Category Archives: Tools

A Closer Look at Resilience

Though it may seem as though the broad application of “resilience” relegates the term to a mere buzzword, the opposite is true. Resilience is defined—and built—by a multitude of influential factors coming together to increase one’s “capacity to withstand, recover, grow and adapt in the face of stressors and changing demands.” Moreover, there are overarching areas that can help us build, sustain and reinforce resilience whether we’re exposed to adversity or are enjoying calm waters. Our minds, bodies, social experiences and spiritual connections are all vital to our resilience. Here’s a closer look:

Mind: Our minds are the centers of our emotional and cognitive capacity to prepare for or respond to challenges. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “your outlook determines your outcome,” that speaks to the exceptional abilities our minds have to frame situations, think through them, and adapt positively. If you have a hard time “finding the silver lining,” check out these tips to help you “Reframe your ‘thinking traps’ for peak performance.”

Body: Stress and our responses to it are linked to a multitude of chronic physical health problems. The good news is that by taking care of your body, you can improve both mental and physical wellness. Healthy behaviors, including physical activity, balanced nutrition and adequate sleep build our resilience from the inside out. Get the facts on “Minding Your Health” here.

Social: The connections we share with others are important to our overall well-being, contributing to positive problem-solving skills even when we don’t feel stressed out. Connections with our peers, community and environment are protective factors that have been proven to help lower susceptibility to the negative effects of stress. Additionally, by helping others through their challenges, we gain a renewed sense of purpose and strengthen our own resilience. Here’s a great example of this mutual benefit.

Spiritual: Whether you practice a particular faith or religion, or find meaningful connections in other ways, your spirituality serves as the lens from which you see and interact with the world around you. It provides a trusted set of values and ethics, helping you find meaning in life’s challenges and triumphs. Check out this article from Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control for more on spirituality and resilience.

Resilience doesn’t just evolve from prior hardships.In fact, it can be built proactively by using everyday wellness to strengthen coping skills. Don’t wait until you’re facing a challenge to take a closer look at how you can make small improvements in these four areas to be ready and thrive.

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.

May 18-24 is National Prevention Week

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s (SAMHSA) “National Prevention Week” is right around the corner. Observed from May 18 – 24, this annual public health initiative is aimed at increasing awareness of mental health issues and substance abuse issues through community-centered approaches. While this week is used to promote public awareness and support, National Prevention Week was developed based on the concept that “effective prevention… requires consistent action.” It’s an all hands evolution, all of the time. This is a great opportunity for you, your shipmates and families to tie in the many ways we can come together to support each other and prevent destructive behavior, engaging the theme “Our Lives. Our Health. Our Future.” Each day, SAMHSA will highlight a new topic according to the following calendar.

May 18: Prevention and Cessation of Tobacco Use

May 19: Prevention of Underage Drinking

May 20: Prevention of Prescription Drug Abuse and MarijuanaUse

May 21: Prevention of Alcohol Abuse

May 22: Prevention of Suicide

May 23: Promotion of Mental Health

Visit SAMHSA online for National Prevention Week engagement ideas. You could organize a health fair supporting the daily topics or promote prevention awareness on your command’s Facebook page using SAMHSA’s messages. Even individual action promotes solidarity. Take the Prevention Pledge on Facebook and encourage your shipmates to do the same. Templates are also available online for the “I Choose” project—a great opportunity for individual or group engagement. Just take a photo of yourself or a group of your shipmates holding up an “I Choose” sign personalized with your message promoting healthy choices to prevent destructive behavior.

Navy’s 21st Century Sailor Programs have myriad resources to support your local efforts. Visit Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Navy Suicide Prevention, and Navy Operational Stress Control online for downloadable tools and information. For more resources, including Tobacco Cessation information, visit Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center’s Health Promotion and Wellness site.

Minding Your Health

Each May, America observes Mental Health Month, or National Mental Health Awareness Month, to promote understanding of the physical and psychological benefits associated with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Health isn’t merely the absence of a particular disease or disorder, and it’s not just a physical state. There is an unbreakable link between a healthy mind and overall wellness, adding truth to the old cliché “you only look as good as you feel.” The theme of this year’s Mental Health Month is “Minding Your Health,” encouraging everyone to assess their daily habits and coping strategies to take steps toward a healthy lifestyle.

A 2012 American Psychological Association report found that nearly seven in 10 Americans experience physical symptoms of stress including anger, fatigue, feeling overwhelmed, and disrupted sleeping habits. Additionally, the report states that while 60% of Americans have attempted to reduce their stress, only 37% believe they did so successfully. That’s where the benefits of healthy and active living come into play. Physical activity, proper nutrition, social connectedness, adequate sleep and responsible choices regarding alcohol use not only yield physical benefits, but can help promote recovery from stress and prevent it from leading to more serious conditions.

Stress is linked to a multitude of chronic health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and more. Exercise is one way to help beat the effects of stress while promoting long-term physical and mental health. Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed by your increasing workload or agitated after long hours on the job, getting physically active can boost your mood and energy-level while improving overall wellness. Aerobic exercise, continuous and intense activity that stimulates oxygen intake and blood circulation, helps counter the effects of stress on your mind and body. Next time you’ve had a tough day, go for a run around the deck with a few shipmates, or ride your bike around base. The sense of calm and decrease in tension you may feel is the result of your body regulating stress hormones and releasing endorphins (natural stress-busters), enabled by the increased circulation from your aerobic adventure. Weight training (a form of anaerobic exercise) builds muscular strength and bone density, and boosts metabolism. By adding it to your regimen, you’re promoting long-term health—combatting obesity, heart disease and more—while building physical strength and a stronger mind.

Though exercise can help you unwind during stressful times, make it a daily habit to maximize mental and physical health benefits. You don’t need an elaborate gym to get active! Check out the latest tips from Navy Physical Readiness and the Active Living resources from Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center. Making small changes to your routines, like a short workout during lunchtime, will get you on the right track to stay mentally and physically fit.

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