Tag Archives: meditation

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.”

Self-Managing Psychological Health Concerns: Work with a Provider for Maximum Benefit

40th CAB goes to the qualification ranges

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.

Military service can be challenging at times. These challenges can lead to psychological health concerns such as feeling anxiety, worry, sadness, or having trouble sleeping. It is common for service members to try to manage concerns like these on their own. While you may be trying to self-manage already, remember that you can benefit from the support and advice of your health care provider. It is important to seek care from your provider if:

If you decide to self-manage, talk with your health care provider about the following techniques that can help during the process.

Create a Self-Management Plan

Creating a self-management plan with your health care provider can help you stay organized and on track. Try these tips as you self-manage:

  • Educate yourself about symptoms using trusted sources, such as from your health care provider or a symptom checker from Make the Connection.
  • Visit your health care provider on a regular basis to make sure you are making progress.
  • Set realistic expectations of when your concerns may improve.
  • Keep track of your progress and results.
  • Reach out to those who may have had similar concerns, such as attending a support group.
  • Share your plan with loved ones so they can help support your goals.

Learn to Self-Manage Your Concerns

Your provider may offer several techniques to help you manage your concerns. Research shows that the self-management techniques below support your psychological health and improve your well-being. Talk with a provider to see which of these may work best for you:

Mobile apps can be great tools for helping you self-manage. Use apps to support care and track and share health information with your health care provider. For example, the Breathe2Relax app uses proven breathing exercises to relieve stress and improve your mood. The Mindfulness Coach app provides you with tools and guided exercises to help you practice mindfulness. For a list of more apps, take a look at the Defense Department’s Telehealth and Technology (T2) website.

Self-managing is not a solution for everyone nor every situation, and that is okay. You can also reach out to your local TRICARE facilityor Veterans Affairs medical center. Treatment will depend on your specific concerns, location and insurance type.

If you or someone you love is experiencing a psychological health crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, press 1. For more support, contact the Psychological Health Resource Center at 866-966-1020 to confidentially speak with trained health resource consultants 24/7, or use the Real Warriors Live Chat. You can also visit our “Seek Help, Find Care” page to see a list of key psychological health resources.

Additional Resources

 

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

Breathing, Meditation and Relaxation Techniques

Man at the sunrise

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.

Staying fit requires more than physical strength – it requires a comprehensive approach that focuses on the mind, body and spirit working together. Whether you are preparing to deploy, are currently deployed or are reintegrating, it’s important to consider how mind and body practices like breathing, meditation and relaxation techniques can assist you in staying resilient or coping with invisible wounds. Mind and body skills are part of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and integrative health practices that focus on the interactions among the brain, mind, body and behavior, in order to use the mind to strengthen physical functioning and promote health.[1] CAM and integrative health are a diverse group of medical and non-medical health care practices that are not considered to be part of conventional medicine, or clinical care practiced by a health provider.[1] Note, CAM and integrative health practices are not currently covered under TRICARE military health care plans. For more information on TRICARE coverage, visit TRICARE Covered Services online.

Used on their own or as a supplement to your provider’s clinical care, mind and body practices may reduce the severity of combat stress, relax your mind, assist in your recovery, build resilience and help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Practice Breathing Exercises to Relax

Breathing exercises, a fundamental component of mind and body practices, have been proven to activate the body’s relaxation response. Additionally, breathing exercises can help control the body’s reaction to stress by balancing its “fight or flight” response and relaxation response.[2] Incorporating breathing exercises such as the one below into your daily routine can improve physiological factors like blood pressure, heart rate and muscle relaxation, which in turn may help you manage anxiety, improve concentration, sleep sounder or improve your immune system.[3]

The National Center for Telehealth and Technology’s Breathe2Relax mobile app can help you manage stress through proven diaphragmatic breathing exercises. Breathe2Relax can be used as a stand-alone stress reduction tool or it can be used in tandem with clinical care, as directed by your healthcare provider. The app is available for Apple iOS and Android operating systems. To download the app, search for “Breathe2Relax” in the App Store for iOS and in the Android Market from your smart mobile device.

To practice breathing on your own, sit in a comfortable position and be sure to inhale and exhale evenly and slowly. An alternate nostril breathing exercise is a good technique to start with because it brings balance to both sides of the brain and control the body’s reaction to stress:[4]

  • Close off your right nostril by placing the thumb of your right hand on your right nostril
  • Inhale through your left nostril
  • Close off your left nostril with the ring finger of your right hand
  • Remove the thumb and exhale through your right nostril
  • Inhale through your right nostril
  • Close off your right nostril with your thumb
  • Exhale through your left nostril
  • Inhale through your left nostril
  • Continue alternating five to 10 times

For more information on breathing exercises, download the Controlled Breathing Techniques fact sheet on our website and try incorporating breathing exercises into your daily routine.

Calm Your Mind with Meditation

Meditation is a technique that restores calm and inner peace and produces a deep state of relaxation by focusing attention. It is not yet fully known what changes occur in the body during meditation or whether or how they influence health, but research is ongoing. Meditation can be effective for building resilience and easing anxiety, depression or reintegration stress. Some forms of meditation instruct the practitioner to become mindful of thoughts, feelings and sensations and to observe them in a nonjudgmental way. Most types of meditation have four elements in common:[5]

  • A quiet location. Meditation is usually practiced in a quiet place with as few distractions as possible. This can be particularly helpful for beginners.
  • A specific, comfortable posture. Depending on the type being practiced, meditation can be done while sitting, lying down, standing, walking or in other positions.
  • A focus of attention. Focusing your attention is usually part of meditation. For example, you might focus on a mantra (a chosen word or set of words), an object, the sensations of breathing or whatever topic or thought is dominant in your consciousness.
  • An open attitude. Having an open attitude during meditation means letting distractions come and go naturally without judging them. If your attention goes to a distracting or wandering thought, no need to suppress those thoughts. Instead, gently return your attention back to focus.

If you’re interested in learning more about meditation, check with your nearest military facility to inquire if they offer a meditation course. An increasing number of facilities offer meditation courses – and some offer a focus on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You can also talk to your health care provider about meditation resources in your community. For information on choosing a CAM practitioner or program, check out the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s tips for selecting a CAM practitioner.

Relax Through Yoga

For a review and comparative summary of popular mind-body techniques, read “Mind-Body Skills for Regulating the Autonomic Nervous System” by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

The term “yoga” means to “unite” and typically involves a combination of exercise, breathing and meditation. Research indicates that benefits of yoga may include lowered blood pressure, reduced stress response, increased strength, flexibility endurance, immune response and improved concentration, among other benefits.[6] Yoga is an important part of the Specialized Care Program at Defense Department’s Deployment Health Clinical Center (DHCC), which is designed to treat patients with deployment-related stress and PTSD. Before enrolling in a yoga class at the DHCC or at another military facility, you should consult with your healthcare provider to confirm yoga is suitable for you. For service members coping with trauma, a yoga class which focuses on trauma-sensitive meditation may be more appropriate than a more traditional class.[6]

For those who wish to practice yoga at home, DHCC recommends a program called iRest, which offers voice-guided sessions on meditation and deep relaxation.[6] Visit iRest’s military webpage to listen to a free download (short practice) of iRest Yoga Nidra or view a 15-minute introductory video of guided meditations for warriors.

Additional Resources

 

Sources

1 “What is CAM?” National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Last accessed Feb. 26, 2014.

2 Mahoney, Louise. “Reduce Stress with 10 Minutes of Chair Yoga,” [PPT 889KB] Department of Veterans Affairs War Related Illness and Injury Study Center. Last accessed Feb. 26, 2014.

3 Carnes, Robin. “Holistic Therapies Help Manage Stress At Home,” Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Last accessed Feb. 26, 2014.

4 “Controlled Breathing Techniques,” [PDF 77KB] Department of Veterans Affairs War Related Illness and Injury Study Center. Last accessed Feb. 26, 2014.

5 “Meditation: An Introduction,” National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Last accessed Feb. 26, 2014.

6 Carnes, Robin. “Yoga and Yoga Nidra Meditation at the Deployment Health Clinical Center’s Specialized Care Program,” [PDF 1.1MB] Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Last accessed Feb. 26, 2014