Good Nutrition can Keep you Healthy from the Neck Up, too

We often think of fueling our bodies with the right foods to achieve optimal performance as warfighters, and of course to manage our weight and overall waisthealth. The benefits of proper nutrition don’t stop there though. Healthy eating habits not only help you stay fit from the neck down, but from the neck up. As we recognize Navy Nutrition Month throughout March, get the skinny on keeping your mind and body nourished, and “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.”

Combatting stress with a good diet doesn’t start once your conscience kicks in after that second helping of your go-to comfort food, but should be a proactive and ongoing effort. Research shows that people are more likely to select food for taste over nutritional value—but nutritious and delicious foods are easier to find than you may think.

Did you know omega-3 fatty acids have been found to aid in the prevention of stress through their essential role in brain biochemistry?  Rather than experimenting with the unknowns of nutritional supplements (that do not require approval from the Food and Drug Administration), go for naturally-occurring sources of omega-3s. Salmon, eggs and lean meats are excellent—and tasty—suppliers of these vital nutrients and each help you incorporate more protein into your diet, the healthy way.

Why protein to reduce stress? Protein supplies the brain with amino acids, helping to promote healthy brain function through the steady creation of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that carry and regulate signals throughout the body).  Quality protein can be found in a variety of sources, not just meat and dairy products. Try pairing your salmon with a side of black beans, or reach for a handful of raw almonds instead of going for the cookies when you’re stressed.

And then there’s sugar. We all know that tense situations and stress can lead to cravings, particularly for sugar. While glucose is essential for our bodies to function, our body’s sugar supply needs to be slow and steady for good performance. Added sugar can cause your glucose levels to spike, then fall rapidly, thus intensifying cravings and impacting alertness and decision-making abilities, so avoid those peaks and valleys from sources such as sugary drinks, sweet desserts or additives. To find balance, incorporate more of your favorite complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and fruits, to satisfy your sweet tooth, while allowing yourself to have small portions versus the “cold turkey” route. Try a banana and peanut butter sandwich – a healthy, sweet, delicious and protein-packed alternative to your vending machine favorites.

Hungry for more? During the month of March and throughout the year, the Navy has a buffet of resources to support making healthy choices every day. Check out our feature in All Hands Magazine for more tips, and visit Navy Nutrition and Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center to help you incorporate the nutrients you need to stay fit from the neck down—and up.

Laughter is good medicine for stress relief! Navy Operational Stress Control and Suicide Prevention would like to thank cartoonist Jeff Bacon for his continued support.

What’s Next? Navigating Transitions Pt. 2

Whether it’s welcomed or unexpected, change isn’t always easy—but it’s always Transitions2an opportunity for growth. Zeroing in on the present may help you avoid stress and keep you focused on the mission at hand, but that avoidance may become a normal practice on and off the job, especially when facing a major transition. Perhaps you’ll be leaving your current command for an upcoming PCS, IA deployment, or for other reasons; or you’re facing retirement or leaving the Navy. Even in unfamiliar situations, Controllability and Predictability can help you navigate new waters and thrive in your next phase of service or life.

One way to gain a sense of control and prepare for any transition is to start making connections and networking. If you’re going to PCS, think of someone that you can reach out to when things get stressful. Give him or her a heads up that you’ll be moving and ask if they will help you get connected within your new community. The Sponsor Program can also help you and your family get linked into your new unit and community, while your local Relocation Assistance Program can help simplify your move.

Sailors who aren’t in transition can help those who are by checking on that person regularly to see how things are going. They’ll appreciate a trusted friend having their back, and your perspective might help them get a better grasp on what lies ahead. Leaders can help as well. Send personal introductory letters or emails to a new check-in’s family and ask about their specific needs or questions. Building that relationship early on will help families feel comfortable speaking up if they have concerns about their Sailor that leadership may not otherwise detect. A supportive and welcoming command environment can help ease the transition process.

Proactive preparation can also help reinforce a sense of control and predictability. Whether you’re a first timer or a pro at deployments, planning is crucial to help you and your family manage logistics and shape expectations in advance. The excitement of coming home can be stressful as well, especially with the change in pace when reintegrating back into family life. Check out this Real Warriors feature for tips to consider when reconnecting with family and friends.

Perhaps the most anxiety-producing transition is preparing for life after the Navy. Navy’s Transition GPS can help with pre-separation questions. You can also take proactive measures, like learning how to “de-militarize your resume,” in order to take some of the stress out of the next phase in life. Speaking with friends who have already retired or separated and are thriving in their new careers can also ease anxiety—and help get you connected.

With any change, the Relationships you build will help carry you through life’s challenges. Having the support of others, controlling what you can and preparing for the predictable can help take the stress out of the next chapter.  Remember, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” —Charles Darwin

Navy Leader’s Guide Now Available In Smartphone Application

Engaged leadership is essential to building a supportive command climate. It’s not always easy to recognize distress signals or to determine the best way to reach out to a Sailor who may be having trouble navigating life’s changes. As we continue our focus on transitions, leaders at all levels should become familiar with the practical tips and resources provided in the Navy Leader’s Guide for Managing Sailors in Distress—now available as a smart phone application. The “Personnel & Family” section includes beneficial information and recommendations to help you support Sailors in various life and career transitions.
–NavyNavStress.com note

 The Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC) recently launchedLeader Guide a smart phone application for the Navy Leader’s Guide, an online handbook to help Navy leaders recognize and assist Sailors displaying distressed behaviors.

NMCPHC developed the original online version of the Navy Leader’s Guide for Managing Sailors in Distress and partnered with the Defense Department’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2) to develop the mobile app edition. The Navy Leader’s Guide is primarily used by Sailors in supervisory roles to help them identify Sailors who may be showing signs of being in distress. It also provides information on operational stress control, suicide prevention, mental health, medical issues, and common problems that junior Sailors face along with supportive interventions, resources and strategies, as well as official guidance leaders need when they are assisting a distressed Sailor.

“As psychological and emotional well-being is a key component of operational and mission readiness, NMCPHC realized there was a need for Navy leaders to have access to this important resource from wherever they were regardless of computer availability,” said Cmdr. Connie Scott, NMCPHC Health Promotion and Wellness Department Head. “NMCPHC saw the reach and portability of mobile technology and apps as the answer they were looking for and have spent the last year working with T2 to make their vision a reality.”

According to Dr. Mark Long, NMCPHC Public Health educator, the app contains resources available in the online version in a format optimized for mobile devices, allowing leaders to take it with them anywhere they go – deployments, training missions, or as a quick resource while on the go in port.

The Navy Leader’s Guide app is now available for download on iTunes and Google Play and can also be accessed from both the NMCPHC and T2 websites.

NavyNavStress would like to thank our partners at Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center’s Health Promotion and Wellness (HPW) Department for submitting this guest blog to keep our audiences informed. For more HPW resources, visit http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcphc/health-promotion/Pages/default.aspx.

Crunch Time – Navigating the Stress of Selection Board Season

140114-N-OY799-067Selection board season can be the most anticipated – yet intimidating – time of the year for many Sailors. In January, about 20,000 first class Sailors took their advancement exams in preparation to be considered for chief. Now through October, thousands of Sailors will compete for advancement within their ratings and designators. Preparing your package and studying for examinations can be stressful by themselves—but since daily life doesn’t stop during selection board season, remember to exercise the 5 Principles of Resilience to maintain your own checks and balances, and thrive:

  1. Predictability. Align your expectations with results. Reflect on feedback received from your shipmates and leaders, and make certain your Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) is up-to-date. Remember that preparation is key. Set aside time in your schedule to review you OMPF as often as possible – even small efforts can yield positive gains.
  2. Controllability. You cannot always control an outcome, but you can control your response. Maintain a positive outlook and capitalize on opportunities to grow. Even some of the most famously successful people experienced setbacks on road to realizing their goals (check out this article for inspiration).
  3. Relationships. Lean on your shipmates for support, schedule time to speak with your leaders and confide in your family members.  Refer back to your Stress Navigation Plan and reach out to the person or people in your support network that help you stay grounded.
  4. Trust. Trust yourself, your shipmates, your leadership, your chaplains and your Navy. Most importantly, trust that your dedication and perseverance are two of the reasons why you have achieved your goals thus far. You have a lot to take pride in outside of selection board results.
  5. Meaning.  While advancement is the goal, don’t just think about your destination as the reward. The road to get there is just as important. Focus on your purpose and community. By understanding the mission, your role within the big picture will help build your resilience and strengthen readiness.

While we don’t often think of advancement in terms of transition, a lot can change following selection board results. New roles will test your leadership skills, while a pay increase may test your financial responsibility. Be proud of your achievement, but don’t hesitate to reach out to a shipmate, superior, or professional for advice or resources for navigating stress that may be unfamiliar to you.

For information on the selection board process and how to prepare for it, read Your Record is Available Online – Prepare Early for Selection Boards.

** Detailed information can be found in NAVADMIN 288/13 for active component/FTS/CANREC and NAVADMIN 306/13 for SELRES and under the “Boards” tab available at www.npc.navy.mil.  

What’s Next? Navigating Transitions, Pt. 1

Transitions are an inevitable part of life, especially for Sailors. Even the most Transitions1anticipated transitions can bring about as much stress and fear as they do excitement (recall your first months in the Navy or the birth of a child). Transitions encompass everything from a leadership change, to marriage, divorce/break-ups, Permanent Change of Station, deployment, and retirement/separation from service. Each of these situations presents an opportunity to adapt to new circumstances, building resilience. Yet they may also interfere with your usual strategies for navigating stress.

You may be leaving your support network including friends, shipmates and leaders that you’ve come to trust and confide in, or feel like you’re going to be outside of your comfort zone in a new environment or phase of life. Maybe your upcoming transition will impact your finances or time management, or maybe you’re facing a major lifestyle change by leaving a geographic area that particularly suited your family’s needs. Even with smaller transitions, like career advancement, your existing fitness and wellness routines may be disrupted (including diet and nutrition). Regardless of the type of transition, recognizing that life will be different can be overwhelming at times, particularly when you encounter an unfamiliar situation or are managing multiple changes. It’s important to step back and evaluate how you can set yourself up for success in any situation. The 5 Principles of Resilience (Predictability, Controllability, Relationships, Trust and Meaning) can help you, your family and your command be more prepared, manage expectations, stay connected—and thrive.

In the upcoming weeks as a part of our NavyTHRIVE campaign, we’ll be discussing ways that Sailors, leaders and families can successfully navigate the various transitions that may be encountered during a Navy career (including the transition between a Navy and civilian career). We’ll also address how to recognize and assist a shipmate who is having difficulty navigating change, intervening before their struggles escalate into a life or emotional crisis. One critical key to success is a supportive command climate, with cohesion and open communication.

Stay tuned for our next post in the “What’s Next? Navigating Transitions” series when we discuss how to leverage Predictability and Controllability to help you make your next move your best move. Until then, remember “what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.” —Richard Bach

This post originally appeared in LifeLink, the Navy Suicide Prevention Program Newsletter. To subscribe to this monthly publication, email suicideprevention@navy.mil or visit the LifeLink Newsletter webpage.