Category Archives: Resources

Peer to Peer, Beyond the Pier

Talking about stress can be a challenge in itself. Finding someone who can relate to your experiences and help you work through them can seem even tougher—particularly with the range of stressors unique to military V4Wlife.

Recognizing the unique challenges and bonds that service members, veterans and families share, the Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO) has sponsored Vets 4 Warriors peer support line. This resource offers active duty, National Guard, and reserve service members and families access to 24/7, free and confidential support from peers—veterans and family members who can relate to your experiences and feelings. Veterans and family members who have “been there.”

Vets 4 Warriors is not a crisis line, though staff will connect callers with immediate resources if an emergency is imminent. Rather, the network offers an outlet for callers to talk through stressors and get connected with the right resources, with the help of those who understand military life first-hand. Vets 4 Warriors’ “Veteran Peers” work diligently to connect callers with specific resources for any issue: finances, legal matters, medical services, transition or reintegration difficulties and more. They can provide information and advice, as well as referrals. And, support can be ongoing for as long as you, the caller, choose to remain engaged. Veteran Peers are not clinical or medical care providers, nor will they share any information with the military or VA. They’re simply here to lend a hand when you need help getting over any of life’s numerous hurdles.

If you choose to call Vets 4 Warriors, you can expect a non-judgmental conversation with a veteran from your branch of Service, who is ready to listen and offer help—and hope. Veteran Peers are trained to help callers feel comfortable speaking about issues, addressing the internal, external and environmental barriers that can often keep us from seeking help. Best of all, peer support offers reciprocal benefits. By talking with a Veteran Peer, you’re helping him or her grow from personal challenges as much as he or she is helping you withstand, recover and adapt from your own. That is how we truly build resilience. Together.

For more information, visit http://www.vets4warriors.com/ or call 1-855-838-8255 toll-free. You may also email or start a live chat with a Veteran Peer. For OCONUS callers, please click here for instructions.

Stress Eating

Guest blog provided by Dr. Mark Long and Sally Vickers, Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC), Health Promotion and Wellness (HPW) Department

he_iconHow often do you eat when you’re not hungry? For instance, do you ever eat (or overeat) to reward yourself? How about when you’re frustrated, tired, stressed, anxious, bored, or in need of comfort? We often eat to fill a need other than hunger. However, doing so can lead to overeating and making poor food choices. Of course, having an ice cream to celebrate a birthday or achievement is fine from time to time, but if you find yourself making poor food choices or overeating on a regular basis, practicing mindful eating may help you improve your eating habits and help you enjoy eating right.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindfulness is the state of being attentive to and aware of what is taking place in the present moment.[1] Before eating, think about what’s really driving your hunger. Is it a need for food or a need for something else entirely? Simply put, being mindful is experiencing and being fully aware of what your body is telling you in the present moment.

Before your first bite, ask yourself:

  • Am I physically hungry?
  • How hungry am I?

The trick is to eat before you get too hungry and to stop (or not begin) eating when you’re not hungry. You should also try to savor and enjoy what you eat by tasting it fully, rather than mindlessly filling a void.

Being mindful is an art. When your mind wanders (and it will), gently remind yourself to eat with intention and take in the whole experience moment by moment.[2] Eating mindfully will enable you to truly taste your food, eat only until your hunger is satisfied, and allow you to fully enjoy your food experience. Practice often and delight in the simplicity of eating! To help get you started, the Health Promotion and Wellness Department’s Relax Relax Toolkit offers a mindfulness section with an audio presentation on Mindful Eating.

[1] Brown K., Ryan R. The Benefits of Being Present: Mindfulness and Its Role in Psychological Well-being. http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/2003_BrownRyan.pdf.  Published September 2002.
[2] 4Kabat-Zinn, J. Full Catastrophe Living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. pp 27-29. New York, New York: Dell Publishing; 1990.

What’s Your Plan to Navigate Stress?

As the days get longer and warmer and summer excitement begins, safety will be a critical focus—from preventing mishaps in swimming pools and outdoor grilling dangers, to preventing fatigued driving during summer road trips. Naval Safety Center’s “Live to Play, Play to Live” campaign is in full-swing, with severalsnp Navy programs engaging to ensure that the entire community enjoys the next 101 days of summer safely and responsibly.

While planning for physical safety helps minimize risk for yourself and those around you, emotional safety and wellbeing is an equally important part of the equation to keep you healthy and mission-ready. We may not know when we’ll encounter adversity, but by identifying positive resources that we can turn to during life’s inevitable challenges we can help prepare ourselves for the unexpected, minimizing the risk of those challenges developing into crises. Just as you would program a sober buddy’s number in your phone to avoid getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol, you should take a moment to proactively identify who you’d reach out to and what you will do when you encounter stress and adversity.

To help you explore and identify your resources for making healthy decisions during stressful times, take a moment to fill out your Stress Navigation Plan, downloadable on the Navy Suicide Prevention website here. This simple proactive tool helps you think about your current practices for navigating stress—from a tough day on the job, to financial setbacks or relationship issues—while you’re still emotionally healthy. In the process, you may come up with more positive ways to navigate stress than what you currently turn to and will have the names and numbers of those you trust when you need to talk things through. By writing your resources and practices down now, you’ll be more prepared during stressful situations and are empowering yourself to make positive choices to thrive during adversity, not just survive.

While you’re encouraged to share your Stress Navigation Plan with your closest friends, family or those who are listed in it, your plan doesn’t have to be shared with anyone. Keep it in a safe place (wallet, desk, glove compartment in your car) so that you can easily access it when the need arises. You can even take a picture of your plan and store it in your mobile phone, or save the phone numbers in your contacts list. This is a simple commitment to yourself to navigate stress safely and to remind yourself that seeking help—whether through a friend, peer, leader or professional resource—can help you emerge from adversity stronger and more resilient than before. Be sure to update your plan every few months so that you’re not just ready for stress during the 101 days of summer, but all year long.

Spring into Financial Success, Part 2

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced Financial Counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a recent volunteer blogger for Navynavstress.com, but contributed previously while serving at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. Prior to government service, she worked as a Financial Services Representative for several brokerage and insurance firms. As a military spouse, Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte knows firsthand of the financial challenges and opportunities that face military families across the globe. To that end, she embraces a steadfast belief that financial success can be simple, just not easy.

Before getting into the next four steps to help you and your family spring into financial success, let’s take a moment to assess what you may have learned from steps 1 – 3. Were you surprised (pleasantly or otherwise) by your current financial situation after really diving into the details? How will you and your spouse or financial partner work together to motivate each other toward a stress-free—or less stressful—financial future? What adjustments will you make so your short-term plan yields long-term benefits? The next four tips can help you regain a sense of control, even in seemingly uncontrollable situations.

4. Expect the unexpected. It’s a fact of life that emergencies and the undesired will happen, whether it be repairs on a vehicle, household appliances, etc., so be prepared to bear the burden of these life events by maintaining an adequate emergency fund of cash and other liquid assets. Where possible, explore plans to preserve your interests, such as extended warranties, regular maintenance, etc. Also, whether its life, auto, health, home or renters insurance, ensure that what you value can be protected against catastrophic loss.

5. Understand and verify what others say about you. Similar to your personal and professional reputation, your credit report documents how you have managed your financial relationships. Although sophisticated computer models and algorithms mainly control this process, it is not without fault, and incorrect entries and outdated information can impact your financial position. While credit reporting agencies must comply with regulations to ensure fair and accurate reporting, the burden to thoroughly verify items listed on a personal credit report is the responsibility of the consumer. If errors are found, follow the stated processes to correct faulty information. Resources, such as www.annualcreditreport.com and www.saveandinvest.org, are two that a military member has readily available.

6. Anticipate aging and retirement. It’s not new data that Americans do not save nearly enough for everyday life, much less the prolonged period of retirement…. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Start saving now by taking advantage of available strategies, such as matching contributions, tax-advantaged and tax-deferred plans, low-expense ratio investment funds, dollar cost averaging, etc. Also, keep in mind that a dollar today may not hold the same value in the future, so choosing investments that will outpace the rate of inflation is a crucial step. Retirement planning should begin when income is earned, balanced with the need to secure a present, sufficient emergency fund.

7. Manage Expectations. Perhaps an even greater threat to financial stability is the finding and maintaining the balance of wants and needs. Vacation, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and even prestige (i.e. Keeping up with the Joneses) can be very costly if not addressed up-front, so be sure to communicate and plan with those with whom you share financial relationships. You are more likely to keep plans when you have committed to money boundaries, expectations and plans.

Other ideas and plans for household financial management exist, but mastering these seven steps is a proven universal roadmap to springing into financial success, and thriving! While there may be a learning curve to breaking old habits and establishing healthier ones, try not to let a few occasional slip-ups discourage you from your path. Remember, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” –Nelson Mandela

Spring into Financial Success, Part 1

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced Financial Counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a recent volunteer blogger for Navynavstress.com, but contributed previously while serving at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. Prior to government service, she worked as a Financial Services Representative for several brokerage and insurance firms. As a military spouse, Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte knows firsthand of the financial challenges and opportunities that face military families across the globe. To that end, she embraces a steadfast belief that financial success can be simple, just not easy.

With the recent passing of tax season and promise of warmer weather underway,130226-N-JP566-004 now is a great time to revisit your overall finances, develop a plan to use a possible tax return and spring into healthier spending and saving habits. With the countless books and articles available to inform, persuade and advise consumers about best practices for money management, charting a clear course to your financial future can end up being confusing. In this two-part series, we’ll take a broader approach to exploring how personal money habits and attitudes can influence the ways we experience and define financial readiness.  Here are the first three steps to help you define success without the stress:

1. Know your current financial position. You simply cannot progress to the next level of success without first knowing and understanding what your current financial position is and what it means. Whether favorable or not, understanding this essential point ensures that you understand the past and are motivated for the future.  Start by conducting a comprehensive budget analysis with items such as net worth, income and expenses (current and projected), household debt ratios, interest rates paid, etc. From there, adjusting your spending habits to what you earn (not above) is equally important. There are a number of free resources, particularly in the military community, that will help in this analysis.

2. Communication is key. Always. A financial plan is only as good as the effort given to follow it, so acceptance and trust from both you and your spouse is a must in making money decisions. This is absolutely critical to the success of your financial endeavors, so if you can’t agree on every detail, especially spending habits, consider a compromise to win over your reluctant financial partner.

3. Make a plan to eliminate consumer debt. One of the greatest threats to financial independence is debt in the form of credit cards, personal loans, vehicle loans, student loans and other interest-carrying instruments. Having a realistic plan to systematically erase each line item will truly be the platform for success, and you can start this by limiting blind credit card swipes and using cash only to cover simple transactions. You can also explore tools specifically-designed to help you create a repayment strategy based on available income, interest rates, pay-back period and comfort level. Although some amount of debt is unavoidable for most Americans, such as a mortgage, the general rule of thumb is to ensure that any consumer debt will contribute to your growing net worth. Once you’ve gotten a handle on your current financial situation, talk things out with your financial partner and be sure to establish a plan together, then come back for part two of our series to help you prepare for the future – the unexpected and the inevitable!