Tag Archives: Psychological Health

Make Asking for Help a Habit

Has anyone ever figuratively (or literally) patted you on the shoulder for being a “tough cookie” after bouncing back from challenging situation? This may feel nice in the moment, but navigating difficult events alone may result in increased levels of stress over time. Whether we’re comfortable admitting it or not, we all need help and people in our lives to lean on. Even if we feel more at ease turning inward instead of toward each other nine times out of ten, there are still moments that will require – or benefit from – the insight of others.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Reframing help-seeking behavior as a sign of strength is important, on both an individual and community level. When asking for help, focus on transparency and directness. Be open in your “ask” so others feel assured they can give you the care you actually need.  If you need someone just to listen to a situation you’re navigating, tell them. If you need someone to give you an option of different tools you can use, tell them. If you need help completing a task, tell them. Right when you start to feel stressed, consider who you can reach out to and how they can help. 

By asking for help, you may even empower people around you to come forward and request support themselves. The more connections we have in our lives, the stronger we become. Having each other’s back when times gets tough helps us address common goals and may help fuel a culture where everyone feels valued, respected and confident.

If asking for help still feels tough for you, take the approach of curiosity: encourage a friend to share their ideas for improving different hypothetical situations or ask a family member to share a story of overcoming a stressor. Like any good skill, asking for help takes time and practice. The more you do it, the more habitual it’ll become. Remember: you are not alone.

The Navy’s Suicide Prevention Program empowers Sailors to reach out to their shipmates and ACT (Ask, Care, Treat) if they notice something out of the norm. Even just one conversation – 1 Small ACT – can open the door for support. For more stress navigation resources, check out this Stress Navigation Plan.

Three Things to Remember this Suicide Prevention Month

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we are collectively continuing to navigate uncertainty and ambiguous situations, so if you’ve been feeling a heightened sense of anxiety or stress – you’re not alone. This Suicide Prevention Month falls at momentous time, and whether or not you or someone you know might be exhibiting signs of increased stress, the messages regarding stress management have never been more universally needed. You’ve probably read or heard the following over the past several months:

Now more than ever, it is important to prioritize your mental health.

In this unprecedented time, taking care of yourself and your community is vitally important.

With ongoing uncertainty, it is critical to practice healthy coping mechanisms. 

These messages aren’t wrong. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “taking care of your emotional health during an emergency will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family. Self-care during an emergency will help your long-term healing.”

Each September, the Navy recognizes Suicide Prevention Month in order to promote healthy behaviors, active engagement and open conversation about suicide and stress management. This month is intended to spark a year-long conversation about psychological health and is not just a 30-day blitz of suicide prevention efforts but a reminder of what we can be doing every day for ourselves and others.

Keep these three items in mind this Suicide Prevention Month:  

  1. Connect to protect. The Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO) 2020 Suicide Prevention Month theme is “Connect to Protect,” spotlighting the vital role connectedness plays in feeling a sense of both belonging and safety. Connections help strengthen our resilience and leads to a more meaningful and fulfilled life. Discussing suicide and stress management promotes help-seeking behavior.
  2. Suicide is preventable. Preventing suicide is a community effort. Keeping open lines of communication and practicing help-seeking behavior within your social circles is a helpful way to lead by example. Find help with your local Navy chaplain, Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) or medical provider. Review and share resources from Military OneSource. Use the Military Crisis Line by texting 838255 or calling 1-800-273-TALK (press 1) for navigating challenges. The Sailor Assistance & Intercept for Life (SAIL) program is also available to help Sailors navigate resources following instances of suicide-related behaviors (SRBs).
  3. 1 Small ACT can make a difference. The FY-21 1 Small ACT Toolkit is a helpful resource for suicide prevention coordinators (SPCs), leaders, providers and anyone who wants to support Navy’s suicide prevention efforts. It contains messages and outreach materials to refresh engagement, including new information on the Caring Connections effort, recipe cards for safe and effective conversations about mental health and a revamped version of the 30 Days of Small ACTs Calendar.  

For more ideas on stress navigation, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Tools to Try When You Need a Mindful Moment

We all need breaks. It’s easy to get caught up in the responsibilities that stem from different areas of your personal and professional life. Actively creating time and space to unwind may be challenging, but it can help build resilience and you live more mindfully. Practicing mindfulness is one of many skills that may help you decrease instances of negative emotions, such as anxiety and anger.

Similar to self-care, taking actions to feel mindful looks different for everyone. If you’re open minded to trying mindfulness, consider the following: any activity that helps you focus on the present moment or process an experience is considered mindful. Whether it’s journaling, actively listening to a close friend share a story or counting the number of bicep curls you’re doing, try making the act of cultivating mindfulness a habit. According to the National Institute of Health,  “mindfulness practices may help people manage stress, cope better with serious illness and reduce anxiety and depression. Many people who practice mindfulness report an increased ability to relax, a greater enthusiasm for life and improved self-esteem.”

Explore the following resources when you need to tune in to yourself and others more thoughtfully. 

If you want to unwind and focus on the present:

If you want to take a moment to check in on your health habits:  

If you want to reflect on how to strengthen your connections with others:

For more ideas on how to live mindfully, turn to your support network. Ask others what helps them feel grounded and attentive to the present. 

Ways Spirituality Improves Your Mental Health

Thinking about spirituality can happen anywhere – whether its in a place of worship like a church, synagogue or mosque or while you’re out on a walk at a park, there are several moments to consider connecting to something bigger than yourself. Spirituality comes in all shapes and sizes. For some, it may come in the form of introspective practices. For others, it may come through relationships with our loved ones or by religious activities. The Military Health System outlines how “ideological and spiritual fitness refers to your beliefs and practices that strengthen connectedness with sources of hope, meaning, and purpose.”

Even if spirituality is something you may not actively be considering, employing different life skills may indirectly bolster your spiritual health. Whether it’s through these or other means, there is no right or wrong way to express or explore your spirituality. Spiritualty helps enrich our lives by helping us find meaning and purpose. Spirituality is a contemplative practice, like meditation and journaling, that helps us focus on our attention and increase our empathy. Consider the following items to increase happiness, strengthen relationships and improve your overall well-being.

Patience
Patience means that we stick with things even when they take a long time to show the preferred results. Patient people are often better equipped to practice gratitude and take to heart the phrase “good things come to those who wait.” Someone using patience may also feel more at ease when challenging events arise.

Perseverance
Committing to a healthy goal, habit or way of thinking demonstrates perseverance. Even when faced with adversity, the ability to grow through discomfort can help you find purpose and feel a deeper connection to learning something new.

Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a deliberate choice to accept and let go of negative emotions following a harmful event from another individual in a group. The American Psychological Association discusses: “True forgiveness goes a step further … offering something positive—empathy, compassion, understanding—toward the person who hurt you.” While forgiveness is primarily considered in interpersonal dynamics, it is also important to practice self-forgiveness to grow and evolve from self-inflicted negativity. Forgiveness helps increase immunity, lower blood pressure and lead to improved psychological health.

Empathy 
Empathy focuses on listening and responding to others without judgment. Empathy helps others feel open to sharing their perspectives and creates an environment where everyone feels more understood and heard. Showing empathy helps others navigate uncertainty.

Positive Thinking
While it is important to feel all of your feelings, the act of positive thinking may help boost your mood and discover new ways to recognize and respond to different situations. After recognizing a negative thought, try brainstorming positive thoughts to counterbalance the feeling. Positive thinking envelops practices like approaching new experiences from a “glass half full” lens, not jumping to conclusions and vocalizing the happy and healthy aspects of your day-to-day experiences.

The end of the summer is a great time to check-in and reflect on how your year is going through the lens of spirituality. Introspection leads to growth and is a mindful way to help find new ways to progress. If you’re feeling burned out throughout the year, remember these skills and take time for yourself.

5 Ideas to Boost Your Mental Resilience

Conversations around psychological, mental and emotional health are evolving. While stigma still exists in some communities when it comes to discussing mental health, we all play a role in reducing these barriers. Starting open discussions with yourself and others about your thoughts and emotions is important during the COVID-19 crisis and can help make you more resilient.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and resulted in approximately 48,000 deaths in 2018. However, suicide is preventable. Talking openly about suicide without fear or shame is helpful and encourages help-seeking behavior and effective intervention.

While individuals of all backgrounds and identities may grapple with addressing or improving their mental health, men are featured as a potentially  vulnerable group due to their lower instances of help-seeking behavior. Men die at a higher rate by suicide than women.  One study notes: “too often many men do not talk about feeling down, sad, or depressed, and might not mention emotional or behavioral difficulties at all … although asking for help is difficult for many people, it is well documented that men tend to be reluctant to seek help in various contexts, including help for mental health concerns.”

Since June is Men’s Health Month, we want to highlight opportunities to support men – and everyone – in increasing their mental immunity:

Get enough sleep and rest. Sleep helps us process our experiences and recharge our mind and bodies for what’s ahead. Review common myths around sleep and ways to improve your sleep habits from Real Warriors. It’s okay to feel tired and to take time to rest. Pausing on a task or something you are working on is not a sign of giving up. Although it may seem like there are not enough hours in the day, taking short, 15-minute microbreaks may help you feel more focused and energized.

Grow and nurture your support network. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center outlines how “positive and supportive social relationships and community connections can help buffer the effects of risk factors in people’s lives.” Asking for help is a sign of strength, and building strong social ties leads to a happier and more fulfilled life. Instead of worrying about something, talk it out with a trusted friend or family member. Leaning on others when you need support does not detract from your personal strength – it just helps grow it.

Prioritize self-care. Self-care isn’t limited to cucumber face masks – it means different things to everyone and can be viewed through the lens of several health aspects. Self-care can be physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual or social, whether that means taking time to go for a relaxing bike ride, journaling your thoughts or reading a great book. Learn more about opportunities for self-care from the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center’s fact sheet on Psychological Toughness.

Role model positive behaviors and actions. Once you’ve developed a few healthy habits or found things that help you unwind, share them with others. Finding opportunities to informally mentor or provide advice to others may help you feel more refreshed. It’s okay to not have all of the answers and to ask questions.

Stay open to change. Several things in life look different over time, and we’re often faced with periods of uncertainty. You may not be able to control every aspect of your life, but you can control your response. Recognize and reflect on the good parts of the day and feel empowered to address adversity by responding more mindfully. When a stressful event occurs, take a moment to stop, regroup and ask yourself how you choose to respond. Focusing on putting energy into what you can control instead of putting energy to things outside of your control can help you feel more grounded.

If you or someone in your network is having a hard time, connect with resources that can help, like the Military Crisis Line. Call 24/7: 1-800-273-8255, press 1, text 838255 or chat.