Tag Archives: Yoga

5 Small ACTs to Help You Chill Out

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Whether it’s strain and pressure within your unit as you work long hours to prepare for deployment, a disagreement with your spouse over something trivial that boils over, or a seemingly innocent debate with a friend that goes the wrong way, we can all expect to be blindsided by heated moments. Your reactions come quickly and before you know it, your heart is racing, your face is red and you’re saying the first thing that comes to mind (and that thing may not necessarily help the situation).

While disagreement and tension are normal and can even contribute to strengthening relationships, they can surely leave their mark if not carefully addressed. Unchecked anger and unresolved issues can fester, impacting the individuals directly involved, other colleagues or family members, and the mission at-hand. By taking a moment to be proactive, you can help to keep the pot from boiling over by exploring strategies to defuse intense situations.

Just in time for warmer weather and Mental Health Month, here are 5 Small ACTs to help you chill out:

Push Pause. The moment you see potential for a situation or conversation to escalate, call a time out. A lengthy explanation isn’t needed; just step back and offer to address things once all parties involved have had a chance to clear their heads and approach the problem calmly. Even if it’s just five minutes, creating some space between yourself and the issue can help you get a grasp on how you feel, what’s truly important and how you can work with others to move forward.

Breathe. This simple act is often taken for granted, but is an important first step in trying to get your emotional and physiological responses in check when the tension is rising. Taking a deep breath (two to three second inhale and exhale) can help to induce calm in the midst of calamity. If you have a few moments to yourself and can find a quiet space, try this Quick Fix Breathing Exercise or check out the exercises on the National Center for Telehealth and Technology’s Breathe2Relax app.

Laugh. Laughter can help thwart the release of stress hormones, kick-starting the production of hormones that are responsible for positively balancing your mood and promoting relaxation. Look at a funny GIF, head to your favorite blog or talk to someone who knows how to bring a smile to your face. A quick laugh can help you change the channel if you’re focused on a negative situation and enable you to approach a solution with a smile :).

Hit the gym, the track or the trails. You may find that your most productive days in the gym or your best run happen when you need to vent some frustration. Building exercise into your daily routine can help to burn negativity and rewire your brain after tense times. Whether it’s a run with a friend or mentor, weightlifting, interval training or yoga, turn to your favorite fitness regimen to maximize the mood-boost.

Communicate. If your situation involves conflict with another person, addressing it directly can lead to finding some common ground and getting things back on track sooner. Staying silent may only feed your emotions, leading to continued drama. When talking it out, try to use a neutral tone, make eye contact and explain how you perceived the issue or what led to the misunderstanding from your perspective. State that you would like to find a resolution that works for all parties involved (which may include compromising), and then actively listen to the other person or people involved. Instead of listening with the intent to dispute, make a point or interrupt, actually hear and process what the person is saying to you. Then restate it back in your own words to ensure that you have an understanding. Clarify whenever necessary and allow for natural silence, even when it may feel awkward. This will enable you to respond appropriately and meaningfully, minimizing the potential for a heated exchange. Other forms of communication may help you chill out by expressing your feelings, including journaling or speaking with a neutral person, such as a peer support advocate.

Before you land in your next heated moment, take some time to acknowledge what actions, words, topics or gestures are most likely to provoke you. Then note how you may react when these buttons are pushed. Taking this honest look at yourself proactively can help you keep off-the-cuff reactions at bay, enabling you to navigate issues calmly, learn from them and move forward. You may not be able to control others’ behavior or external situations, but with a little prep you can control your responses to them.

BONUS: Anger affecting your daily life? Check out this article from our partners at Real Warriors to help you identify your signs of anger and learn to navigate them in a healthy way. For more information on the Real Warriors campaign, visit www.realwarriors.net.

Fleet Feature: “Yoga for the Mind, Body and Soul”

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To read “Yoga for the Mind, Body and Soul” in its original form and learn more about Senior Chief Terrish Bilbrey, click here.

In today’s competitive, fast-paced Navy environment, tending to your own basic needs can sometimes take a backseat to getting the job done and getting ahead. Reactions to stress can take various forms, and when left unchecked or unacknowledged, they can take a toll on emotional and physical health.  This is something that one Sailor attached to aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) learned firsthand. Senior Chief Terrish Bilbrey, Operations Department Leading Chief Petty Officer, recently shared how one self-care practice helped her make positive changes in her life and pay it forward.

“I came into the Navy with this really badass attitude” Bilbrey said in a related John C. Stennis (CVN 74) blog post. She served 10 straight years of sea duty, during which time her career flourished. She was selected for Sailor of the Quarter twice in one year, as well as Pacific Fleet Sailor of the Year. She advanced to chief on her first try. Yet difficulties in Bilbrey’s personal life, in combination with a childhood that led her to seek achievements to validate her self-worth, began weighing on her.  Without an outlet, the stress and her need to succeed began to lead her to make destructive decisions.

After some lows, Bilbrey described what led to a turning point in her life: yoga. Though she already led an active lifestyle, she turned to this self-care practice to help her regroup, decompress, and self-reflect. “I started to realize that I would have these sensations of forgiveness and I would start to let go of some feelings and anger and all of those things that I held inside,” she shared. Bilbrey learned to view challenges as inspiration, asking herself what she can learn from them rather than allowing the presence of challenges to negatively influence her.

Eventually, Senior Chief Bilbrey went on to pursue her yoga teaching certificate while stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to share with her shipmates all of the positive impacts that the practice continues to have on her life. She currently teaches yoga classes to her Stennis shipmates with a goal of helping them understand that they are perfect the way they are. “I don’t want anyone else to feel that they are not worthy because that is the way I felt for 30 years of my life,” Bilbrey says. Yoga has brought Bilbrey a new sense of clarity and purpose for her own life. Beyond her current teaching, she hopes to build upon what she’s started by helping others realize their potential through mindfulness and lifestyle changes.

Good self-care can be challenging to adopt or maintain, often due to demands on time, energy or putting others needs before your own. As this New Year begins, find an accessible personal practice that you can work into your routine to help you recharge both physically and emotionally. Whether it be yoga, running, journaling, or connecting with spirituality, your commitment to yourself not only benefits you—it enables you to be there for others, stay present during challenges and stay mission-ready. Bilbrey chose yoga, and now she believes that “we have the ability to design our life, the ability to take whatever it is you dream of… and make anything happen in your life.”

Breathing, Meditation and Relaxation Techniques

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.

Staying fit requires more than physical strength – it requires a comprehensive approach that focuses on the mind, body and spirit working together. Whether you are preparing to deploy, are currently deployed or are reintegrating, it’s important to consider how mind and body practices like breathing, meditation and relaxation techniques can assist you in staying resilient or coping with invisible wounds. Mind and body skills are part of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and integrative health practices that focus on the interactions among the brain, mind, body and behavior, in order to use the mind to strengthen physical functioning and promote health.1 CAM and integrative health are a diverse group of medical and non-medical health care practices that are not considered to be part of conventional medicine, or clinical care practiced by a health provider.[1 ]Note, CAM and integrative health practices are not currently covered under TRICARE military health care plans. For more information on TRICARE coverage, visit TRICARE Covered Services online.

Used on their own or as a supplement to your provider’s clinical care, mind and body practices may reduce the severity of combat stress, relax your mind, assist in your recovery, build resilience and help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Practice Breathing Exercises to Relax

Breathing exercises, a fundamental component of mind and body practices, have been proven to activate the body’s relaxation response. Additionally, breathing exercises can help control the body’s reaction to stress by balancing its “fight or flight” response and relaxation response.[2] Incorporating breathing exercises such as the one below into your daily routine can improve physiological factors like blood pressure, heart rate and muscle relaxation, which in turn may help you manage anxiety, improve concentration, sleep sounder or improve your immune system.[3]

The National Center for Telehealth and Technology’s Breathe2Relax mobile app can help you manage stress through proven diaphragmatic breathing exercises. Breathe2Relax can be used as a stand-alone stress reduction tool or it can be used in tandem with clinical care, as directed by your healthcare provider. The app is available for Apple iOS and Android operating systems. To download the app, search for “Breathe2Relax” in the App Store for iOS and in the Android Market from your smart mobile device.

To practice breathing on your own, sit in a comfortable position and be sure to inhale and exhale evenly and slowly. An alternate nostril breathing exercise is a good technique to start with because it brings balance to both sides of the brain and control the body’s reaction to stress:[4]

  • Close off your right nostril by placing the thumb of your right hand on your right nostril
  • Inhale through your left nostril
  • Close off your left nostril with the ring finger of your right hand
  • Remove the thumb and exhale through your right nostril
  • Inhale through your right nostril
  • Close off your right nostril with your thumb
  • Exhale through your left nostril
  • Inhale through your left nostril
  • Continue alternating five to 10 times

For more information on breathing exercises, download the Controlled Breathing Techniques fact sheet on our website and try incorporating breathing exercises into your daily routine.

Calm Your Mind with Meditation

Meditation is a technique that restores calm and inner peace and produces a deep state of relaxation by focusing attention. It is not yet fully known what changes occur in the body during meditation or whether or how they influence health, but research is ongoing. Meditation can be effective for building resilience and easing anxiety, depression or reintegration stress. Some forms of meditation instruct the practitioner to become mindful of thoughts, feelings and sensations and to observe them in a nonjudgmental way. Most types of meditation have four elements in common:[5]

  • A quiet location. Meditation is usually practiced in a quiet place with as few distractions as possible. This can be particularly helpful for beginners.
  • A specific, comfortable posture. Depending on the type being practiced, meditation can be done while sitting, lying down, standing, walking or in other positions.
  • A focus of attention. Focusing your attention is usually part of meditation. For example, you might focus on a mantra (a chosen word or set of words), an object, the sensations of breathing or whatever topic or thought is dominant in your consciousness.
  • An open attitude. Having an open attitude during meditation means letting distractions come and go naturally without judging them. If your attention goes to a distracting or wandering thought, no need to suppress those thoughts. Instead, gently return your attention back to focus.

If you’re interested in learning more about meditation, check with your nearest military facility to inquire if they offer a meditation course. An increasing number of facilities offer meditation courses – and some offer a focus on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You can also talk to your health care provider about meditation resources in your community. For information on choosing a CAM practitioner or program, check out the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s tips for selecting a CAM practitioner.

Relax Through Yoga
For a review and comparative summary of popular mind-body techniques, read “Mind-Body Skills for Regulating the Autonomic Nervous System” by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

The term “yoga” means to “unite” and typically involves a combination of exercise, breathing and meditation. Research indicates that benefits of yoga may include lowered blood pressure, reduced stress response, increased strength, flexibility endurance, immune response and improved concentration, among other benefits.[6] Yoga is an important part of the Specialized Care Program at Defense Department’s Deployment Health Clinical Center (DHCC), which is designed to treat patients with deployment-related stress and PTSD. Before enrolling in a yoga class at the DHCC or at another military facility, you should consult with your healthcare provider to confirm yoga is suitable for you. For service members coping with trauma, a yoga class which focuses on trauma-sensitive meditation may be more appropriate than a more traditional class.[6]

For those who wish to practice yoga at home, DHCC recommends a program called iRest, which offers voice-guided sessions on meditation and deep relaxation.[6] Visit iRest’s military webpage to listen to a free download (short practice) of iRest Yoga Nidra or view a 15-minute introductory video of guided meditations for warriors.

Additional Resources

 

Sources

1 “What is CAM?” National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Last accessed Feb. 26, 2014.

2 Mahoney, Louise. “Reduce Stress with 10 Minutes of Chair Yoga,” [PPT 889KB] Department of Veterans Affairs War Related Illness and Injury Study Center. Last accessed Feb. 26, 2014.

3 Carnes, Robin. “Holistic Therapies Help Manage Stress At Home,” Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Last accessed Feb. 26, 2014.

4 “Controlled Breathing Techniques,” [PDF 77KB] Department of Veterans Affairs War Related Illness and Injury Study Center. Last accessed Feb. 26, 2014.

5 “Meditation: An Introduction,” National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Last accessed Feb. 26, 2014.

6 Carnes, Robin. “Yoga and Yoga Nidra Meditation at the Deployment Health Clinical Center’s Specialized Care Program,” [PDF 1.1MB] Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Last accessed Feb. 26, 2014