Tag Archives: stress

Alcohol’s Impact on your Ability to Navigate Stress

This month marks the first anniversary of Navy’s flagship responsible drinking campaign, Keep What You’ve Earned, and Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse KWYE_2Prevention wants to get a “pulse check” on how you believe attitudes and behaviors toward drinking in the Navy have changed since the campaign’s launch.

This may lead you to ask… what are your beliefs and attitudes when it comes to ‘popping a cold one’ at the end of a stressful day or week?

Some may think that having an extra beer or glass of wine to unwind from a stressful day or drinking excessively with friends at the end of a challenging week may seem like ways to ‘release,’ but the reality is that using alcohol to navigate stress can lead to a dangerous situation.

Not only does alcohol impact your physical health, but it can take a toll on your psychological and emotional wellness if consumed irresponsibly or in excess. Additionally, abusing alcohol in response to stress may spiral into social withdrawal, anger or rage, and decreased inhibitions—which may increase suicide risk.

Though alcohol may seem to help you loosen up, using it to navigate stress can lead to long term impacts on your physical and psychological health including addictive or destructive behavior. Stress induces the body’s “fight or flight” response, providing rapid energy in order to handle threats. Thus, when we’re unable to respond to these challenges adaptively, we may make unhealthy choices to ease the tension.

Instead of alcohol, utilize your sense of controllability to focus your body and mind on positive measures to counter stress. Physical activity can help your body re-regulate hormones to help you think clearly and unwind.If you enjoy the company of others, go for a run with a few shipmates or get in a good workout. Passive activities like listening to music, reading, and meditation can also produce a sense of calm so that you can refocus on positive solutions and regain a sense of control.

The bottom line is that alcohol will not help you decrease your stress level long-term. Rather it can jeopardize everything you’ve worked hard for, particularly if use turns into abuse, or you make just one irresponsible decision like getting behind the wheel after drinking. After all, You’ve Earned It, Don’t Waste It!

For tips on responsible drinking, click here. If you think you may be struggling with alcohol, contact your local Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program. To participate in the anonymous Keep What You’ve Earned survey, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/KWYE.

Bonus: Click here to watch the latest Keep What You’ve Earned Profile on Senior Chief Brian Wenzel. Sharing your story is one everyday way we can build a sense of community and promote awareness.

What’s Next? Navigating Transitions, Pt. 4

Though we recognize their strength, resilience and contribution every day, each April our Armed Forces and the entire nation honors military kids with the milchildMonth of the Military Child.

It’s often said that military children serve right alongside their parents. They endure many of the same transitions: navigating separation during deployment (or geo-bachelor tours), adapting to life when that parent leaves and returns home, frequent moves, making new friends, adjusting to new surroundings, and more. Though they tend to keep a smile on our faces and often help positively shape others’ perspectives, sometimes it’s difficult to determine how children are processing the latest changes in their lives—even the familiar ones (like moving!). The presence of protective factors can help lessen the negative effects of stress on children and families alike, building family resilience. Help your kids and family apply the 5 Principles of Resilience (Predictability, Controllability, Relationships, Trust and Meaning) to thrive through transition periods with these quick tips:

  • Connect with the community (Relationships). Helping your kids get involved in social and extracurricular activities will lessen the stress of making new friends and getting acclimated with a new place, while providing a positive environment for expression. Social activities and peer connections can also be confidence-builders; military kids are often admired by their peers for their adaptability, sacrifice, and the “cool places” they’ve lived. A sense of belongingness is important!
  • Explore their feelings (Predictability, Controllability, Trust). There are a lot of unknowns with deployments and PCS moves alike. Sit down with your children and explore their apprehensions. Making a plan for communication when a parent will be in a different location, teaching them about their new community and having open discussions can help kids regain a sense of control and promote trust. Get them excited about their upcoming changes while letting them know what to expect. They’re more likely to adjust better to their new phase of life, and you’ll have more peace of mind.
  • Set an example (Meaning). Kids look up to their parents in challenging times, but that doesn’t mean you have to be superhuman! It’s important to show children that life’s changes bring new opportunities and that setbacks are only temporary. Help them see the positives, while trying to remain level-headed. Lean on the support of friends and family, faith or laughter as medicine for stress relief. This will help your children learn positive ways to navigate stress and find greater meaning in life’s twists and turns.

Most importantly, remind your kids that you admire their strength. Thank them and tell them you love them. Whether facing a change or navigating daily life, nurturing and affection are important protective factors at all times. Salute your Military Child!

What’s Next? Navigating Transitions, Pt. 3

“Everyone loves inspiring beginnings and happy endings; it is just the middles that involve hard work.” —Rosabeth Moss Kanter, author and Harvard professor

Click the image to view Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center’s “In Transition” poster series (scroll down to “Posters”).

Whether you’re anxiously awaiting new responsibilities as you advance to the next pay grade or preparing to be away from your family during an upcoming deployment, feeling like you are stuck in the midst of transition can be difficult… even for the most squared-away Sailors. Fear and doubt can manifest in a variety of ways, preoccupying our thoughts and eventually impacting our daily lives and decision making. You can navigate these feelings using the Principles of Resilience, specifically exercising trust in yourself, your shipmates, and your family.

Trust is built through experience, shapes our perspectives and influences our personal actions and expectations. While sometimes the unknowns of a transition are motivating, it can also be a discouragement if fear is generated from self-doubt. Trust yourself, and believe that you can successfully navigate unfamiliar situations by acknowledging your apprehensions, fears, and even the things that you’re less confident about—and turn them into opportunities to build resilience. Through the principle of Controllability, by doing your best to work toward viable, positive solutions, you can regain self-trust and strengthen your ability to trust others.

Trust not only encompasses personal integrity, dependability, and competence, but implores those characteristics from your leaders, peers, and family, too. Trust that others will recognize the support and resources you need to be successful throughout your transitions, and trust that you can allow yourself to feel comfortable communicating your apprehensions or feelings to your shipmates and family. This can help refocus perspectives and gain a greater sense of control, but most importantly, it reminds us that we are not alone.

Like any component of Operational Stress Control, fostering trust is a shared responsibility. While we can take steps to trust ourselves as individuals and be more trusting of others, leaders must help generate a climate that reinforces organizational trust. Leaders: reach out and connect with your Sailors, both inside and out of the work center, to build and foster trust. Step back for a few moments to observe and gain a better understanding of what you can do to help Sailors better navigate stress and thrive in their environments. As members of the Navy community, we can all take an active role to support every Sailor, every day, through the small changes or big transitions. We are all in this together.

Tools for Healthy Eating, Barracks Style

A balanced diet is an essential part of preserving our mission readiness and ability to thrive in our personal lives and careers. Lt. Cmdr. Amit Sood, the OPNAV N17 Nutrition Program Manager, is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. He has nearly 10 years of experience in counseling thousands of service members and their families on nutrition and health-related issues, having delivered close to 600 nutrition-related lectures to more than 20 commands and institutions across the DoD.  With a passion for promoting nutritional awareness to enhance health and quality of life for individuals and populations, Lt. Cmdr. Sood hopes to offer simple and practical ways to maintain healthy eating practices 365 days a year.  He is a firm believer in the phrase “food is medicine,” and that every individual should embrace this idea to help them think about food as a therapeutic agent, thus leading to food choices that are beneficial rather than detrimental to overall health.

- NavyNavStress.com note

barracks

For those who live in the barracks, dining options may seem limited to a repetitive menu of sandwiches, TV dinners and ramen noodles. It doesn’t have to be that way! These days many foods can be prepared without a stovetop or traditional oven, taking the stress out of creating tasty meals in the barracks while keeping your weight in check.

March is Navy Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is “Enjoy the taste of eating right.” Whether you’re seeking the comfort of a home-cooked meal or just trying to make the best of affordable microwave-cooking, the following simple tips incorporating the 5 Principles of Resilience can help you eat healthy, “barracks style.”

  • Plan Ahead. Make good use of the available space in your room, shelves, locker, refrigerator, and/or freezer, and always have them stocked with healthy meal and snack options.  This will encourage you to eat what you have on hand and prevent you from eating out too often.
  • Build a Sense of Community. Make meal plans with your friends, neighbors, and roommates. Eating together creates a community support system to enhance and maintain healthy eating habits. If you enjoy dining out with others, just work it into your weekly routine.  Reserving eating out for social occasions helps to maintain a healthy body and budget.  Opt for healthier menu items like steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached, or roasted choices, and limit the fried stuff. Request gravy, sauces, and dressings on the side.  A good practice is to share a meal or take half home.
  • Don’t Just Rely on Premade Meals! With a little planning, you can still enjoy whole foods, even with limited refrigerator or storage space. Before your next grocery trip, make sure your list includes a variety of shelf-stable foods from each food group:
    • Grains: Look for cereals or granola bars with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving and few ingredients—read the labels! For a hot breakfast or snack with minimal prep, opt for instant oatmeal, cream of wheat or brown rice. Whole wheat or whole grain bread, tortillas, pita bread, and crackers are nutritious snack or sandwich options.
    • Vegetables: Fresh, canned, or frozen, you can still get your veggies in with minimal prep!
    • Fruits: Choose fruit cups or fruit canned in its own juice or water (vice “heavy syrup”) to avoid added sugar, or opt for dried fruit.
    • Dairy: Choose low fat cheese or yogurt with minimal ingredients on the label. Try plain yogurt topped with your own fresh or dried fruit for added flavor.
    • Protein: Explore quick options like tuna packets, fat free chicken breast canned in water, nuts, nut butters, canned beans, or Greek yogurt
      • Choose low sodium canned and packaged foods with less than 480mg per serving on label
    • Healthy Oils: Top off your salad or sandwich with olive oil, oil-based salad dressings, low fat mayonnaise, hummus, or spreadable butter alternatives made with plant oils. Look for a greater amount of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega-3 fats and limit saturated and trans fats.
  • Get Creative with Your Equipment. Microwaving doesn’t have to mean under or unevenly cooked meals. Use ceramic, heat-resistant glass or BPA-free microwaveable plastics, and incorporate tools like a microwavable plastic folding omelet pan or vegetable steamer. Be sure to rotate food often for optimal taste and even cooking. If you’re looking for more variety, try using a toaster, electric grill, rice cooker, or toaster oven (with the option to toast, bake, or broil).
  • Watching your weight?  Use an online tool like https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/ to calculate how many calories you need to lose, maintain, or gain weight and divide your calories into three meals per day.  For example, if you need 1800-2000 calories daily, then strive for 600-700 calories per meal.  Focus on heart-healthy, nutrient-dense foods from each food group.

Visit the “Eaters” link on the Navy Nutrition website for more resources on grocery shopping, meal planning, and healthy stress-free eating, barracks style!

Meet the Trainers!

Over the past few months, OPNAV N171 has fielded a number of questions abouttraining the recent Operational Stress Control (OSC) training mandate for deploying units and gathered great, tangible feedback. As we make our way around the fleet and to your command, we wanted to take the opportunity to introduce our OSC trainers and answer some of the commonly asked questions.

What is OSC training? Is it new?

Since 2009, stress training has focused on assisting Navy leaders in identifying and applying practical stress navigation tools. Two courses are offered: Navy OSC for Leaders (NAVOSC-Lead) and Deckplate Leader OSC (DPL-OSC). NAV-OSC Lead was designed by warfighters with warfighters in mind, assisting them in assessing individual and unit stress responses while providing tools to help their Sailors better navigate operational stress. While NAVOSC-Lead is targeted for E7 and above, DPL-OSC mirrors this dialogue-led interactive course for mid-level supervisors E4- E6. These courses are a vital part of any command’s efforts to foster a supportive climate, whether preparing for deployment or trying to strengthen readiness and cohesion. As of March 2014, NAVOSC-Lead has been delivered approximately 350 times to 9,000 Sailors, and DPL-OSC has been taught about 320 times to 12,000 Sailors.

How is OSC training delivered?

Both courses are delivered in-person by our Mobile Training Teams (MTTs) at no cost to your command. There are two teams, one based in Norfolk, Va. And the other in San Diego, and each team is comprised of nine individuals. Most of the trainers are Master Training Specialists. The team is mainly comprised of retired military, representing a mix of warfare communities and services, including a retired Army drill sergeant who also happens to be a Navy spouse. The former ranks of these trainers include everything from junior enlisted to chief petty officer.  Combined, the MTTs have a total of 405 years of military experience!

Where is the training held?

Our MTTs know first-hand the stress of being in the Navy and are flexible with operational demands. MTTs travel to you, whether underway or ashore, CONUS or OCONUS, and can work within available training spaces.

How long will training take?

For a unit of 350 Sailors, with proper space and 4-6 MTTs available, training can be completed within 1-2 days. Each course is designed to take about 3-4 hours, with class sizes maxing out at 35 for NAVOSC-Lead and 50 for DPL- OSC.

How should my unit prepare for the training?

The best preparation for OSC training is to attend with an open mind. The training centers around frank discussion among attendees. When leaders talk about what they see as stress-related issues and how course tools could be applied in their commands, OSC becomes more than a concept – it becomes a way of doing business every day. For more information, see the OSC MTT fact sheet. 

How do you schedule training?

MTTs will prioritize scheduling OSC training with all deploying commands to meet the six-month objective mandated in NAVADMIN 262/13.  Commands are then responsible for documenting completion of training in the Fleet Training Management and Planning System (FLTMPS) prior to deployment.

For specific questions, or to schedule OSC training at your command, you can reach our MTTs as follows:

MTT West at (619) 556-6640, or via email at oscmttwest@navy.mil

MTT East at (757) 445-7353, or via email at oscmtteast@navy.mil

Last, and certainly not least, we are excited to announce that we have begun to launch our OSC web site! As we continue to populate the site with static, program-specific information, such as the history of OSC, the Principles of Resilience, Five Core Leader Functions, etc., we will continue to use this blog to provide you with the tools and resources to apply OSC skills to thrive, not just survive, in both your Navy career and personal lives.