Tag Archives: emotional health

Reframing Stress to Help You Grow

Stress takes on many forms and looks different for everyone. Recognizing and addressing your stressors before they escalate to distress is important. Even understanding the physical signs of stress unique to you (e.g., muscle tension, upset stomach) helps your mind feel more empowered to transform anxious thoughts to more relaxed feelings.

According to the American Institute of Stress, stress can produce both positive and negative impacts on individuals physically, emotionally or mentally. The Cleveland Clinic mentions how stress that progresses to distress may lead to headaches, elevated blood pressure, problems sleeping and a heightened sense of anxiousness. Sometimes, intrusive thoughts or memories lead to heightened anxiety. Addressing feelings when you feel them is important, even if that means trying new behavioral techniques or taking a break to help you stay healthy.

Eustress, also commonly referred to as “good stress,” may actually help you learn new skills, navigate major life changes and determine how to effectively address new roles and responsibilities. Too much eustress is not good, but when experienced in manageable moments, it can improve our well-being. Successfully overcoming smaller stressors helps build resilience and equips you with the tools to address other concerns. Positive thinking often goes hand-in-hand with eustress and may help you view perceived barriers as opportunities to grow rather than challenges that feel overwhelming or cumbersome. Setting reasonable expectations, giving yourself daily affirmations or expressing gratitude may also help boost your outlook.

The Navy Suicide Prevention Program’s Stress Navigation Plan contains actionable strategies for how to recognize and respond to stress. Thinking more positively is made easier once you’ve set healthy habits. Consider these ideas from the American Heart Association:

AMA

For more ideas on how to understand your stressors and refocus your stress, try completing activities from this worksheet from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

SAIL Referrals Decreasing during COVID-19

SAIL_logo (002)Last month, there was a significant decrease in the SAIL referral rate. There is concern that commands are not submitting referrals due to the COVID-19 crisis. Now more than ever, the Navy Suicide Prevention Program is encouraging commands and Suicide Prevention Coordinators (SPCs) to continue submitting SAIL referrals following instances of suicide-related behaviors (SRBs). SAIL services are critical during this crisis and commands must continue to submit referrals. Due to COVID-19 operations, caring contacts have transitioned from in-person contacts to telephonic contacts, but SAIL Case Managers are still standing by to assist Sailors.

Sailors sometimes do not speak up about their feelings of hopelessness or emotional distress prior to an SRB because they fear judgement and other negative perceptions. The Navy created the SAIL Program to provide a support network that assists Sailors in navigating resources. Participation in SAIL initiates a series of caring contacts during the first 90 days after an SRB to ensure the Sailor has ongoing resources and support. SAIL is not therapy and does not replace therapy or the care the Sailor may receive from medical and chaplains. It is risk assessment, safety planning and a link to all the additional resources that Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) offers to support our Sailors.

The SAIL Program launches into action when a command notifies their SPC when an SRB occurs. The SPC then contacts the Navy Suicide Prevention Program, which forwards the Sailor’s information to Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC). CNIC contacts the appropriate FFSC Case Manager, who first reaches out to the command, and then reaches out to the Sailor to offer SAIL. SAIL case managers help Sailors understand, choose and engage with resources they need. Sailors are empowered to strengthen their coping skills throughout the process.

Although risk factors associated with SRBs do not cause or predict suicide, several relate to social connection:

  • Lack of social support and sense of isolation
  • Loss of relationship or significant personal loss
  • Feeling like a burden to others, helplessness

If you hold a leadership position, be sure to actively listen to your Sailors with the intent to understand, not just respond. After someone experiences an SRB, one of the most important things they need is support. Support from leadership is critical at this time. Remaining transparent with others in discussing thoughts of suicide or other forms of self-harm openly promotes help-seeking behavior. Facilitating positive and ongoing dialogue around stress helps empower proactive self-care.

Psychological health is just as critical to readiness as physical health. Feeling connected to others can help reduce the isolation of suicidal thoughts, which often stem from a desire to stop intense pain rather than a desire to die. Leaders at all levels of the Navy contribute to their shipmates’ understanding of resources and command climate. Whether you’re a deckplate leader, front-line supervisor or commander, investing in relationships with your team through mentorship and other forms of social connection helps create an environment where all Sailors feel heard and valued. We all play a part in creating a supportive environment where those who need help have the courage to seek help and feel heard.

To learn more about the SAIL Program and access additional resources for leaders, visit this website.

If you or someone you know is in need of immediate assistance, the Military Crisis Line is available 24/7. Call 1-800-273-8255 (Option 1), text 838255 or visit http://www.militarycrisisline.net for free and confidential support.

Relax and Recharge for a Good Night of Sleep

Woman on bed reading book and drinking coffee

Going to sleep at night can be easier said than done. Whether you’re up late reflecting on the past or thinking about the future, our minds may need additional prompting in order to slow down before bed. From our emotional well-being, to our safety, to supporting our circadian rhythm, maintaining healthy sleep habits and routines positively impacts several aspects of our health.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute outlines how sleep deficiency occurs if you have one or more of the following experiences:

  • You don’t get enough sleep (sleep deprivation)
  • You sleep at the wrong time of day (that is, you’re out of sync with your body’s natural clock)
  • You don’t sleep well or get all of the different types of sleep that your body needs
  • You have a sleep disorder that prevents you from getting enough sleep or causes poor quality sleep

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute discusses how sleep deficiency can make you “have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night for optimal health.

Here are a few ideas on how to unwind before going to sleep:

Read a hardcover book or magazine. Scrolling through social media accounts, watching online videos or reading articles from a phone or laptop does not help our minds relax and get ready for sleep. Many sleep experts even recommend removing all digital devices from your bedroom or sleeping area. Although we live in a world of constant digital connectivity, swapping your phone for a book will help you relax and sleep more peacefully through the night.

Write down your thoughts. Instead of ruminating about an experience, take time to journal about your thoughts and experiences to help contextualize them before you go to sleep. For tips on how to get started journaling, check out this article.

Practice physical self-care. Exercise, stretch and/or take a bath to relax your muscles before going to sleep. Consistent exercise and movement throughout the day will also help you sleep better.

Do some light cleaning. Whether it’s your room, apartment, barracks or living space, take time before you go to bed to fold laundry, wipe down your counters or straighten up your papers. Focusing on small tasks each night will help you settle down with a sense of accomplishment and lead to a more relaxing wake up.

Meditate in a way that works for you. Several mobile applications now focus on guiding individuals through breathing and meditation activities. If you have already found a successful way to meditate, consider expanding your sensory experience by using a white noise machine or listening to nature sounds.

Prep for the next day. If you are feeling anxious about what the next day may bring, consider ways for how you can feel more empowered to take on new challenges and opportunities. Consider creating a to-do or goals list for the next day, checking the weather or packing your lunch.

For more ideas on how to get a better night of sleep, review the following items:

Three Easy Tips for Improving Your Heart Health

Healthy lifestyle concept, clean food good health dietary in heart dish with sporty gym aerobic body exercise workout training class equipment, weight scale and sports shoes in fitness center

While Valentine’s Day gets the majority of the heart-related attention in February, there’s another reason to celebrate – February marks American Heart Month, an observance focused on raising awareness about maintaining a healthy heart through proactive prevention. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Even if you are young and healthy, it is important to begin tracking and monitoring your heart’s health. Healthy habits formed in early adulthood can have long-lasting positive impacts on your well-being. Although some individuals may face certain risk factors for this disease outside of their control, the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center outlines how certain medical conditions associated with heart health are “controllable, and entirely preventable in some cases with lifestyle changes.”

Here are a few ideas for improving your heart health:

Understand your potential risks. Consider making an appointment with your primary care physician at least once a year to exclusively discuss and evaluate your heart health.  Be open about your family history, discuss your current medications and routinely monitor your cholesterol. You can also use self-service blood pressure kiosks located at several pharmacies and drug stores to check-in on your levels. The American Heart Association’s My Life Check® self-assessment tool can provide insight in to your personal risk factors.

Get your heart pumping. While any form of routine exercise is likely to bolster your holistic health, this blog from Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends focusing on three types of exercise for your heart: aerobic, resistance training and flexibility-centric movements. Boosting your endurance and strength doesn’t always have to happen at a gym, and you can always consult your Command Fitness Leader for new ideas on how to stay active. No matter your preferred activity, reducing your stress levels through exercise can also improve your heart health.

Practice healthy eating. Ingredients found in processed food may lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and even heart disease. Building balanced meals and incorporating healthy options as much as possible is important to maintaining your health. NHLBI’s comprehensive set of heart healthy eating resources offers recipe ideas and tailored eating plans. From avocado and shrimp spring rolls to banana oat cookies, this list of aggregated recipes by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Million Hearts® 2022 initiative outlines creative ideas for eating mindfully.

Improving your overall health doesn’t just start and end with making sure your heart is strong. Push forward with your other 2020 resolutions and your heart, as well as the rest of your body and mind, will thank you.

How to Get Started Journaling

MINDFULNESS hand-lettered sketch notes in notepad on wooden desk with cup of coffee and pens

As we’re in the month of New Year’s resolutions, it is important to take a moment to reflect on the past and the opportunities for growth that lie ahead.  If one of your goals is to live more mindfully and empathetically this year, consider committing to regular journaling.  While journaling is not a one-size-fits-all solution to following your full self-care plan, journaling can have several benefits for your psychological, emotional and relationship health.  Recording your thoughts and feelings is often useful when navigating stressful experiences, revisiting interpersonal dynamics and reflecting on your evolving activities and perspectives.

According to the University of Rochester’s Medical Center, journaling can advance your well-being by:  “helping you prioritize problems, fears and concerns, tracking any symptoms day-to-day so that you can recognize triggers and learn ways to better control them and providing an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviors.”  Jumpstart your journaling with these tips:

Carve out time.  Like forming any other healthy habit, devoting time and energy to journaling will help establish the practice as a routine part of your schedule.  Picking a specific time of day devoted to journaling may also help solidify the norm.  Whether its daily, twice a week or a few times a month, consider making a goal about the frequency of creating your entries that effectively fits in to your calendar.

Let go of ideas of what you “should” write.  You may be thinking – what is worth recording?  How do I get all of my thoughts out on a page?  What details should I include or leave out?  By eliminating any parameters, you’ll be able to think more about journaling with a stream-of-consciousness mindset.  This could lead to increased self-discovery and a more representative picture of what’s on your mind and your types of responses to different situations.  There’s no correct or incorrect way to journal, and how you document different experiences is completely up to your preference.

Get inspired if you feel stuck.  While journaling and other forms of self-reflection may create an uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability, there are several accessible resources and frameworks to leverage as prompts or inspiration.  Your entries could focus on highlighting items such as:  one positive thing you did for someone over the course of a day, an affirmation to yourself, or one memorable expression of gratitude from your week. Finding prompts online that resonate with you can help you progress and lead to new ideas.  If you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick list of prompts that can help you process and write about something going on in your life:

  • What’s on my mind?
  • How should I have reacted in hindsight?
  • How are things different now?
  • What would I say to a younger version of myself?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • Who helped me?

Choose the right format for you.  Journaling is often associated with physically writing down thoughts and feelings via a pen and paper.  If picking out a new notebook isn’t something that gets you motivated, consider exploring different digital apps that offer online spaces for journaling.  You could devote a specific section of your planner or calendar tool for journal notes and entries.  If you prefer to learn and communicate more visually, you could opt to include forms of artistic expression to complement or substitute entries (e.g., photo collages, graphics, paintings).

For more ideas on how to live mindfully this year, check out these other articles from our blog: