Tag Archives: relaxation techniques

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.

Relax and Recharge for a Good Night of Sleep

Woman on bed reading book and drinking coffee

Going to sleep at night can be easier said than done. Whether you’re up late reflecting on the past or thinking about the future, our minds may need additional prompting in order to slow down before bed. From our emotional well-being, to our safety, to supporting our circadian rhythm, maintaining healthy sleep habits and routines positively impacts several aspects of our health.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute outlines how sleep deficiency occurs if you have one or more of the following experiences:

  • You don’t get enough sleep (sleep deprivation)
  • You sleep at the wrong time of day (that is, you’re out of sync with your body’s natural clock)
  • You don’t sleep well or get all of the different types of sleep that your body needs
  • You have a sleep disorder that prevents you from getting enough sleep or causes poor quality sleep

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute discusses how sleep deficiency can make you “have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night for optimal health.

Here are a few ideas on how to unwind before going to sleep:

Read a hardcover book or magazine. Scrolling through social media accounts, watching online videos or reading articles from a phone or laptop does not help our minds relax and get ready for sleep. Many sleep experts even recommend removing all digital devices from your bedroom or sleeping area. Although we live in a world of constant digital connectivity, swapping your phone for a book will help you relax and sleep more peacefully through the night.

Write down your thoughts. Instead of ruminating about an experience, take time to journal about your thoughts and experiences to help contextualize them before you go to sleep. For tips on how to get started journaling, check out this article.

Practice physical self-care. Exercise, stretch and/or take a bath to relax your muscles before going to sleep. Consistent exercise and movement throughout the day will also help you sleep better.

Do some light cleaning. Whether it’s your room, apartment, barracks or living space, take time before you go to bed to fold laundry, wipe down your counters or straighten up your papers. Focusing on small tasks each night will help you settle down with a sense of accomplishment and lead to a more relaxing wake up.

Meditate in a way that works for you. Several mobile applications now focus on guiding individuals through breathing and meditation activities. If you have already found a successful way to meditate, consider expanding your sensory experience by using a white noise machine or listening to nature sounds.

Prep for the next day. If you are feeling anxious about what the next day may bring, consider ways for how you can feel more empowered to take on new challenges and opportunities. Consider creating a to-do or goals list for the next day, checking the weather or packing your lunch.

For more ideas on how to get a better night of sleep, review the following items:

How Stress Impacts Your Heart Health

heart-health-blog-image

Heart disease refers to numerous problems which are often related to plaque build-up in the heart’s arteries (atherosclerosis)[1]. There are a variety of risk factors for heart disease, some of which may be out of your control, such as genetics and age. Other risk factors – such as lack of exercise, an unhealthy diet or unchecked stress – can be minimized through lifestyle changes. That’s good news considering that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.

Stress is a natural reaction; it is the body’s way of coping with a perceived threat. As part of the ‘fight or flight’ response, stress signals the body to produce more energy by elevating the heart rate, increasing production of LDL cholesterol and blood glucose. This response should subside when the perceived threat (stressor) is no longer present. However, when we’re unable to unwind or are exposed to stress for a prolonged amount of time, the short and long term effects can be damaging. Stress can lead to poor eating choices, missed workouts and a lack of sleep. Without action, this combination of factors may lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.

According to the 2013 Fleet and Marine Corps Health Risk Assessment, only 12 percent of active duty Navy respondents and 13 percent of active duty Marine respondents indicated that they experienced work stress. However, those numbers increased as time away from home station increased. To help navigate stress, follow these tips:

Not all risk factors can be avoided, but exercising Controllability when it comes to navigating stress and making lifestyle choices can reduce risk. Small acts can help you do your part to protect your heart, improve your health and enhance your military readiness.

February is Heart Health Month. The Every Sailor, Every Day campaign thanks Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center for providing the above information, which can be found in their fact sheets “Heart Health: Risk Factors and Lifestyle Choices” and “Help your Heart, Help your Life” located in the February HPW Toolbox.

 

[1] What is Cardiovascular Disease? (2017, January 10). Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Caregiver/Resources/WhatisCardiovascularDisease/What-is-Cardiovascular-Disease_UCM_301852_Article.jsp#.WJns3dXR_9c

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

 

Get Balanced and Relaxed

We all know that operators of planes, ships and trucks have to make sure the loads are balanced so the vehicle or platform can maneuver and be stable.
 
The same can be said for keeping our lives in balance.  Although easier said than done in the hectic lives of today’s Navy families, it’s worth evaluating how we balance sleep, nutrition, exercise, work, family, friends, and fun.
 
In general, our bodies and minds seek balance. We respond in amazing ways to meet a challenge. For example, processes kick in to free up energy stores, increase oxygen and get blood pumping in order to perform our best on fitness tests and sports, or help us survive in physical danger. Similar processes can focus our attention, forge memories, and even hone our senses.
 
When the challenge passes, opposite processes (e.g. relaxation) kick in to restore and conserve energy, and allow our mind to consolidate learning. This rejuvenation allows us to be ready for the next challenge.
 
However, when the challenges become long-term and complex, or seem to come at an unending pace as often occurs in modern life, this natural balancing process is interrupted.  To get back on an even keel, take some steps to free your body and mind to work as they’ve been designed.  Take time to compensate for extra demands by scheduling time to recharge.  Make it a habit to schedule rest and relaxation so you’ll be ready for whatever new challenges come next.  
For relaxation strategies click here.