Tag Archives: behavioral health

Why Grit Matters

GHWB Prepares for Night Flight Operations

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog provided courtesy of the Human Performance Resource Center. Navy Suicide Prevention Branch is a proud partner of the Human Performance Resource Center. To learn more, visit https://www.hprc-online.org/.

Most people believe that talent and ability primarily enable peak performance and achievement. Emerging research shows that “grit”—a combination of effort and interest—also can predict success across a variety of domains, above and beyond your talents and skills. But what is grit? And is it possible to get more of it?

Grit is a psychological trait that shares some features with hardiness and mental toughness. It’s often compared to one’s ability to “suck it up and drive on” amid difficult situations. But grit is more than just your ability to plow ahead. It’s defined primarily as persistence or your ability to endure and carry on in the face of challenges and adversity. An additional facet of grit is consistency of interest or passion. Gritty people often are intensely committed to top-level personal goals for what they want to accomplish in life.

Why does grit matter?

Warfighters already might be able to envision what those with grit might look like in terms of their attitudes and behaviors. Gritty people don’t give up easily in the face of setbacks. They set goals, work hard, and stick with things until they achieve their desired end. Those who are high in grit aren’t easily distracted by new ideas and projects, and their interests remain stable from year to year.

Some research suggests that grit might be a factor in performance, especially during stressful, challenging, and demanding events. Grit can predict academic achievement in college students and adults. It also has been shown to predict retention of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) through their first year of grueling training and schoolwork. Grit might be able to predict how much effort and time someone is willing to commit to physical exercise as well.

How can I get more grit?

Some grit can be accounted for by your genetics and personality, but you still can work toward getting grittier. Try these strategies to boost your grit.

  • Practice, practice, practice. You can grow your capacity to perform difficult tasks and develop your skills by practicing things in a disciplined manner. Practice like you mean it by engaging in focused and deliberate efforts to shore up weaknesses and make gradual progress every day.
  • Find (and remind yourself) of your purpose. When what you do every day fits your interests, you’re likely to feel more engaged and satisfied, perform better, and stay at your job longer than those whose interests aren’t aligned. That might seem like an obvious connection, but even if your everyday duties aren’t exactly what you’re interested in, find ways to fuel your internal motivation. Ask yourself, “Why does this matter to me, and how does it matter to others and the world around me?”
  • Build optimism. Cultivating optimism enables you to remain hopeful in the face of inevitable setbacks. Try to think of one of the grittiest people you know. Whether the person is an athlete, Warfighter, or someone in your family, you might notice that he or she worked through roadblocks by maintaining hope. Try to accurately attribute the causes of your successes and failures too. And know that even though you might not be where you want yet, there still are many opportunities ahead to get there.

The bottom line

Grit is a psychological factor that can contribute greatly to your chances of achieving success, and it can help you handle things and remain passionate in the face of setbacks. If you have children, visit HPRC’s Family Resilience section for more tips on how to cultivate grit in kids too.

Staying Safe with Prescription Pain Medications

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Justin joined the Navy a few years ago, right out of high school. He’s proud to be a Sailor and has a passion for his work. After experiencing an unfortunate on-the-job injury, he goes to his nearest military treatment facility (MTF) for treatment and receives a prescription for a pain medication. His injury was serious and he’s been in a lot of pain, so he takes the prescription regularly to minimize the pain as much as he can.

After a week, although the pain is more tolerable, he continues taking the same dosage regularly because he is used to doing so to avoid the pain he was feeling in the couple days after his injury. He considers using his medication less often as he recovers, but he still has medication remaining and wants to do everything he can to remain pain-free.

If you’ve ever been in a car accident, had surgery, or gotten injured, you may understand how Justin is feeling. Being in pain is stressful and can take a toll on you physically and emotionally. Prescription pain medications can feel like a lifesaver in these circumstances. But continuing to take them after most of the pain has diminished can lay an unintentional foundation for misuse or addiction. The following tips can help you can manage your pain without the risk of misuse or addiction.

Understanding What Prescription Opioids are and How They’re Used

Opioids are a type of drug that is naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Prescription opioids may be made from the plant itself or from replication of the chemical makeup of the plant. They are used as pain relievers for moderate to severe pain. They may be prescribed for acute pain such as the temporary pain after a surgery or from an injury, or they may be prescribed for chronic pain conditions such as backache, arthritis, or migraines. Opioids relax the body and affect the brain. When misused, opioids can be addictive like heroin (another opioid). Some commonly prescribed opioids are hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl and codeine.

Avoiding Unintentional Misuse and Abuse

After an injury or a surgery, some level of pain is expected and normal. The goal should not be to eliminate pain altogether but manage it so that you’re able to function until the pain eventually subsides on its own. In the initial day or two after an injury or surgery, the pain is usually at its worst, but over time, the pain is likely to improve and the need for pain medication should decrease.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that for first-time use, the number of days you take the prescription opioids can directly impact if you become a “long-term” user. For individuals who took opioids for eight or more days, 13.5% were still using opioids one year later. For those with a 31+ day prescription, nearly a third were still using them.

A prescription for an opioid does not have to be a one-way ticket to addiction if you are cautious. Certain medications such as antibiotics or antivirals are necessary at a specific dosage for the treatment of illness. Pain medications, however, only aim to alleviate the discomfort associated with an illness, injury, or chronic pain condition. Assess your own pain over time, and ask your health care provider if the prescribed dosage is still necessary for your level of pain.

There are also non-prescription medications that can be used for certain types of pain. Consider over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to help you minimize prescription medication use, shorten the duration of time on opioids, or avoid it altogether. OTC medications come in various strengths and may be suitable options for pain from broken bones or oral surgery, for example. Studies have indicated that they can provide similar relief to prescription pain medications. Before making the switch, check with your provider to be sure that you don’t have any preexisting conditions that may cause a negative reaction.

Managing Pain Without Drugs

While medications are a quick fix for pain, there are non-pharmaceutical options available as well, particularly for chronic or long-term pain conditions. Comprehensive pain management is a multidisciplinary approach that incorporates physical therapy, relaxation techniques, education and other methods to help manage chronic pain. It focuses on the complex nature of pain and how it affects the physical, emotional, social and psychological health of those experiencing it.

There are various complementary methods for managing chronic pain that all have some evidence of effectiveness. Acupuncture, chiropractic care, heat and cold therapy, massage and gentle yoga are some of many other options for chronic pain management that don’t involve pharmaceuticals.

“Self-managing” pain is all about learning methods to help you manage your pain, “hacks” to incorporate into your current lifestyle and practices to minimize discomfort. It can be a great means of avoiding prescription drug misuse.

Using Prescription Drugs Properly with the 4 Steps

Prescription opioids are safe and helpful when taken for short amounts of time. Follow the Prescription for Discharge campaign’s four steps to avoid misusing prescription drugs:

  • Take Correctly. Taking prescription drugs as prescribed by your health care provider can help prevent potential misuse. Ask your doctor what other options are available to you after the initial pain subsides. It’s also a good idea to ask how long your prescription is valid, which may be different than the printed expiration date.
  • Report Promptly. If you have been prescribed a prescription medication by a non-military provider, you must report it to your chain of command and ensure they are entered into your military health record within ten days.
  • Dispose Properly. Medications that are no longer needed should be properly disposed of to prevent misuse. You can dispose of unused medication at home by placing it in a small plastic bag with an undesirable substance (e.g., kitty litter or used coffee grounds) and throw the bag in the trash. Cross out personal information on your prescription labels before discarding the bottles. You can also dispose of unused medications through secure drop boxes at participating MTFs.
  • Never Share. Ensuring your own proper use of prescription drugs is essential, but it is also important to help prevent misuse among friends, family and shipmates. Even if they’re experiencing similar symptoms, never share your prescription medications or take others’ medications.

Knowing the Signs and Reaching Out for Help

Seeking help promptly is the best thing you can do for health and safety if you think you or someone you know may have a problem with prescription drug misuse. Signs of prescription drug misuse include:

  • Mood swings or hostility
  • Abnormal energy
  • Significant increase or decrease in fatigue or sleep
  • Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor
  • Asking friends and family members for their medication
  • Claiming that their prescription was lost or stolen

If you recognize these signs within yourself or others, speak with your command Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor (DAPA) or doctor, or call 1-866-U-ASK-NPC.

For more information and tips to use prescription drugs safely, visit http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/support/21st_Century_Sailor/NAAP/campaign_events/prescription/Pages/default.aspx.

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.

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.

Got the Keys? 5 Tips to be a Stress-Free DD

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The following post was contributed by Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention’s Keep What You’ve Earned campaign (KWYE), helping Sailors and families drink responsibly and maintain their Behavioral Fitness. For additional KWYE resources, visit www.nadap.navy.mil.

So, you’ve decided to Give the Gift of a Designated Driver (DD) to your shipmates, saving a few dollars out of your holiday spending budget and potentially saving lives. Good move. Whether you’re a DD rookie or seasoned vet, a few tips can help you enjoy your night out sans alcohol and spare you some headaches along the way (because even though you won’t wakeup with a hangover, not planning ahead can turn a fun night into frustrating one).

  1. Choose a day that works for you.

While there’s never a bad time to a DD, you may want to give some thought to when you’ll be ready and willing to serve. Maybe Thursday nights are best for you or you prefer weekends since your days usually start early. If you don’t have a preference, consider whether there are certain circumstances where you may have a harder time totally avoiding alcohol. If you know you’ll be tempted to have a few brews while watching Monday Night Football at the bar, don’t put yourself and others at risk if you don’t think you’ll truly spend the evening alcohol-free. Plan for you and your friends to use a ride-sharing service to and from the bar instead. The Keep What You’ve Earned campaign’s Pier Pressure mobile app offers easy access to Uber and Lyft, as well as quick tools to help you gauge your drinking when you’re not serving as a DD, like a blood alcohol content estimator and calorie counter. Download on the Apple App Store or Google Play today so it’s already on your phone when you need it.

  1. Make a list and check it twice.

Who’s coming? Where are you going? What time are you leaving? Set a plan that you’re comfortable with since you’re the driver. If there are more people than there are seatbelts in the car, enlist another person to take the pledge and drive. Agree on what stops you’ll make ahead of time, what time you’ll leave and where you’ll meet at the end of the night. And—because trying to convince someone who’s had a few drinks that it’s time to go isn’t fun for anyone—make an agreement that everyone comes in together and leaves together. No exceptions.

  1. Get the keys before you head out.

Decide on whose car you’re driving and get the keys before you leave so you won’t have to wrestle for them later. This is the safest way to ensure that no one who has been drinking ends up behind the wheel. It’s also a physical reminder of your commitment to your shipmates that you won’t drink and will get everyone home safely.

  1. No alcohol – at all!

A DD isn’t just the least drunk of the bunch or the one who’s only had a sip or two – it’s the person who has agreed ahead of time not to consume any alcohol. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t drink with your friends. Toss back a mocktail (or a few since you don’t have to worry about getting drunk—just watch out for hidden sugars). Try OPNAV N17 Dietician Lt. Pamela Gregory’s “Ginger Lime Fizz.” Ask the bartender to combine three parts ginger beer and one part seltzer water with a few squeezes of lime. You can also nix the rum in a traditional mojito recipe for a mocktail version. Try it with muddled cranberries or a splash of cranberry juice for a seasonal spin. Don’t forget to alternate your rounds with water so that everyone is pacing themselves.

  1. Turn down for what?

While not consuming alcohol is one of the most important parts of your commitment, it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the party. If you show your shipmates that you can still have a good time without alcohol, they’ll be willing to step up to the plate next time and be a DD. So, turn up! You’ll surely be the winner at pool or darts, and may even score a non-alcoholic drink or appetizer courtesy the bar if they offer goodies for DDs (ask!). If you’re out with a big group, hang out with another person who isn’t drinking, like the DD for the other car. People-watch together, shoot pool, dance, watch the game…just don’t take or post videos or photos of your friends who may be partying a little too hard. They probably won’t appreciate the laughs at their expense the next morning.

Above all, be proud of yourself and connect with the meaning behind your commitment. Responsible DDs have contributed to alcohol related incidents decreasing in the Navy since 2013. While it feels good to give to others, it also doesn’t hurt if your shipmates find small ways to show their appreciation as well. After all, helping them avoid a DUI can save them anywhere from $10,000 to $1 million over their lifetime. That’s worthy of an appetizer or mocktail courtesy of your crew (shipmates, take note!).

This FITmas, give the gift of a designated driver to help your shipmates celebrate responsibly and keep what they’ve earned.

Concerned about alcohol use? The Navy has a non-disciplinary self-referral process that allows Sailors to get treatment and remain on active-duty. Learn more on the Pier Pressure app (click Tools > Self-Referral) or visit www.nadap.navy.mil.