Tag Archives: deployment

Beat the Heat of Summer Transition Stress with Support

Beat The Heat of Summer Transition with Support_blog image

Summertime is a great time of year, with the sun and accompanying warm weather putting us in a better mood than the short, cold winter days. We’re able to get out and enjoy the outdoor activities we missed out on during the winter months, and maybe take some well-deserved liberty to enjoy time with friends and family.

For Navy families, summer can also be a transitional period with Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves, deployments and other changes that can increase stress. Navigating these transitions can be difficult if you are not connected to the right support. Luckily, the Navy has resources to make these transitions a bit easier to manage, equipping you with predictability and controllability during the chaos. Online resources and services from military partners can also help Sailors and their families stay cool while navigating summertime stressors.

Navigating the Stress of PCS Moves

PCS moves can make you feel scared, excited, anxious, and hopeful all at once. Thoughts of picking up and moving to a new place, interrupting your routine, having to find childcare or school options for the kids, losing your social circle and disrupting your connections can be overwhelming. These tips and resources can help you find balance, stay connected and minimize PCS stress:

  • Utilize the Relocation Assistance Program (RAP) at the Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC). It has numerous resources to help Navy families navigate a big move, including its Sponsorship program which pairs you with someone similar in rank and family structure prior to your move.
  • Get step-by-step prep tips from Military OneSource’s Plan My Move, a tool that gives Service members a custom plan and calendar of all the things to think about and do prior to a PCS move.
  • Reach out to someone who can relate. The BeThere Peer Support Call and Outreach Center’s peer counselors provide a listening ear to Sailors and families, offering customized tips, support and perspective during difficult situations such as deployments, moves, relationship challenges, career issues, and other every day stressors. Connect with them online at betherepeersupport.org, by phone at 1-844-357-PEER (7337) or via text at 480-360-6188.

Continuing Psychological Support

If you are currently receiving treatment, maintaining a relationship with a mental health care provider is essential, especially after a PCS move or major transition. Change can be challenging, but the process of transitioning your care doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips:

  • Inform your current provider of the upcoming move. Discuss your progress and work together to determine what goals to implement with your new provider. If you are on medications for psychological health, make sure that you have enough to get you through the time before meeting with a new provider.
  • If transitioning to a non-military provider, be sure to sign a release of information with your current provider so that the new provider can understand your history and offer the appropriate care.
  • Let the inTransition program help you make the switch to a new provider after any kind of move within or even outside of the Navy. The program connects Sailors with a personal coach who can make the move easier by providing support, locating resources, and helping connect them to their new provider.

Preparing for Deployment – Before and After

Deployments can be challenging for Sailors and their families alike, whether preparing for an upcoming deployment or adjusting to everyday life after returning home. These resources can help you and your family prepare for what’s ahead, whether it’s your first deployment or your fifteenth:

  • Military OneSource’s Military Deployment Guide has information, tips, and check-lists to help prepare for deployment, navigate life during deployment, and reintegrate after the return home.
  • Take advantage of family counseling available through your local FFSC. Their trained counselors can offer support for Sailors and families navigating the stresses of deployment and reintegration, and can provide referrals for any additional services that may be needed.
  • Learn more about Navy Operational Stress Control’s new Navigating Stress for Navy Families training, which helps Sailors and their families understand how to better navigate stress, including the stress that may be associated with deployment.

Finding More Information and Resources

Get familiar with the programs and services aboard your new installation or in your new community ahead of time. Head to the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS website to help you locate everything from barber shops and libraries, to medical and dental clinics with one quick search.

Military OneSource’s website also has sections about deployment, family, and moving that offer a wealth of strategies and support resources to help prepare for and navigate the many twists and turns of military life. And, because adults aren’t the only ones who experience stress from these twists and turns, check out Military Kids Connect; an online community designed specifically for military children between ages six and 17.

Reaching Out for Help

While stress is a normal part of life and can help us build resilience, too much stress or prolonged exposure to it can have severe impacts on our daily function and psychological health. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength. The Military Crisis Line offers confidential support and is available 24/7 online, by phone at 1-800-273-8255 or by text at 838255.

Finding Comfort and Joy in Family Tradition

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The pressure to do things a certain way—the same way, each and every time—can be one of the most stressful parts of the holiday season, especially since Navy life brings about constant change. Yet family traditions are cherished for the memories they create, the routines that they establish and the customs that are passed on to the next generation—and for good reason. A recent research review published in The Journal of Family Psychology finds that family rituals “are powerful organizers of family life that offer stability during times of stress and transition.”[1] Traditions give us a sense of connectedness and continuity. They’re also associated with relationship satisfaction, stronger family bonds, and better psychological and emotional health. Still, the stress and transition pieces can leave you struggling to keep traditions going while balancing others’ expectations, navigating a deployment, or adapting to new circumstances. Here are some tips to give your traditions a boost this FITmas:

  • Know the difference between ritual and routine. Routines tend to be more systematic when it comes to planning, and, by extension, can be automatic in terms of execution. There may be a lot of work involved but not as much thought, connection or processing that occurs afterward (other than a sigh of relief). Rituals, however, are where the magic happens. Researchers have found that rituals give participants a sense of identity through active participation and emotional connection. What’s the difference? Meaning. One Navy chaplain reflected on the significance behind his family’s holiday tradition in this NavyNavStress post, noting how a humorous family custom they’ve created has brought them a sense of familiarity no matter where they live and an opportunity to create new memories. Take a moment to look at your family’s routines and identify ways that you can add meaning to create sustainable (and portable) rituals. If preparing a particular dish each year has slowly lost its significance, consider letting the younger chefs take on some of the more kid-friendly roles so that they feel a sense of contribution, learn a family recipe and have some fun.
  • Don’t be afraid to switch it up. Just because a tradition has been a part of your family’s holiday season for generations doesn’t mean your family can’t add its own spin to keep it going. If you’re deployed or separated from those who you typically enjoy your traditional holiday meal with, schedule a recipe-share. Send your family your favorite barracks-friendly recipe and pick a night that you can both prepare the dish. Take photos along the way or give them a call to hear about their experience preparing the meal with only the ingredients and tools you outlined for them. The simplicity of the meal is sure to be a conversation starter and the experience of creating something “together” can help everyone feel connected—a key ingredient for traditions new, old, or refreshed.
  • Get creative to keep it going. Elves and other holiday toys that mysteriously appear in unlikely places have become a recent tradition that’s seemingly here to stay. But there’s no need to stress if the whole family isn’t together to go searching for the mischievous holiday guest each morning. If you’re deployed, you can find your own holiday helper (such as a small Navy teddy bear) to photograph in different spaces on your ship. Save each photo and write a little story to describe your helper’s journey that day, tying in fun facts that relate to what you’re doing, your recent or upcoming port of call, etc. If you have access to email or social media, send each photo and storyline to your family. If connectivity is an issue, present the compiled photo-story to your family when you return from deployment.

Deployments and changing demands around the holidays aren’t the only things that may hamper tradition. Changes to family structure like divorce or loss of a loved one may impact them as well. Doing what you can to adapt traditions in an effort to keep them going can harness the power of healing for both children and adults alike. No matter what challenges your family may face—and no matter the size, age or geographic location(s) of your family—traditions are most impactful when everyone feels committed, is able to contribute and is actively communicating. Taking the time to sit down as a family to discuss changes, emotions and expectations can build Trust, emphasize Meaning, strengthen Relationships, promote Predictability and Controllability; each helping to build resilience this season and for holidays to come.

[1]  “A Review of 50 Years of Research on Naturally Occurring Family Routines and Rituals: Cause for Celebration?,” Barbara H. Fiese, Thomas J. Tomcho, Michael Douglas, Kimberly Josephs, Scott Poltrock, and Tim Baker; Syracuse University; Journal of Family Psychology, Vol. 16, No. 4.

Strengthening Connection While Miles Apart

While the holidays are usually a time for family gatherings, many USS Samuel B. Roberts departs for a deployment.Navy families will be celebrating the holidays apart from loved ones due to deployment, temporary duty status, relocation or other circumstances. While Sailors may enjoy the spirit of the season through camaraderie with their shipmates and celebrations within their commands, maintaining connections with those back home is important too. With a little effort—and a little bandwidth—you can stay engaged with your loved ones this holiday season. Here are a few tips:

  • Enjoy a cherished holiday movie or book “together.” Perhaps you and your children watch the same holiday movie each year, or you and a sibling or parent built memories watching a seasonal classic growing up. If you are able to locate this film on DVD locally, schedule time with your loved one(s) to watch it and chat online through social media or email. Similarly, you may choose to share a book together over the course of a few weeks and write each other emails about each section you’ve read. Activities that you can enjoy together while apart build connection and add new dimension to your communication.
  • Schedule a Recipe-Share Night. This one is particularly fun if you’re in staying in a barracks with limited access to a full kitchen. Share your favorite barracks-recipe with your family and pick a night that you can both prepare that meal and enjoy it “together.” Give them a call to hear their experience preparing the meal with only the ingredients and resources you outlined for them. The simplicity of the meal is sure to be a conversation starter! Ask them to create a new barracks-friendly recipe for you to try next time.
  • Use Social Media to Stay Connected. Get creative with your social media posts this season! Find an item like a toy elf or teddy bear that you can photograph in unlikely places on your ship, or start a new hashtag that you and your loved ones will use to post photos based on a selected daily theme. You could also submit a new photo to the 1 Small ACT Photo Gallery and tag a friend or family member asking them to post one and pass it on. This is a great way to engage in something meaningful during the holidays while showing support for your shipmates.

Being apart from friends and family is an opportunity to find new ways to connect and put a spin on existing traditions, but separation can be stressful. Remember, help is always available. Call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (option 1). In Europe, call 00800 1273 8255 or DSN 118. Those stationed abroad can also utilize MCL’s online chat services.

Strengthen your Well-Being through Spiritual Fitness

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Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog post provided courtesy of the Real Warriors Campaign. More information and tools are available at www.realwarriors.net.

Experiences such as traumatic events during your military career can lead to questioning your values and trying to make sense of what happened. Spirituality can help you cope by connecting you to something bigger than yourself. For some, it may be a relationship with your unit, family or nature. For others, it may be a relationship with a Higher Power and religious practices. However you express it, spirituality can create values and beliefs to give life meaning.

Benefits of Spirituality

Spirituality can help you cope with stress in all stages of military life. For example, through meditation or prayer, you may feel at peace and find more purpose in life. It can:

  • Increase happiness
  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Strengthen the bond of your unit
  • Promote a positive outlook
  • Mend feelings of moral injury
  • Strengthen personal relationships
  • Maintain healthy lifestyle choices

Spiritual Fitness Tips

Spirituality can play a key role in your well-being. Try these tips to boost your daily routine:

  • Share thoughts and questions with others who have similar beliefs
  • Take part in creative arts, such as painting, music or writing
  • Embrace the outdoors. Go for walks, hikes, swims or runs to connect with the world around you
  • Read about spiritual teachings
  • Find a regular religious service or practice that works for you
  • Think positively
  • Practice mindfulness or yoga

What Line Leaders Can Do

With good leadership, spirituality can lead to unity. As a line leader, you can:

  • Have your unit members take a Spiritual Fitness Assessment [PDF 267KB]. Follow up with a post-assessment review that your service provides.
  • Provide equal support for service members with different spiritual practices. For example, allow time to practice Tai Chi or attend religious service.
  • Work with chaplains to help unit members cope with psychological health concerns.
  • Give service members chances to share their spirituality with peers.

About 700 military chaplains across all military branches are ready and available to help service members become or stay spiritually fit. Call Military OneSource at 800-362-9647 to find the chaplain nearest you.

Additional Resources

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Got Quality Time?

Meaning, one of the Five Principles of Resilience, can help us “Keep an Even Keel” when trying to balance the strain of transitions and separations on family relationships. Lt. Baron Miller, a Navy chaplain assigned to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, offers insight on maintaining the balance between quantity and quality to make time spent with loved ones meaningful this holiday season. –NavyNavStress.com note

As we approach the holidays there is one thing people commonly associate with the season: time with family and friends. People are accustomed to being with loved ones during the holidays—and that’s well and good. We should long to be with our family and friends while we share meals and cheer. However, I’ve observed an interesting phenomenon that occurs during the holidays and that is the expectation of quality time spent with those we love.

Everyone wants quality time; the problem is we want it like microwaved food—fast, easy, and effortless. But guess what? Relationships don’t work that way, nor do marriage and parenting. If you want quality time, you must log the quantity time.

If you’ve ever deployed, you probably understand this principle without even knowing it. Remember those first few precious days home? Though you love the ones you’re with, there is a transition period where you can find yourself readapting to the intimacy of those relationships. That’s because quality time requires quantity time. If we’re not logging in the hours of quantity time it’s difficult to expect quality time to just appear; it must be nurtured and that comes with quantity.

I recall sending postcards to my wife and kids on all my deployments. This may sound crazy, but I would try and send one every day. I would buy huge quantities of silly and serious postcards and spend whatever was necessary on the postage. Daily, I would write a sentence or two, that’s it, just to let them know I missed them and to keep myself fresh in their memories. A few words every day isn’t too difficult, but it went a long way when it came to reintegrating after deployment. It was during this time I realized that I spent the quantity time, even while deployed, that led to quality time when I arrived home.

Maybe you aren’t currently deployed, but in homeport, and life is moving at a normal pace. The danger of letting quantity time slip away is still present. We can get comfortable in routines and forget the ways we once showed those we love how much we value and appreciate them. We can forget that it is in the simple, ordinary and even mundane rhythms of quantity time spent with each other that ripen situations for quality time.

If you want the joy of intimacy that comes with quality time this holiday season, whether in your friendships, your marriage, or with your kids, first put in the quantity time.