habit, seek a quiet place and aim to write for a few minutes at the same time each day (set a reminder on your smart phone if you need a nudge). Pick a format that’s most accessible and comfortable for you, such as a notebook or computer. If you’re ready to go but feel a bit of writer’s block coming on, try starting with phrases like “I am most grateful for…” or “I believe in myself because…” to get you going. Our partners at the Real Warriors Campaign have more tips on journaling and other self-care tools, such as practicing mindfulness.
  1. Fuel with nature’s best.
    When it comes to optimizing physical or mental health, the benefits of drinking water are a “no-brainer.” Moderate dehydration can elevate cortisol levels (one of the body’s fight or flight hormones) leading to feelings of anxiousness and stress. Just a two percent decrease in weight due to fluid loss has been shown to impair both mental and physical performance, including memory function [2]. The Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling System recommends drinking at least 0.5 to one fluid ounce of water per pound of body weight daily to promote physical and mental performance. Be sure to pair your H2O with nutrient-packed fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Research shows that people with diets high in whole foods have a lower risk of depression than those who consume mostly processed food [3]. For more tips on fueling with your physical and mental health in mind, click here.
  1. Maintain a physical fitness regimen that you enjoy.
    What can you do to improve your mood, get better sleep, increase endurance, navigate stress, boost energy and stay mission (and PFA) ready? Exercise. Physical activity has been proven to do all of the above, in addition to potentially reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and boosting cognitive function [4]. Round up a few shipmates and go for a run around the flight-deck, try a group fitness class on your installation, sweat it out on the yoga mat or get fit with interval training. The objective is to find a physical activity you enjoy that strengthens your body and mind! Aim for a minimum of two hours and thirty minutes of moderate physical activity per week, strength training all major muscle groups. Short on time or space? Try this workout.
  1. Have a plan to navigate stress—and put it in ACTion.
    Challenges are inevitable, and sometimes determining where you can turn for help can be a challenge in itself. A Stress Navigation Plan can help you identify your physical, emotional and social reactions to stress; note helpful coping strategies; and determine who and where your resources are before you need them. Your plan is a reminder that no matter the situation, you don’t have to navigate it alone. Personalize your Stress Navigation Plan today and keep it in a safe, easily accessible place. Key resources such as the Military Crisis Line, Military OneSource and Navy Chaplain Care are already populated in the plan for your convenience.
  2. Practice kindness, 1 Small ACT at a time.
    Performing a kind act stimulates “emotional warmth,” which promotes release of oxytocin in the brain [5]. Whether you volunteer to be an on-call designated driver for your shipmates, tell a loved one how much they mean to you, or simply hold the door for someone, you’re contributing to your own feelings of connectedness, purpose and belonging. These are important aspects of social and emotional well-being that build mental health. 1 Small ACT not only makes a difference to others—it makes a difference to you.

While you’re working these small ACTs into your daily routine, don’t forget to find the funny in life. Laughter can help thwart the release of stress hormones, trigger production of feel-good hormones and promote relaxation. Just don’t take it as far as Jonesy (pictured above, courtesy Julie Negron)!

For more small ACTs to strengthen your mental health this month and throughout the year, follow Operational Stress Control on Facebook and Twitter at @NavStress.

 References:

[1] Mental Health Basics. (2013). Retrieved April 2, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/basics.htm

[2] Department of the Navy, Morale, Welfare and Recreation. (n.d.). Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling System. Retrieved April 3, 2016, from http://www.navyfitness.org/_uploads/docs/NOFFS_Nutrition.pdf

[3] Akbaraly, T. N., Brunner, E. J., Ferrie, J. E., Marmot, M. G., Kivimaki, M., & Singh-Manoux, A. (2009). Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 195(5), 408-413. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.108.058925

[4] Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & Petty, F. D. (2006). Exercise for Mental Health. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 8(2), 106.

[5] Acts of Kindness can make you Happier. Retrieved March 01, 2016 from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/new/articles/2013/01/24/acts-of-kindness-can-make-you-happier

Celebrating Our 1SmallACT-iversary: Making Kindness a Habit

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Aesop once said “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” While this may seem obvious when thinking about the recipient of a kind act, who may benefit from increased feelings of belongingness and a renewed sense of hope, it also holds true for the person doing the act.

As it turns out, when you do nice things for others – hold a door, buy coffee for a friend, take the time to say hello or even let someone merge into your lane during your commute – you’re actually doing something nice for yourself. Research shows that completing one act of kindness weekly may lead to a “happiness-boost” in the performer regardless of where or how the act occurred. This is largely due to the release of oxytocin in the brain, stimulated by the “emotional warmth” experienced as a result of performing the kind act. Benefits of engaging in kindness include experiencing a more positive mood or outlook, a greater sense of connectedness and increased relationship satisfaction. The pros are not just psychological, however. While oxytocin is responsible for that happy feeling after performing a kind act, it is also “cardioprotective” – meaning that it protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.

Research indicates that the benefits of performing a small act of kindness are influenced by motivation, variety and frequency. By choosing your own target behavior (i.e. a particular act of kindness), you’re more likely to stay motivated because your commitment has personal value and supports your sense of freedom. You’re also more likely to find new ways to make a difference (variety).

While performing an act of kindness once per week may be ideal, forming a new habit can be difficult – especially if not repeated frequently. As we celebrate our six month 1SmallACT-iversary this March—and as we continue our mission to support Every Sailor, Every Day—we invite you to take the opportunity to make kindness one of your healthy habits.  From March 11th through the end of the month, you can participate in our “21 Days of Small ACTs” challenge to uplift yourself, your shipmates, your family and members of the Navy community. Getting involved is easy (and rewarding!):

  1. Go to suicide.navy.mil and print your 1 Small ACT sign.
  2. Personalize your sign with a random act of kindness that you can perform at least once per week throughout the challenge’s 21 day duration.
  3. Take a “Small ACT Selfie” (photo) holding up your sign.
  4. Email your selfie to us at suicideprevention@navy.mil (no encrypted messages, please) or post it to Facebook using the hashtag #1SmallACT and/or #SmallACTSelfie for inclusion in the 1 Small ACT Photo Gallery. You may also submit your photo using the Real Warriors Campaign app.
  5. Pass on the kindness! Encourage six shipmates, family, friends or coworkers to take the challenge, in honor of the “1 Small ACT” six month anniversary.

Once you’ve completed the challenge, you will be well on your way to making kindness a habit and may find that you’re more confident in working toward other healthy habits. Remember, when we help others, we help ourselves. 1 Small ACT can make a difference.

References:

Acts of Kindness can Make You Happier. (2014, January 14). Retrieved March 01, 2016, from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2013/01/24/acts-of-kindness-can-make-you-happier

13 Ways To Be Nicer. (2012, June 07). Retrieved March 01, 2016, from http://www.prevention.com/mind-body/emotional-health/doing-kind-acts-reduces-anxiety-study