Tag Archives: journaling

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:

The Role of Resilience after Setbacks

Reslience After Setbacks Blog Image

Health scares, forgotten deadlines, missed promotions, and failed classes are just a few of the unexpected setbacks that life can toss our way; and most of us have or will encounter some sort of setback in life. These obstacles can be disheartening at best. At worst after facing an obstacle or multiple obstacles, we may feel like we have no control and resign to accepting the failure as permanent. We may feel depressed, angry, defeated, frustrated, experience a depleted sense of self-worth, or even all of those at once.

While they may skew our outlook temporarily, learning how to constructively deal with setbacks and other obstacles can actually improve psychological health by helping to build resilience. This resilience not only helps us bounce back from failures and defeats, but helps us thrive in future efforts.

Risk and Reward vs. Fear of Failure

Risk and reward seem like they go hand-in-hand with fast-paced military life, and service members are often thought to be fearless. When we’re successful at something we took a risk on—whether a difficult mission or an advancement exam that took months to prepare for—our brains release a chemical signal called dopamine that makes us feel good. This builds our confidence and contributes to more success. Unfortunately, it can also impact our ability to handle failure1.

After a major setback or series of repeated ones, just the thought of failing at something can be discouraging and can ignite fear. Fear is an understandable feeling, but it often prevents us from taking the risk of trying again because our brains begin to associate that risk with a threat, leading to avoidance. Courage gives us the mental and moral strength to move forward even when facing challenges. It is honesty about fears, willingness to be vulnerable, the desire to succeed and the preparation for a potential failure. Engaging in courageous acts helps break down fears. Avoiding risks may seem like the best way to avoid failure, but the reality is that you fail at anything you don’t try.

Self-Care for Setbacks

Failure after taking a risk doesn’t have to signal the end of your effort. In fact, failure can breed some of our most creative moments that can lead us back to the rewards of success. Here are some ways to productively deal with setbacks:

  • Take a step back. Naturally, after dealing with a setback, you will want to replay it, figure out what went wrong, and fix it. Just as illnesses or injuries need time to heal, so do you after encountering an obstacle. Take the time you need to process what has happened, but try not to ruminate and cause yourself additional stress. Utilizing a breathing exercise can help you stay relaxed.
  • Take ownership without blame. Once you have dealt with a setback, acknowledge it and own it. Blame is a common response to a setback, but transferring the responsibility, whether to yourself or to someone else, will not eliminate or change the situation, and it may discourage you from trying to find solutions. Journaling is a great outlet to express and understand stress, increase self-confidence, boost mood and let go of negative thoughts after dealing with a setback.
  • Find support. Looking to the family, friends, and shipmates who you trust can help you feel better when dealing with setbacks. Encouragement from those you are connected to can be reassuring during times of disappointment. Also, spirituality helps many people feel motivated to persevere, and it can help you recognize your purpose and understand the potential reasons that a situation did not work out as you wanted it to. Chaplains can help you explore spiritual factors when dealing with disappointment and uncertainty from setbacks.
  • Regain control. While certain factors that caused a setback may be unrelated to your actions, remember that you still have control. Being able to face setbacks and understand how you can apply lessons learned in the future is empowering. Try making a list of your proudest accomplishments or your favorite personal attributes to remind yourself that you have the ability to succeed and are not defined by your current circumstances.

Bouncing Back

While setbacks are disheartening, they can be a catalyst for progress. Maintaining positive thoughts after facing an obstacle can help you better navigate stress and feel encouraged to accomplish potential goals. Engaging in self-care after a setback can alleviate stress and frustration. And getting SMART about your future goals can help prevent future setbacks.

Take some time after encountering a setback to avoid rushing into finding solutions before thinking through the options. Acknowledge the setback and realize that many factors may have contributed to it. Lean on friends, family, and shipmates for support, and remember that spirituality can be helpful for understanding purpose after a setback. Keep your cool after a setback to response positively and feel empowered to make needed changes for future opportunities. And always remember that even taking a risk is a sign of courage. If things didn’t go your way this time, don’t feel defeated. See a setback as an opportunity to learn and grow. Even if you have failed, remember the words of Robert Louis Stevenson: “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

Small ACTs to Make the Most Out of the Holiday Season

31601132265_40c812cbed_o

While the holiday season is full of joy, giving thanks and celebration, the festivities on our social calendars can also be a source of stress or mixed emotion. The holidays are certainly not the only time of year we feel stress, but if normal stress feels like stepping on a gas pedal, the holidays may feel like you have a lead foot. Given the increase in social activities, family demands, financial strain and mixed emotions, it is more important now than ever to take a moment and savor the spirit of the season. Check out some of our favorite small acts to help you keep your days merry and bright:

  • Break Tradition to Make Tradition. Establishing a new holiday tradition with shipmates, friends or family can bring you some comfort and joy this season no matter where or what you’re celebrating. The time that you spend connecting with others can help you find meaning during difficult situations (such as spending the holidays away from loved ones), helping you reduce anxiety and stay focused on the positive. Plan to enjoy a meal with others and go around the table to share something that each of you are grateful for, or reflect on a positive experience from 2016. You could also break out a deck of cards or board game. Even as adults, playtime is an important tool to fuel connections with others and boost emotional well-being.
  • Don’t Dismiss your Emotions. Feeling all of your emotions can be as difficult as it is rewarding, but can allow you to confront what may dampen your outlook or negatively impact your decision-making. Take a moment to identify not only what you’re feeling, but why. Then make a plan for how you will positively deal with these emotions – whether setting aside some time for meditation, journaling or speaking with a provider. To thrive during the holidays even if you’re not into festivities or merriment, allow yourself the time and space to regroup and look for the good around you by noting the positive and appreciating the ordinary.
  • Connect with your Community. Helping others can help you find a renewed sense of purpose and contribution, whether you’re experiencing your own challenges or simply want to pay your good fortune forward. Not only does volunteering at a local shelter, soup kitchen, food bank, toy drive or other community relations project speak to the meaning of the holidays, but lending a helping hand to the community also provides a way for families to get involved in an activity together.
  • Press Pause. Make time for yourself and stick to a routine to help keep the happy in the holidays. Be brave enough to slow down and rediscover perspective. A timeout can be in the form of a walk or giving yourself space to gather your thoughts for an hour. Identify your sources of holiday stress by asking yourself what’s most important. Then discuss expectations with others to help you exercise Controllability and enable you to move forward with confidence and calm.

Keep watch for more tips to help you strengthen your Psychological and Emotional Fitness this season as we celebrate the 21 Days of Total Sailor FITmas, now through January 3, 2017!

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

5 Things You Need to Know About 2016 Navy Suicide Prevention Month

2016_1SA_Blog_Post_AUG_2016

1 Small ACT was introduced as the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign’s central message during 2015 Navy Suicide Prevention Month (September). This message encourages members of the Navy community to use everyday interactions as opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others, while strengthening connections through active engagement. With 2016 Navy Suicide Prevention Month around the corner, here are five things you need to know:

  1. 1 Small ACT will remain the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign’s primary message. Starting in September we will expand application of this message, focusing on individual coping skills as well as community and command-level support. Look forward to simple tips to promote self-care, such as journaling and practicing gratitude, as well as new ways to practice more familiar healthy behaviors like restful sleep and healthy eating. We will also discuss small acts that can make a difference at the peer, family and command levels, including Navy’s evidence-based intervention tools.
  2. Navy Suicide Prevention Month isn’t just a 30-day “blitz.” Each September is a month-long launch for sustainable and tailored local engagement throughout the upcoming fiscal year. Each year, new concepts and tools are introduced to educate audiences, advance the conversation and motivate positive behavior. Application of these tools can enable prevention at all levels.
  3. Suicide prevention coordinators (SPC) are key players during Navy Suicide Prevention Month and throughout the year. Feedback collected from Sailors indicates that peer interaction weighs heavily on perceptions that may motivate or discourage a desired behavior. As your command’s SPC, you are more than a program manager—you are a familiar face with a powerful and influential voice. Use this month as an opportunity to foster open and ongoing dialogue, reenergize local efforts and keep your shipmates engaged. Learn more by registering for our webinar on Aug. 30 at 12:00 eastern, co-hosted by Navy & Marine Corps Public Health Center. Register here.
  4. Navy Suicide Prevention Branch will release an updated toolkit with resources to support local engagement. This toolkit will be available mid-August and will be distributed directly to SPCs and other key influencers who have subscribed to Navy Suicide Prevention Branch’s distribution list (sign up here). It will be available for download from www.suicide.navy.mil and will include key messages, event ideas, sample social media messages and plan of the day notes, a sample Suicide Prevention Month proclamation, new graphics and more.
  5. The 1 Small ACT Photo Gallery will remain open for submission. Last year more than 400 “Small ACT Selfies” were submitted for the photo gallery, highlighting the many ways to be there for others. This year, participants can also share ideas on how to take care of themselves as individuals (self-care). How many selfies or group photos can you encourage your shipmates and family members to submit? Updated 1 Small ACT signs and details are available at www.suicide.navy.mil > Every Sailor, Every Day.