Tag Archives: stress response

Tips for Maximizing Your Next Workout

Young couple doing their stretches in the parkIt’s tempting to immediately hit the ground running – literally. While you may be tempted to start or end your workout without much thought, it’s important to take the time to properly warm up and cool down your body. Whether you’re exercising at home or practicing safe physical distancing while working out with a friend, taking a few extra minutes before and after your workout may help increase your stamina and prevent soreness and injuries. Warming up and cooling down is beneficial to any fitness routine even if you aren’t using equipment to exercise, but is especially important during aerobic exercise.

Check out these ideas on how to effectively make the most of your fitness routine:

Getting ready to move doesn’t have to just include physical preparedness – you can also gear up your mind in tandem with your body. Starting off your fitness routine in a positive headspace may help those endorphins last the extra mile. While setting an intention or goal before exercising is commonly practiced in mindfulness-oriented exercises like yoga, it can be used in any fitness environment.

Review our other blogs on physical fitness:

 

 

SAIL Referrals Decreasing during COVID-19

SAIL_logo (002)Last month, there was a significant decrease in the SAIL referral rate. There is concern that commands are not submitting referrals due to the COVID-19 crisis. Now more than ever, the Navy Suicide Prevention Program is encouraging commands and Suicide Prevention Coordinators (SPCs) to continue submitting SAIL referrals following instances of suicide-related behaviors (SRBs). SAIL services are critical during this crisis and commands must continue to submit referrals. Due to COVID-19 operations, caring contacts have transitioned from in-person contacts to telephonic contacts, but SAIL Case Managers are still standing by to assist Sailors.

Sailors sometimes do not speak up about their feelings of hopelessness or emotional distress prior to an SRB because they fear judgement and other negative perceptions. The Navy created the SAIL Program to provide a support network that assists Sailors in navigating resources. Participation in SAIL initiates a series of caring contacts during the first 90 days after an SRB to ensure the Sailor has ongoing resources and support. SAIL is not therapy and does not replace therapy or the care the Sailor may receive from medical and chaplains. It is risk assessment, safety planning and a link to all the additional resources that Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) offers to support our Sailors.

The SAIL Program launches into action when a command notifies their SPC when an SRB occurs. The SPC then contacts the Navy Suicide Prevention Program, which forwards the Sailor’s information to Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC). CNIC contacts the appropriate FFSC Case Manager, who first reaches out to the command, and then reaches out to the Sailor to offer SAIL. SAIL case managers help Sailors understand, choose and engage with resources they need. Sailors are empowered to strengthen their coping skills throughout the process.

Although risk factors associated with SRBs do not cause or predict suicide, several relate to social connection:

  • Lack of social support and sense of isolation
  • Loss of relationship or significant personal loss
  • Feeling like a burden to others, helplessness

If you hold a leadership position, be sure to actively listen to your Sailors with the intent to understand, not just respond. After someone experiences an SRB, one of the most important things they need is support. Support from leadership is critical at this time. Remaining transparent with others in discussing thoughts of suicide or other forms of self-harm openly promotes help-seeking behavior. Facilitating positive and ongoing dialogue around stress helps empower proactive self-care.

Psychological health is just as critical to readiness as physical health. Feeling connected to others can help reduce the isolation of suicidal thoughts, which often stem from a desire to stop intense pain rather than a desire to die. Leaders at all levels of the Navy contribute to their shipmates’ understanding of resources and command climate. Whether you’re a deckplate leader, front-line supervisor or commander, investing in relationships with your team through mentorship and other forms of social connection helps create an environment where all Sailors feel heard and valued. We all play a part in creating a supportive environment where those who need help have the courage to seek help and feel heard.

To learn more about the SAIL Program and access additional resources for leaders, visit this website.

If you or someone you know is in need of immediate assistance, the Military Crisis Line is available 24/7. Call 1-800-273-8255 (Option 1), text 838255 or visit http://www.militarycrisisline.net for free and confidential support.

How (and Why) to Develop a Self-Care Plan

Self Care Graphic_Facebook

Sailors know that no military operation is undertaken without significant planning. Personal duties like a permanent change of station or even trips to the store are often accompanied by detailed checklists, too. However, planning to prioritize self-care may be a new idea. We think that self-care will just “happen,” but it’s easy to let your personal needs fall to the bottom of the list. Self-care is an important part of wellness that deserves the same thoughtfulness as any other important event. Building a self-care plan can help make sure we take care of ourselves, so we can take care of the mission and of others.

What Is a Self-Care Plan?

A self-care plan is a customizable tool and preventative measure to help you identify what you value and need as part of your daily life (maintenance self-care) and the strategies you can use if you face increased stress or a crisis (emergency self-care). There is no “one-size-fits-all,” but the plan should represent a commitment to attending to your physical, psychological and emotional health in ways that are meaningful to you. An effective self-care plan helps you take the guesswork out of how to direct your energy in positive ways.

How to Create a Self-Care Plan

When you begin writing your plan, you’ll need to do a little self-reflection. Think about the ways that you currently cope with stress in your life, and whether those ways are positive or negative. A self-care plan can include abstaining from negative behaviors, like overspending or overusing alcohol, as well as developing new and more productive strategies. Think about the things in your life that bring you joy and increase your well-being. Make a list of those positive activities. Come up with a reasonable amount of time per week that you’re able to dedicate to those activities, and then block that time off on your calendar in advance. Some activities may be easy to incorporate into your daily routine, like a walk with your dog. Some activities may fit in better on a weekly or monthly basis, like a manicure or massage. Find what’s right for you, and then make it a priority.

What to Consider

Customize your self-care plan to meet your needs, but also make sure you aren’t neglecting any part of your total wellness. A good self-care plan should include practices or activities related to a variety of health areas.

Physical – These are all the things that involve taking care of your physical health, like nutrition, preventive medical care and good sleep practices. Learn how to get a great workout without equipment in this blog post about minimalist fitness workouts designed for Sailors. Yoga offers a complete mind and body workout, and this article can help you start a yoga practice. If you turn to sugary foods as a coping mechanism, you can learn about the effects of sugar on your body and mind here. For tips on creating a sleep-friendly environment to recharge your resilience, check out this article.

Psychological – There are many ways to nurture your mind and mental health. This article from the Real Warriors Campaign describes stress reduction techniques that can help, especially for people in high-stress occupations. Information on specific breathing, meditation and relaxation tips can also be found here. Achieving work-life balance is an important part of psychological wellness, and this article offers help on finding that balance in the Navy.

Social/Relationships – Time alone is important, but relationships are one of the principles of resilience. Whether it’s relationships with friends, a spouse or other family members, or professional relationships and community ties, connectedness can have significant positive effects on a person’s well-being. Learn techniques on how to strengthen connections, whether in person or at a distance, here.

Self-care can be challenging to adopt or maintain, often due to demands on time, energy or putting the needs of others before your own. As you implement your plan, keep track of how you’re doing. Tracking your progress over time will help you understand and recognize your habits, successes and any difficulties you may not have originally anticipated. Remember, you can revise your plan as needed! Being there for others starts with being there for yourself. 1 Small ACT can make a difference and help you be there for every Sailor, every day.

The Gratitude Board: 1 Small ACT for Cultivating Active Gratitude

Small ACT Selfie_Gratitude

It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day to-do lists, calendars and routines, or to be lasered in on achieving goals, setting new ones and looking forward to the future. While these are all important aspects of maintaining psychological health, it’s also beneficial to push pause and be present in the moment. Taking time to appreciate the people in your life, the things you have and what you have accomplished – practicing gratitude – is an important step in maintaining psychological, emotional and physical wellbeing.

What Is Gratitude and Why Is It Important?

According to Harvard Health, gratitude is “a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible.” When people actively practice gratitude, they are deliberately and consciously acknowledging the goodness in their lives, recognizing the source of that goodness and connecting positively to something outside themselves as individuals. Gratitude has a wide array of benefits, including greater optimism and happiness, increased positive emotions and alertness, improved physical and behavioral health, increased resilience and healthier relationships. Gratitude also serves as a protective factor against toxic, negative emotions such as envy, resentment and regret. It’s important to note that practicing gratitude does not mean that our lives are perfect or that we don’t face challenges, adversity and barriers.  Rather, it means that when people take stock and assess their lives holistically, they can embrace goodness more intentionally and enjoy the far-reaching impacts of an optimistic outlook.

So how can we cultivate more gratitude? One simple way is to create a gratitude board.

Make Your Own Appreciation Station

A gratitude board is a great way to reinforce positive emotions because it is a visible, physical reminder that can be seen whenever you come and go from your spaces. To get started, grab some kind of board – like a marker, cork or chalk board – sticky notes, scrap paper or notecards; some writing instruments; and something to hold your items to the board. Take some time to reflect on the things, people, experiences and/or events you are grateful for, and write them down. Be as creative as you want, and feel free to invite friends, family members, shipmates or anyone you share common space with to join in. If it’s a group board, see what others are grateful for; their posts might spark more ideas about gratitude and serve as personal inspiration.

One Week Check-In

After a week of constructing your gratitude board, check in to see how you (and your group if you are using that approach) have accumulated positive reflections, ideas, relationships, accomplishments and generosity. Use your one-week inputs as inspiration for maintaining and operating your board throughout the coming months and year.

Gratitude as Self-Care

Investing in our psychological, emotional and physical wellbeing doesn’t have to be time-consuming or costly, and we don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving or the holidays to express what we’re thankful for. Devoting a moment each day to reflect on what we’re grateful for is 1 Small ACT of self-care we can do to take care of our body and mind so that we can be there for others and make positive contributions to our personal and professional relationships. Remember, 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.

Mental Health Month: Finding Work-Life Balance in the Navy

Concept of harmony and balance. Balance stones against the sea.

May is Mental Health Month and cultivating a healthy work-life balance is key to navigating the stress of Navy life. The idea of work-life balance may seem at odds with the duties of a U.S. Navy Sailor.  When the Navy calls, Sailors answer. Unpredictable schedules, lengthy hours and assignments away from home are some of the many challenges Sailors face. However, there are ways to optimize your own work-life balance, no matter what your job in the Navy.

The Effects of Chronic Stress

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is key to reducing stress and preventing burnout. When professional demands prevent you from taking time for yourself, you’re at risk of living in a state of chronic stress, and that can have major impact on your mental and physical health. A 2015 study by the British Heart Foundation found that chronic stress led to less-than-optimal health choices, including poor diets, lack of exercise and excessive drinking and smoking among millions of workers. The National Institute of Mental Health also cites digestive symptoms, headaches, sleeplessness and sadness as other potential consequences of ongoing stress.

Top Tips for Work-Life Balance

So with all these consequences at risk, how can you improve work-life balance? We’ve gathered some of the top tips, including some tips that are specifically for families and for leaders.

For Everyone:

  • Prioritize and set manageable goals. When we have goals in place, and we are able to complete them, it helps us have a sense of accomplishment and control. Setting priorities every day can help you gain clarity on what really matters. Be realistic about your workload and deadlines and communicate if you need help. Don’t forget to set personal goals as well!  Choose one personal goal and consistently take one small step towards that goal – it can help you balance work demands if you are working towards something for yourself at the same time.
  • Cut yourself some slack. You’re allowed to be human and to make mistakes. Sometimes, everything won’t get done as quickly as you’d like it. It happens to everyone. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and be kind to yourself. Ask for help and be forgiving of yourself and others.

For Sailors with Families:

  • Don’t take your work home. If possible, leave your work at work. Turn off e-mail notifications when you can – in fact, ditch the phone as much as possible. Set boundaries around what you will and won’t be available for during off duty hours and stick to them.
  • Nurture your personal network. There are a million ways to stay connected these days, so take advantage of them when you’re away from home. Whether communicating in person or electronically, give those closest to you the undivided attention they deserve. Ask questions about their days, and really listen to their answers.

For Leaders:

If you’re in a leadership role, you can help others to create a healthy work-life balance by modeling one yourself. In addition to the tips above, here are some ways to impact the way your team navigates stress and competing priorities.

  • Listen to your team. Meet with your team to discuss deadlines, workloads and overtime hours. You may not be able to change mission demands, but you can find common ground with those around you about meeting those demands. Try to set realistic expectations with your team, and listen if they are struggling under workloads that could lead to burnout. Be sure to regularly ask for feedback, and practice active listening skills when you receive it.  Focusing closely on your team’s responses will help build trust within your team, so they will be more likely to provide honest, thoughtful feedback.
  • Send them home when you can. Some days will require your whole team for long hours. Most days won’t. When possible, send people home early from time to time. You can expect them to give 100% when you really need them if you try to get them home when it counts most.

Additional Resources

The Navy Operational Stress Control (OSC) Program promotes an understanding of stress, awareness of support resources, and provides practical stress navigation tools to help build resilience of Sailors, families, and commands. OSC Mobile Training Teams (MTTs) deploy to provide face-to-face training to assist Sailors and their families with navigating stress. Learn more about these courses here.

The Navy Fleet and Family Support Program offers resources and training to support service members and their families for the physical, emotional, interpersonal and logistical demands of military life. Learn more about their programs and services here.

Military OneSource has information on specialty consultations and a variety of resources to assist with the unique challenges faced by service members and their families. Learn more on their website here.