Tag Archives: stress

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.

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

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!