Tag Archives: behavioral health

Boosting Your Energy without Misusing Prescription Stimulants

PfD Productivity and Meds blog image

There never seems to be enough hours in the day to get everything done and get enough sleep. We strive for alertness and productivity, but they often seem easier to dream of than to truly achieve. While strong coffee or energy drinks (which carry their own risks) are popular quick-fixes among Sailors to boost energy and alertness, there may be temptation to use prescription stimulants to strengthen performance on the job. Using prescription stimulants in this way can put Sailors’ health and careers at risk, especially if taking someone else’s medication.  There are safe and natural alternatives to prescription stimulants that you can incorporate into your day-to-day routine to boost your energy when you may not always be able to get the sleep you need.

Understanding Prescription Stimulants and their Effects

Prescription medications such as Adderall (Dextroamphetamine-Amphetamine) and Ritalin (Methylphenidate) are used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition causing chronic inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviors. In some cases, they are also used to treat narcolepsy, a condition marked by intense daytime drowsiness. These medications are central nervous system stimulants that affect certain chemicals in the brain. For people who have ADHD or narcolepsy, these medications are very effective in the treatment of their symptoms and can help them gain the attentiveness and alertness that they need to function in their daily lives.

Because of stimulants’ ability to alleviate inattentiveness and sleepiness in people with ADHD or narcolepsy, some people who do not have diagnosed conditions feel that these medications may create positive results for them. However, a small study of college students co-conducted by the University of Rhode Island and Brown University found that these medications are not helpful to people who do not have ADHD. While they may provide temporary improvement of mood and focus, they do not appear to improve performance or reading comprehension, and they can impair short-term memory. Additionally, if not under the supervision of a doctor, an individual taking prescription stimulants that they have not been prescribed could be at risk of potentially harmful side effects such as heart problems, increased blood pressure or stroke.

Increasing Alertness and Attention Safely

When your watchstanding duty makes you feel like taping your eyelids open, getting these sorts of medications from a friend, family member or shipmate may seem like a good option. But sharing prescription medications can potentially threaten your Navy career. Try these tips to safely work towards becoming more attentive, alert and productive.

  • Optimize your sleep. Being tired and fatigued is a huge factor in preventing alertness. Seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night is ideal for Sailors, but it isn’t always possible. Sufficient sleep contributes to better memory, mood and performance. If that sort of sleep schedule is out of reach for you, squeezing in 30-minute or two-hour naps can alleviate fatigue and get you on track. Caffeine may be a helpful energy booster for you but remember to avoid it during the latter half of your day, as it can prevent restful sleep. Large meals, tobacco products, alcohol and exercise before bed can also be disruptive to your sleep, so avoid those in the few hours before you plan to lie down. A helpful tip for watch standing is following a 3/9 watchbill. This includes three-hour watches with nine hours off between watches. Ask your supervisor about following this schedule that maximizes performance and allows for adequate rest.
  • Establish a mindful morning routine. Waking up and putting yourself into the right mindset for productivity is essential. Try to find time for activities that promote balanced energy and focus, like meditation, working out and eating a balanced breakfast. Avoid checking your email as that can overload your brain with all the tasks you have to do. The same goes for checking social media and feeling bombarded with all the things that your connections have going on in their lives.
  • Focus on the tasks that matter and give yourself breaks. Instead of creating your to-do list with every single one of your tasks in mind, identify what is especially pressing for the day and focus on completing those. Remember that getting things done doesn’t have to be a marathon, so take breaks. Overworking the brain can make productivity even more challenging, frustrating and tiring.
  • Complete your most challenging work before lunch. Find yourself feeling sluggish after eating lunch? Try working on your more difficult tasks before your break when the mind is still fresh and you’re able to put forth your best energy. Save the “busy work” that doesn’t require as much creativity or brain power for later.
  • Eat for energy and resilience. A balanced diet not only promotes physical health, it also affects emotional and psychological health. Eating can be an emotional response, causing us to snack when bored or tired. Those feelings may cause us to crave processed foods like chips or high-sugar snacks such as cookies. Choosing whole foods over processed foods can positively impact mood and give you the energy you need to get through the day. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains or fruit can provide an energy boost, and lean proteins and vegetables can give your mood a needed boost as well. Caffeine can give you a jolt of energy but in excess can increase anxiety and cause apprehension, agitation and uneasiness as well as dehydration. Most caffeinated energy drinks also contain high amounts of sugar, which can create the unwanted effect of fatigue if blood sugar levels significantly increase too rapidly.

Prescription stimulants are safe and helpful for individuals with diagnosed conditions that require their use but are harmful when used as a quick fix for your energy or productivity deficit. Implementing these tips into your daily routine can help you boost your energy naturally, strengthening your performance without threatening your health or Navy career.

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 the Prescription for Discharge campaign online at http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/support/21st_Century_Sailor/DDD/campaigns/prescription/Pages/default.aspx.

“I have a clearance…and I stepped up and said ‘hey, I need some help’”

I have a clearance and I got help blog image

Submitted by Navy Alcohol Abuse Prevention’s Keep What You’ve Earned Campaign and Navy Suicide Prevention Branch’s Every Sailor, Every Day Campaign.

Throughout her 15-year career in the Navy, Intelligence Specialist Chief Amber Nuanez has been a constant source of support and mentorship to her Sailors. Above all of her personal accomplishments, she’s most proud to have contributed to others’ growth and development. Of course, her passion and dedication to her career has not come without sacrifice; particularly when it comes to being able to spend time with her young children despite long hours and deployments.  In the Keep What You’ve Earned (KWYE) campaign’s newest testimonial public service announcement (PSA), Nuanez admits feeling like she’s struggled with work and family life balance. But it’s her commitment to her children and her Sailors that led her to find the courage to seek help when she realized she was struggling with her mental and behavioral health.

Seeking Help vs. Career Concerns

Nuanez was concerned about how reaching out for help could affect her security clearance and ability to maintain her career in the intelligence community. Yet, she pressed forward recognizing that she was the one that now needed support and that help was always available. Nuanez not only sought help for mental health concerns, but a few months later self-referred for alcohol misuse treatment. She got the support she needed, enabling her to be an even stronger source of inspiration for her kids and Sailors. She now serves as both a Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor (DAPA) and Suicide Prevention Coordinator (SPC) for her current command.

Addressing mental and behavioral health needs is essential to maintaining personal and mission readiness, and your ability to be there for others. However, concerns about career implications may lead to apprehension about seeking help. You may wonder “How will leadership view me afterwards? What about my job or security clearance?” The truth is that there are DoD-level policy protections in place to help prevent negative career impacts for those who seek proactive help. In fact, less than one percent of security clearance denials or revocations involve mental health concerns or behavioral health support. Whether through your local Fleet & Family Support Center, Navy chaplain or medical provider, Military OneSource non-medical counseling or the many other resources available to Sailors and families, seeking help is a sign of strength. Further, it’s an indicator of the good judgment and reliability needed to maintain a security clearance.

Self-Referring for Alcohol Use

The process of proactively seeking help for alcohol use issues in the Navy is called self-referral. If done before an alcohol incident (AI) has occurred, self-referring for alcohol use treatment through your command does not result in disciplinary action. Initiating a self-referral means that a Sailor wants to receive counseling or treatment for alcohol abuse. “That treatment was really awesome because they focus on the ‘why’ of your drinking habits,” Nuanez shared. “If I hadn’t have had the [self-referral] program and SARP [Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program], I don’t know where I’d be.”

To initiate a self-referral and begin your journey to recovery, speak with a qualified agent, such as:

  • Command DAPA
  • Commanding officer, executive officer, officer in charge, command master chief or chief of the boat
  • Navy drug and alcohol counselor or intern
  • DOD medical provider (including a Licensed Independent Provider)
  • Chaplain
  • Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) counselor

1 Small ACT Can Make a Difference

While fear of reaching out can be overwhelming, 1 Small ACT can make a career or life-saving difference. Seeking help is the best thing you can do for yourself, your family and your Navy career if navigating mental or behavioral health concerns. In addition to the support resources mentioned above, if you or someone you know is in immediate crisis you can reach out to the Military Crisis Line online, by phone at 1-800-273-8255 or by text at 838255.

Help encourage others to reach out for support by sharing this blog post and ISC Nuanez’s Keep What You’ve Earned campaign testimonial video, which will be available on Navy Alcohol Abuse Prevention’s YouTube channel this month. For more resources to help you keep what you’ve earned, visit https://go.usa.gov/xPKzq or download the Pier Pressure mobile application from the App Store or Google Play for access to responsible drinking tools and information on Navy’s self-referral process.

Additionally, you can share the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign’s latest graphics and posters on seeking help and security clearances, available at https://go.usa.gov/xPKzT.

 

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

PfD blog image_June

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.