Tag Archives: gratitude

Seasonal Self-Care for Military Families

red autumn in the park

“Sweater weather” is here, but there’s more to the fall season than overhauling your family’s wardrobe by swapping bathing suits and sandals for warm jackets and boots. Though cleaning is typically associated with the spring, the fall season is synonymous with change and is an opportunity to clear out the excess and the negative from our lives, tune-up our engines and start fresh. As you notice the leaves starting to change color, the sun setting earlier and the days getting cooler, take a look at how your family’s schedules and routines may have transformed since the summer months as well. The fall season is a good time to evaluate, adjust or establish self-care strategies for yourself and your family to help everyone keep an even keel leading into the holiday season.

In the post Being There for Others Starts with Being There for Yourself, self-care is described as “your oxygen mask for everyday life and unpredictable moments alike.” It includes tending to basic needs that may sometimes fall by the wayside during busy times, such as eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly. Self-care also includes coping skills and strategies to help you regroup and decompress. Good self-care can be challenge for many and is unique for everyone. Check out these ideas to get your entire family on a path to restoring, revitalizing and recharging your self-care routines this fall:

  1. Give Your Fitness Routine a Facelift. Exercise is an overlooked but important type of self-care. Our daily lives are often dictated by schedules and sometimes run on auto-pilot. When things pop up and throw us off course, workout time may be the first thing to go. But exercising isn’t merely a tool to promote physical health or just another item on the to-do list. Your workout can also serve as a daily escape from routine and challenges. If you can’t make it to the gym to take your usual run on the treadmill, move your run outdoors to enjoy the fall foliage, cooler temperatures and convenience that nature has to offer. While building your workout into your regular routine is ideal, switching it up will help you meet your goals without causing your fitness gains to plateau or your schedule to spin out of control. Whether you get in 30 minutes of cardio at the gym or on the trail, you’re still caring for your mental and physical strength. Check out other workouts you can try here.
  1. Make Good Zzz’s a Priority. As we adjust to winding the clocks back an hour, make an effort to help your family build better sleep habits. Creating a sleep-ready environment, following a consistent and relaxing sleep ritual, and avoiding stimulants before bedtime (such as sugar, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine) are all examples of healthy sleep habits that you and your family can incorporate into your self-care practices. A good night’s sleep is so vital, that even slight deprivation beyond the recommended seven to nine hours can negatively affect performance, memory, mood, judgment and healthy stress navigation. In fact, research demonstrates that after only one day without sleep, even young, healthy service members lose 25 percent of their ability to think clearly [1]. For more sleep tips, check out Human Performance Resource Center’s Sleep Optimization section for strategies, apps, assessments and tools.
  1. Make Time for Play Time. Even though it is sometimes dismissed as unproductive, “recess” is just as essential for adults as it is for kids. Play is important for many aspects of our lives, boosting creativity, improving relationships and connection with others, fostering problem-solving skills, improving brain function and fueling emotional well-being. Rather than adding to your sensory overload from electronic gadgets, find unstructured activities that allow you to unplug while having fun and enjoying yourself. Fall provides the perfect backdrop for investing in some play time. Carve or paint a pumpkin with friends or family, jump in a pile of leaves, go apple-picking, attend a local fall festival, or go hiking.
  1. Practice Gratitude. Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to share what you’re thankful for; start now to cultivate an attitude of gratitude throughout the year. New Small ACT Selfie signs with a seasonal twist are now available, providing you and your family with the opportunity to jot down what you’re grateful for, take a photo with the sign, and submit to navysuicideprevention@gmail.com for publishing in the 1 Small ACT Photo Gallery on Flickr and Facebook. To keep the practice going, create a gratitude jar and place it in a high-traffic area in your home with small strips of paper and a pen or pencil nearby. Encourage everyone to write down one or two things for which they’re grateful and take a moment to reflect on what life would look like without those things. Whenever challenges arise or anyone needs a motivational boost, pull a strip from the jar.

The onset of the holiday season often sneaks up on us, placing increased demands on our time, wallets and relationships, as well as our physical and emotional health. This year, don’t let taking care of yourself fall by the wayside; make it a priority for your entire family so that you can each find simple and healthy ways to navigate stress, restore a sense of Controllability and enjoy all that the season has to offer. Practicing healthy self-care habits is one way to be there for yourself, your family and Every Sailor, Every Day.

Being There for Others Starts with Being There for Yourself

yoga

150920-N-CH038 ARABIAN GULF (Sept. 20 2015) Sailors participate in a sunrise yoga class on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) as a part of Suicide Prevention Month.

How many times have you heard a version of the following precaution when preparing for takeoff on a commercial flight?

“In the event that cabin pressure should change, oxygen masks will deploy from the overhead panel….Secure your mask before assisting others.”

This statement can be practically applied in daily life, where seemingly predictable routines can be suddenly interrupted by turbulence or a change in course. Those unpredictable moments can test your capacity to maintain balance, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. That’s why it’s important to build Small ACTs of self-care into your regular routine, enabling you to optimize your health from the inside out while strengthening your abilities to help yourself navigate challenges, and be there for others.

Think of self-care as your oxygen mask for everyday life and unpredictable moments alike. It includes basic activities (that are sometimes taken for granted) such as eating a balanced diet, attending to medical concerns, getting adequate sleep and exercising regularly. Self-care also includes activities and strategies that can promote emotional well-being and build coping skills. Your individual needs are likely different than those of your shipmates, family or friends and it may take some open-mindedness to determine which self-care practices work best for you. Here are a few Small ACTs of self-care you can try:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal. At the end of each week, take a few moments to reflect and write down three to five things that you are grateful for. Focus more on quality rather than quantity, elaborating on how a person, event or thing has made a difference in your life. The University of California Berkeley’s “Greater Good Project” has a myriad of resources to help you reap the benefits of giving thanks—which include better sleep, improved relationships and reduced symptoms of physical and psychological illness—here.
  2. Set boundaries. Before you reach the point of feeling overloaded with mission demands, family responsibilities and social commitments, consider what you may be able to take off of your plate. Be honest with yourself about what you can reasonably tackle and what’s most important. If you are able to say no to doing a last-minute favor or task in order to give yourself time to focus on immediate priorities, give yourself permission to do so without feeling guilt or regret. You can always help by identifying and directly expressing confidence in another person who has the capability and bandwidth to support the request.
  3. Check in with yourself. Try setting a daily reminder to take a “mindfulness break,” helping you focus on the present by non-judgmentally tuning into your breath, body and thoughts. To get started, sit in an upright position with your eyes closed or open, and bring your attention to each inhale and exhale. Whenever the mind wanders, acknowledge your thoughts and then bring your focus back to your breath. If it helps to have a timer, set it for two minutes for your first try and see if you can work your way up from there. You can also download the T2 Mindfulness Coach to guide you through meditations and track your progress. Mindfulness practices can help you reset and relax, boost your attention span, improve memory function and promote feelings of well-being [1]. For additional information on the benefits of mindfulness, check out this article from the Real Warriors Campaign.
  4. Push pause before you fast forward. After a rough day, your initial inclination may be to vent to the first person who will listen (or sound-off on your social media platform of choice). But while venting in the moment may feel good temporarily, it can reinforce negative thoughts and reactions to stress—especially if the person you’re venting to piles on a story of his or her own. Instead, take a moment to pause, rewind and process your emotions, making an effort to avoid jumping to conclusions and overgeneralizations. Think about what tools and skills you have to navigate the challenge you’re facing and how you may be able to grow from the situation. Then reach out to a trusted shipmate, friend, mentor or family member whom you know to be a good listener and positive thinker. He or she may be able to help you see your challenge from a different perspective, offer hope and help you choose a healthy way to overcome it. Aim to keep in touch with that person regularly to foster connection so that you’re not waiting until “it hits the fan” to talk about your stress. Speak with a professional resource like a Deployed Resilience Counselor, Fleet & Family Support Center counselor, Peer-to-Peer counselor, chaplain or medical provider for added support, before and especially if your stress worsens.

Similar to securing your oxygen mask first, practicing self-care isn’t an act of selfishness. Taking care of yourself emotionally and finding strategies to lessen the negative effects of stress can not only improve both your personal and professional relationships, but can boost your abilities to be there for others and make a positive contribution to your team. Every Sailor, Every Day starts with YOU.

For additional self-care tips for Sailors and families, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

[1] Money, N., MD, MPH, ABIHM, Moore, M., PhD, Bates, M., PhD, & Brown, D., PhD. (2011, June). Mind-Body Skills for Regulating the Autonomic Nervous System (Rep.). Retrieved August 28, 2016

A Place to Start, for you and “Every Sailor, Every Day”

By Rear Adm. Rick Snyder, director, 21st Century Sailor Office

Though September may be coming to a close, we must stay the course when it comes to taking actions to help our Sailors and families navigate stress, promote open communication, provide access to resources, and prevent suicide. Navy Suicide Prevention Month isn’t about 30 days of awareness; it’s about energizing deckplate and community efforts for the next 365 days, so that psychological health and wellness remain an ongoing priority—and an all hands effort.

Whether you joined your community to “Walk Out of the Darkness” this month, developed an inspirational Public Service Announcement, helped your shipmates and colleagues “bust work stress,” “Pledged to ACT” or offered reassuring words to others, your efforts made and will continue to make a difference in the lives of those around you—and in your own life. I encourage all to reflect on Suicide Prevention Month and use it as a place to start, for you and for Every Sailor, Every Day. To that end, I share the following blog post authored by Lt. Jay Morrison, U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, underscoring the simple, but impactful, things we can do to set a positive example for others and change our perspective during challenging times. It starts with gratitude.

For Suicide Prevention and Operational Stress Control resources throughout the year, visit www.suicide.navy.mil and www.navynavstress.com.

Expressions of Gratitude Go a Long Way
By Lt. Jay Morrison, U.S. Naval Hospital Guam

Expressions of gratitude have been linked to greater goal achievement, improved physical health, increased exercise, better sleep, and even an improved ability to overcome memories of potentially traumatic events. Here are some ideas for promoting gratitude.

Expressions of gratitude have been linked to greater goal achievement, improved physical health, increased exercise, better sleep, and even an improved ability to overcome memories of potentially traumatic events. Here are some ideas for promoting gratitude.

As we move through suicide prevention month, we’re reminded of the important warning signs to watch for in our shipmates, and to spot signs of trouble: increased substance use, withdrawal, recklessness, changes in mood or personality, and especially expressions of hopelessness or wishes to die.

We all face adversity and can help each other to be ready for the day that adversity rears its head. Cultivating gratitude is a great place to start.

We’ve heightened our sensitivity to shipmates who feel alienated, think they don’t belong, or have a sense they are a burden to others. We’ve pledged ourselves wholeheartedly to reach out to those in distress, or those who have had setbacks in their lives. We’ve pledged to ACT (Ask, Care, Treat). We’ve re-qualified with our weapons to fight suicide: our connections to our chaplains, mental health providers, Fleet and Family Support Centers, Navy suicide awareness resources and suicide prevention hotlines.

Our defenses are ready – our early detection tools for trouble are calibrated and our vehicles for rapid intervention well-maintained. As we move forward, we must commit as a team to building our offense – positively building health, happiness, and resilience in ourselves and those around us. We all face adversity and can help each other to be ready for the day that adversity rears its head. Cultivating gratitude is a great place to start.

Build Gratitude
Expressions of gratitude have been linked to greater goal achievement, improved physical health, increased exercise, better sleep, and even an improved ability to overcome memories of potentially traumatic events. Here are some ideas for promoting gratitude.

  • Before going to bed, list five things that happened in the last 24 hours for which you’re genuinely grateful. Think big (I’m grateful for seeing a good friend) and small (my favorite galley meal today – love that meatloaf!). It can be done mentally, or you can write it down.
  • For a limited time, give up something you take for granted. Even if underway or forward deployed, there’s at least a small luxury you enjoy every day. Let it go for a week and notice what happens. Do you appreciate it even more? Do you feel stronger for having gone without it at will?
  • Express gratitude to others often. Give three sincere compliments a day. We feel at our best when we help others to do the same. Express your appreciation for the actions of others. Be clear and specific. After a week, see what happens – are you more focused on people’s positive qualities? Do those around you seem more motivated? Are you more enthused?
  • Think flexibly about adversity. Bring a challenging experience from your past to mind, or a challenge you’re experiencing now, and write a list of the ways in which this thought-provoking experience has helped you to grow. This is not the same as simply “looking on the bright side” or denying that a bad event was, in fact, bad. It is about looking at stimulating experiences in their totality, flexibly from all sides, and focusing energy on the lessons learned, and the muscles strengthened.

Remaining mentally tough, resilient and ready takes effort, the same way we need three healthy meals a day, and a commitment to regular exercise, psychological strength takes continuous action and reinforcement. These activities are a place to start, for you and Every Sailor, Every Day.

For more ideas, see The Complete Guide to Resilience by Glenn R. Schiraldi, Ph.D.