Tag Archives: relationship health

Celebrating Inclusion Makes Us Stronger

Connection helps us grow both personally and professionally. Fostering an open and inclusive environment improves our well-being – whether we’re empowering our shipmates to succeed, deepening our bonds with our friends with humor or expressing empathy with our family members when they’re going through a rough patch. Showing someone you care and respect them – even with a small act of kindness – can go a long way in helping others feel included and supported. 

Since we often find ourselves navigating uncertainty, establishing a support network that helps us navigate life’s twists and turns is a great way to ground ourselves. Individuals inside and outside of our central circles may have helpful insights from their experiences or new perspectives on situations, that we have not yet considered. On an individual level, valuing diverse perspectives and leveraging unique mindsets fuels our own personal growth and strengthens our communities.

Inclusion promotes innovation, establishes equity across various networks and lowers instances of negative behaviors.  From an organizational perspective, the Navy continues to invest in inclusion and diversity. The Navy defines those terms as:

  • Inclusion: valuing and integrating each individual’s perspectives, ideas and contributions into the way an organization functions and makes decisions.
  • Diversity: all of the different characteristics and attributes of our Navy Team, which are consistent with Navy core values, integral to overall readiness and mission accomplishment and is reflective of the Nation we serve.

While these definitions highlight opportunities for the Navy community to build an inclusive environment, they are just as relevant when considering your day-to-day actions when engaging with others. Gaining an understanding of the different perspectives, experiences and ideas of the people around us helps give us the flexibility to be more open to change and to make sure all identities are supported and seen. These actions help ensure that everyone in the Navy is able to bring their full selves to work.

Connection is essential during times of extreme stress. Protective factors against suicide include: a strong sense of community and belonging, psychological and physical safety, strong ties with family and friends, a fulfillment of personal purpose and a contribution or responsibility to others. Investing in your relationships with others and these protective factors prior to a stressful event occurring will help you feel more confident in exercising resilience. Make an effort to regularly express how much your loved ones mean to you as well as your respect and admiration for colleagues.

Words Matter: Power of Caring

Caring Cards FB 5 FINAL (002)While it may be easy to notice that a fellow shipmate or loved one isn’t acting like themselves, it may be hard to know what you can do to respond. Sometimes, all it may take to bolster someone’s outlook is a simple gesture. Whether you send a quick text or a message on social media to a friend on deployment or send a handwritten letter to a family member that lives in a different state, offering simple words of support and concern can have a positive impact on a loved one’s psychological health.

The Navy’s Suicide Prevention Program’s Every Sailor, Every Day campaign (ESED) empowers Sailors to reach out to their shipmates and ACT (Ask, Care, Treat) if they notice something out of the norm. One critical element of ACT is “Care,” which means to listen without judgment and with empathy. Gestures of “Care” do not need to be big – 1 Small ACT can make a difference and save a life.

To coincide with National Mental Health Month in May and address mental health concerns around COVID-19, the ESED campaign created “Caring Connections,” an initiative encouraging Sailors and the Navy community to actively reach out to peers, shipmates, friends, family members and their loved ones to facilitate connectedness. Several postcard-style templates can be accessed on the NavStress Facebook and Twitter. Download and share all graphics on Flickr. Use these as templates and feel free to write your own message on them for added personalization.

Caring Cards Screenshot 2For those potentially at risk for suicide, several studies have shown that regularly sharing caring words and messages can help individuals feel more connected. Protective factors against suicide include: sense of community and belonging, strong connections with family and friends, sense of purpose and personal fulfillment and contribution or responsibility to others.

To reflect on your own capacity for empathy and how you can strengthen you support to others, take this Empathy Quiz from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

For inspiration on how to curate caring messages for others, review the Caring Contacts toolkit from NowMattersNow.org.

For more resources to consider for Mental Health Month, visit the following links for actionable ideas:

If you’d like more information for Mental Health Month, check out the following organizations:

Self-Care for Those Supporting Others

Women Female Feminism Lady Madam Friends Concept

If you’ve ever provided support to a loved one when they are facing a crisis, challenge, traumatic or stressful event, you may know how difficult it can be to maintain your own emotional and mental health. While practicing self-care is important throughout life’s ups and downs, it is especially critical to remember when supporting others during trying times. Whether you’re helping a friend that has a mental health challenge or a family member dealing with substance misuse, maintaining your self-care plan is critical to ensuring your own well-being.

Although it may feel selfish or unwarranted to practice personal self-care when a loved one is facing challenges, continuing to make healthy choices will ultimately empower you to better take care of them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights how “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.”

Here are a few ways to take care of yourself when supporting a loved one:

Stay close to your routine. A huge part of self-care is upholding your established schedule. Eat healthy meals, get a full night of sleep and exercise when you can. Focus on work and family responsibilities one task at a time.

Talk to someone. Tap in to your own support network to bolster your relationship health when caring for others. The National Institutes of Health’s Social Wellness Toolkit offers several checklists for how to build healthy relationships during a variety of situations. Even though it may feel uncomfortable to ask for individual help while a loved one is suffering, connecting with others will help you stay sharp and motivated. Go to an event, plan a meal with family or video chat with a trusted friend.

Let go of negative feelings. If you have decision-making power over a loved one’s stressful or traumatic event, try to reframe your perspective in order to protect your own health. Caregiver.org recommends the following: “Change ‘guilt’ to ‘regret.’ Guilt is you did something wrong, regret is that you are in a difficult situation and sometimes you have to make difficult decisions, but they are not wrong.” Keep in mind that the situation your loved one is facing is likely temporary. Recognizing small positive moments on a daily basis is also a useful way to maintain a more resilient headspace.

Dedicate time for full-on relaxation. You may feel like you’re tied to your phone to receive the latest updates on a loved one’s challenges, and then even more pressure to relay updates to other friends and family. When your attention is concentrated on helping someone, allot specific times to put your digital devices away and redirect your focus to a relaxing activity. Consider journaling, reading a book, going for a walk or doing a deep breathing exercise to meditate. Try to take regular breaks, even if you can only step away for a few minutes throughout the day to unwind.

Remove the noise. Consider unsubscribing to social media and email push notifications on your phone to allow for more space to focus on what’s most important to you. Reducing the amount of unnecessary information coming your way may help you feel less overwhelmed when supporting a loved one. Pressing pause on your news consumption can also help you clear your mind. Minimize any pressure you may be putting on yourself to respond quickly to outside friends and family that may not know what you or your loved one is going through.

Understand your role and its limits. As much as you may think that caring for or supporting your loved one falls on your shoulders, you will likely not be able to solve all of their problems alone. Ask people in your support network for resources and nudge your loved one to consider meeting with a mental health specialist or other relevant medical provider if necessary. Setting boundaries and fostering a wider support network for your friend or family member will help you navigate your own stressors and create some potentially needed distance from the situation.

For a full list of mental health hotlines and other resources, review this article.

Resources for Establishing Healthy Relationships and Boundaries

Phone call from unknown number late at night. Scam, fraud or phishing with smartphone concept. Prank caller, scammer or stranger. Man answering to incoming call. Hoax person with fake identity.

Healthy relationships are built on fundamental tenants of respect, honesty, support and equality.  The beginning of the year is a great time to check in on your interpersonal relationships with your friends, family and peers to set healthy boundaries.  Recognizing and responding to unhealthy behaviors in your interpersonal relationships is critical to your emotional and relationship health.  January marks National Stalking Awareness Month, a time to educate yourself and others about stalking.

Recognized as a crime in all 50 states, the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women defines stalking as “engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress.”  In 2015, The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that nearly 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men were victims of stalking.

Stalking can be difficult to recognize, especially when the entertainment industry often romanticizes persistence in relationships as a form of flattery.  The National Center for Victims of Crime’s Stalking Resource center outlines the following behaviors of stalkers:

  • Repeatedly call you, including hang-ups.
  • Follow you and show up wherever you are.
  • Send unwanted gifts, letters, texts, or e-mails.
  • Damage your home, car, or other property.
  • Monitor your phone calls or computer use.
  • Use technology, like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS), to track where you go.
  • Drive by or hang out at your home, school, or work.
  • Threaten to hurt you, your family, friends, or pets.
  • Find out about you by using public records or on-line search services, hiring investigators, going through your garbage, or contacting friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers.
  • Other actions that control, track, or frighten you.

To learn more about stalking and other unhealthy relationship behaviors, visit the following resources:

If you or someone you know needs help, utilize the following hotlines:

  • National Center for Victims of Crime: 1-855-4-VICTIM (1-855-484-2846)
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−7233
  • The National Sexual Assault Hotline:  1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

Digital Safety: Considerations for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

purple ribbon against the violence against women

Advances in digital technology have fundamentally transformed the way we communicate. From messaging friends on social media platforms, to using online dating websites, to tracking our exercise with mobile apps, to answering calls via wearable devices, we can now connect with our close friends, family, loved ones and larger community faster than ever. Digital tools constantly collect information about our interactions, and those closest to us are often involved in shaping our digital interactions.

While increasing our ease of connectivity to our partners is often an advantage, many people do not understand what digital abuse is and are not able to recognize the signs of digital abuse between partners. October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and as Richard McKeon, Ph.D., chief of the suicide prevention branch at the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) points out: “survivors of intimate partner violence are twice as likely to attempt suicide multiple times, and cases of murder suicide are most likely to occur in the context of abuse.” Although physical violence is more commonly linked to domestic violence, digital platforms and software are also now leveraged as mechanisms to transmit abuse. Using abusive language and intimidating partners – whether publicly or privately online – can be just as devastating as an act of physical violence. By controlling a partner’s digital life, an abuser may find it an effective way to exercise control over someone’s physical, financial and emotional well-being.

Here are a few considerations to make digital safety a priority for yourself, your friends and your family in relationships:

Increase your awareness of the information collected by digital tools. Several mobile apps and websites automatically default to settings that track your location. Digital stalking can be made even easier with GPS, with social media platforms’ location tags often leaving a digital trail. Protect yourself and others by remaining aware of who has access to what devices, apps and accounts. Reset your passwords and contact information associated with your account on a routine basis for added security.

Recognize and understand the reach of digital tools. The Internet gives individuals a much broader platform to broadcast photos, screenshots of texts and documents that could potentially harm someone’s personal or professional life. Abusive partners can use public shaming or humiliation to distort the truth.

Take note of any abrupt changes in a friend or family member’s online behavior. If it seems like someone’s posts, comments or replies have changed in content or frequency, ask them directly about the changes you’ve observed. Their partner may be imposing limits on who they can contact and what they can post. Connect those in your community with digital and in-person resources and let them know you are there for them.

While digital abuse is common among young people who are frequently using technology at high rates, it is important to know that anyone can be a victim of digital abuse. In addition to local resources, national resources for domestic violence victim assistance and support include:

  • For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now.
  • Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) which can be reached through the RAINN Hotline at 1-800-865-HOPE or through its website at http://www.rainn.org/