Tag Archives: Navigating Stress

Relationship Goals: Strengthen Connections this Summer

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It’s summer—also known as “PCS” season! Moving is stressful. Saying goodbye to old friends is tough and the process of moving can put a strain on our existing connections. When you arrive in a new place, it can take time to build new friendships, too.  However, relationships play an invaluable role in our lives and are one of the Principles of Resilience. All of our connections with others—from romantic and family relationships, to friendships and professional interactions—can shape our outlook, feelings of belongingness and ability to navigate stress. To keep your relationships strong and promote cohesion in your unit, family or community, consider these tips:

Be a good listener. Relationships are built on trust and support. Mutual understanding is important and can only be achieved through active listening. This is especially true during conflict resolution, when the listener is likely to be formulating a response rather than hearing what the speaker is saying. Focus your attention first on what the speaker is saying to you. Then, repeat what you think they’ve expressed in your own words. This opens the dialogue and allows the speaker to determine whether or not he or she feels understood, which can minimize emotionally charged responses and promote understanding. Check out the Human Performance Resource Center’s tips on active listening for more information.

Stay connected, even when apart. “Make new friends and keep the old” may be a nursery rhyme, but preserving relationships should be a priority no matter how old you are. If your buddy transfers to a new command, make an effort to regularly reach out to him or her throughout the transition phase and maintain that frequency in the future. It can be tough arriving to a new duty station, so a reminder that he or she still has friends in their corner can brighten rough days by preserving a sense of belonging. You can also strengthen your family and romantic relationships while navigating the separations that accompany Navy life. Start a book club with your partner and/or children, where you each read the same book and schedule time to “discuss” it through email or social media. Just pulled into a scenic port? Grab a photo of your loved one and snap a picture of it in a cool setting so that you can all “experience” the place together. Explore ways to stay involved in daily life as well, such as video chat sessions to help with homework or a virtual date with your partner. Find more tips on connecting during deployment here.

Communicate through the good and the bad. There is always an opportunity to foster a positive connection. When a shipmate does a good job, offer specific praise explaining what he or she did well. Acknowledging successes, big or small, can be motivating and build cohesion and trust. Conversely, when there is room for improvement, offer direct yet constructive feedback to help steer things in the right direction. Outright criticism can breakdown communication and result in diminished quality of the task at hand, as well as in your relationship.

Take the time to invest in your relationships. Lean on your shipmates for support, schedule time to speak with your leaders and confide in your family members. Having a strong support network can help you stay grounded and carry you through life’s challenges. Nurturing your relationships can help take the stress out of whatever is coming next.

For additional tips and resources to help you navigate transitions and other stressors, like U.S. Navy Operational Stress Control on Facebook and NavStress on Twitter..

 

 

Is it SAD or the Winter Blues?

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If you find yourself feeling down during the coldest months of the year, you’re not alone. Whether on a ship or working shore duty, it can be challenging for Sailors to get outside and reap the benefits of natural sunlight, especially in winter.

Many people face the “winter blues” – a generally mild sadness that’s usually linked to something specific, like stressful holidays or reminders of absent friends or loved ones. The winter blues are unpleasant but usually short-term in duration. More severe sadness that sticks around longer may indicate that you are experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and not just the winter blues.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, about five percent of Americans suffer from SAD, a form of depression that can last 40 percent of the year and is usually most severe in January and February in the U.S. SAD is a clinical disorder that must be diagnosed by a professional.

SAD, like other forms of depression, can be debilitating, with symptoms that may affect every aspect of daily life. Some common symptoms include fatigue, mood swings and changes in appetite. The effects of SAD are typically seen in the winter months when there is less sunlight (though this may vary with geographic location) and symptoms usually improve with the arrival of spring. Whether it’s SAD or the more-common winter blues, there are steps you can take to help yourself and your shipmates.

Why Winter?

We all have an internal biological or circadian clock. This 24-hour “master clock” uses cues in your surroundings to help keep you awake and to help you sleep. Our circadian clocks are highly sensitive to changes in light and dark. When days are shorter and nights are longer, the body’s internal rhythm can be altered, and lead to changes in two specific chemicals, melatonin and serotonin.

At night, a gland in the brain produces and releases melatonin, a chemical that helps you sleep. Changes in season and sunlight can disrupt the normal levels of melatonin, contributing to disrupted sleep patterns and mood changes. Serotonin is a brain chemical affecting mood, and reduced sunlight can cause serotonin levels to plummet.

Lack of direct exposure to sunlight can also lead to deficiencies in Vitamin D. Strong associations have been found between vitamin D deficiency and depression, according to the Mayo Clinic. “Many who are Vitamin D deficient don’t know it,” said CAPT Tara Smith, Ph.D., clinical psychologist assigned to OPNAV N171. “it’s very hard to get outside the skin of the ship and feel the sun on your face underway, and even in Iraq you’re completely covered. Although it’s a sunny 135 degrees, you’re not getting any sun on your skin.” Being Vitamin D deficient can contribute to sadness, especially in winter.

Beating the Blues

There are several treatments used to help those suffering from seasonal mood changes. For SAD, these can include talk therapy, light treatments, vitamin regimens or medications. Although symptoms of the winter blues usually improve with the change of season there are a few ways you can help your body adjust:

  • Optimize your sleep. Fatigue can affect mood, performance, memory and judgement. Aim for seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, preferably at the same time each day. If you can’t get that amount of uninterrupted sleep, compensating with a nap has proven benefits. Crew Endurance, developed by Naval Postgraduate School with collaboration from Navy’s Operational Stress Control Program, offers practical tips, research and operational tools for promoting adequate rest.
  • Choose foods that help to balance your mood. Studies indicate people who suffer from SAD may have lower levels of serotonin in the winter months. A balanced diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein can provide a natural source of serotonin. Try a breakfast of steel cut oatmeal, bananas and eggs for a mood-balancing boost. Check out this post for additional tips.
  • Go for a workout outdoors. It may be chilly, but exercising outdoors when possible during daytime hours can help you soak up some Vitamin D even when it’s not particularly sunny. Plus, physical activity improves your mood, helps you sleep, increases endurance and helps you navigate stress. Round up a few shipmates and go for a run around the flight-deck, try a group fitness class on your installation, sweat it out on the yoga mat or get fit with interval training.

When to Seek Help

It’s important to recognize that SAD is a serious condition and is characterized by the same symptoms as other forms of depression. Signs may include a sustained feeling of depression that occurs most days and most of every day, loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed, low energy and feelings of sluggishness, hopelessness or agitation. Sometimes, symptoms may start off mild and progress in severity over time. Symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency can mimic SAD, but also include issues like joint pain. If you suspect a Vitamin D deficiency, a simple visit to your Primary Care Manager (PCM) for a blood test can determine your levels, Smith said.

No one has to try and navigate seasonal depression or SAD alone. Reach out to a mental health provider at your command, installation or nearest military treatment facility, or seek confidential non-medical counseling from Military OneSource. If you feel hopeless or are thinking of suicide, get immediate help through the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, press 1.

For more information on psychological health and navigating stress, like U.S. Navy Operational Stress Control on Facebook or follow @NavStress on Twitter. For additional resources, messages and materials, download the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign’s FY-19 1 Small ACT Toolkit.

Beat the Heat of Summer Transition Stress with Support

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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.

Think You Need Equipment to Exercise? Think again!

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Editor’s Note: In honor of Navy Fitness Month, LCDR Heath Clifford of the Navy Physical Readiness Program has provided Every Sailor, Every Day with the second installment of how to exercise with limited space and gym equipment. Learn how to work out on a time, space and equipment “budget” and check out the newest minimalist fitness workouts below!

It has been well documented that one of the best ways to alleviate stress is through exercise.  Sailors face many challenges in balancing family life with the Navy’s current operational tempo.  In this crunch for time, all too often physical fitness is placed on the back burner.  Combine the lack of time and limits of space and equipment, Sailors find it difficult to maintain an adequate level of fitness especially during periods of deployment, causing stress levels to soar.  Utilizing input from over 750 Sailors, in 2009 Navy Subject Matter Experts worked closely with Athletes’ Performance Institute (API) to develop a program that would combat these barriers.

What is Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling System?

The Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling System (NOFFS) is designed to provide the Navy with a “world class” training resource for fleet Sailors.  Using the latest sports science methodologies, NOFFS combines both human performance and injury prevention strategies, resulting in safer training while yielding positive human performance outcomes.  The exercises used in the NOFFS system are designed to replicate the activities Sailors conduct in their operational duties: lifting, pushing, pulling and carrying.

The NOFFS contains four specialized series tailored for use on submarines, surface ships, large decks, and for group physical training.  Designed specifically for real-world space and equipment limitations, these four categories provide Sailors three different levels of exercises that are based on current fitness and capability and can be used safely without supervision or direction.

A Pentagon of Parts.

The training session will consist of 5 training components:

  1. Pillar Preparation: consists of your hips, torso and shoulders and represents the foundation for all your movement.  “Pillar Prep” primes these critical muscles to prepare your body for the work ahead- helping to protect you from injury and boost your performance during your training session.
  2. Movement Preparation: lengthen, strengthen, and stabilize your body.  “Movement Prep” consists of a series of active and dynamic stretches to help you to move.
  3. Strength: strengthen the movements needed to perform on an operational platform.  Close attention must be payed to the quality of your movement.  Select a resistance that you feel challenged with for the number of reps prescribed (body weight to bands).
  4. Cardiovascular Fitness: boost your endurance, leg strength and speed through a variety of interval training options.  The movements in this component are designed to target and develop your energy systems while efficiently burning calories.
  5. Recovery: a critical component to any training program, recovery brings balance back to your body, helping to relieve tension and the associated aches and pains while enhancing your body’s response to the training.

Break a Sweat!

The following is a challenging total body workout from the Surface Ship Series to be utilized in a confined space environment with limited equipment.  All 5 training components are addressed in this workout.

NOFFS SUFACE SHIP SERIES – LEVEL 1

Pillar Preparation (1 circuit/6 reps)

  1. Pillar Bridge (hold 30 seconds)
  2. Glute Bridge (hold 30 second)
  3. Y’s – Deck
  4. 90/90 Stretch

Movement Preparation (1 circuit/4 reps)

  1. Mini Band – External Rotation
  2. Reverse Lunge, Elbow to Instep – Kneeling
  3. Lateral Squat – Alternating
  4. Knee Hug – In Place
  5. Drop Lunge
  6. Inverted Hamstring w/ Support

Strength

Circuit 1 (x2/8 reps):
1.       Glute Bridge (reps)
2.       Push Up (Standard)
3.       Squat w/Mini Band
4.       Y’s – Bent Over (Bands)
Circuit 2 (x1/8 reps)
1.       Lateral Squat – Low Alternating
2.       Overhead Press – ½ Kneeling (bands)
3.       Lateral Pillar Bridge (30 sec hold/each side)
4.       Straight Leg Lowering – Alternating

Cardiovascular Fitness:  Perform each movement for 15 seconds and immediately transition into the next movement for the duration of the circuit. Rest 90 seconds between circuits, then repeat the circuit.

  1. Reverse Lunge – Alternating
  2. Pillar Bridge w/Arm Lift
  3. Lateral Lunge – alternating
  4. Forward Lunge, Elbow to Instep – w/Rotation
  5. Plank Running
  6. Single Leg Balance – Alphabet
  7. Split Squat – Alt. 5 sec Holds
  8. Drop Lunge – Alternating

Recovery (no equipment needed):  Hold each stretch for 2 seconds while exhaling, then relax back to the start position and continue for 10 reps each.  DO NOT BOUNCE through the end range of the stretch.

  1. Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch
  2. Knee Hug – Supine
  3. Leg Cradle – Supine
  4. Quad/Hip Flexor Stretch – ½ kneeling
  5. Triceps Stretch
  6. 90/90 w/Arm Sweep

Learn More:

NOFFS continues to grow in popularity fleet-wide. CFLs are being taught introductory courses within the 5-day initial certification course and can also receive short course certification through the CFL 2-day seminars.  For more information on the complete NOFFS Series, including exercises videos, visit https://www.navyfitness.org/fitness/noffs-training or download the NOFFS app online.

About the Blogger:

LCDR Heath Clifford, OPNAV N17 CFL Program Manager, is a certified Aerospace Physiologist by the Aerospace Medical Association with 14 years’ experience as a Naval Aerospace/Operational Physiologist with expertise in Exercise Physiology and Water Survival Training as well.  He is an avid swimmer and outdoor enthusiast and believes that nutrition, sleep, and fitness are the foundations of mission readiness and operational success.

New Training Helps Families Navigate Stress and Stay in the Green Zone

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Stress is characteristic of service in the Navy, with deployments, reintegration, and relocations causing tension for both Sailors and their families. The ability to efficiently navigate stress and build resilience is an integral part of maintaining mission readiness for Sailors and promoting psychological well-being. In addition to the stressors associated with military life, Navy families also deal with typical family stressors: raising children, maintaining their home, dealing with teenagers and handling conflicts with a spouse.

April is National Stress Awareness Month, and being cognizant of your stressors is essential. Stress can be helpful when it pushes us to make improvements in our lives. It can remind us of the importance of reaching out to others for support and helps us build resilience by growing and bouncing back from challenges. Adequately addressing stressors helps prevent chronic and prolonged exposure to stress and its adverse impacts on our health and overall well-being. Navy families now have a new training available from the Operational Stress Control (OSC) Program which offers numerous tools and resources to help Sailors and their families navigate stress and build resilience during and beyond the rigors of military life. This new training addresses the impact that stressors have on Navy families, focusing on challenges faced by Navy spouses, and their children with tips on how to navigate them.

The Navigating Stress for Navy Families training emerged from needs directly expressed by Sailors and commanders. The new Navy Family Framework recognizes the importance of integrating Navy spouses and families into education, awareness and support services and understands the role that they play as part of the Navy community. The Navigating Stress for Navy Families training is aligned with this framework, acknowledging that family readiness is key to mission readiness. The training is provided by veteran OSC Mobile Training Teams (MTTs) who have experienced similar challenges in military life. The training is modeled after OSC-required trainings for deck plate and senior leaders that are also delivered by these MTTs.

The course is an hour-long interactive conversation that provides useful and practical tools and techniques to families by introducing realistic scenarios. The course aims to improve families’ ability to navigate stress together by:

  • Helping to strengthen spouses, Sailors and, families;
  • Identifying problems with stress early;
  • Identifying best practices and further developing skills for building resilience and stress mitigation; and
  • Identifying available resources to help with stress issues.

Early identification of stress problems is vital. The Stress Continuum Model, depicted in the above thermometer graphic for quick reference, helps Sailors and their families readily pinpoint their stress “zone” so that they can take appropriate action, such as talking to a trusted friend when reacting to temporary stress. The earlier a Navy family identifies where they are within the Stress Continuum, the easier it is to bounce back. The goal is not to be 100% stress-free – as that is nearly impossible – but to learn how to build resilience so that stressors do not immediately move a family into the Red Zone. Sufficient sleep, open communication with loved ones, self-care and early help-seeking, are all ways to navigate stress healthily and lessen the risk of stress injury or illness.

Navigating Stress for Navy Families is currently available via in-person training. OSC and Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) are working to develop a webinar format for the course as well. For more information or to schedule training, email oscmtteast@navy.mil or oscmttwest@navy.mil. Additional OSC resources including educational materials, policy and curricula descriptions can be found on the program’s website.

Follow OSC and the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign on Facebook and Twitter for daily tips, tricks and small acts to help you and your family stay in or get back to the Green.