Many Sailors are preparing for upcoming Personal Change of Station (PCS) moves this summer, a transition that can bring about as much stress as it does excitement. Transitions can mean disruption to daily routines and separation from one’s social/support network (think exhausting and isolating cross-country drives for a PCS move, or transferring as a geobachelor). Even for experienced PCS pros who are eagerly awaiting the next chapter in their career and life, moves can be tough—particularly when they’re occurring during an otherwise stressful time.
While our shipmates may seem to have it all under control on the outside, it’s important to remain vigilant and pay attention to even the smallest signals that something isn’t right, particularly as they’re leaving a familiar environment and are heading to a new one. You may know bits and pieces about a shipmate’s life outside of the work center—relationship or family tension, financial issues, apprehension about career changes, etc.—but may feel as though you don’t know enough to get involved. Even though your buddy may casually dismiss his or her problems, or may not discuss them at length, reach out and offer your support and encourage him or her to speak with someone, perhaps a chaplain or trusted leader, before the situation becomes overwhelming. The likelihood of making a bad decision is higher when a person is in transition, so identifying resources early is vital to keeping your shipmate healthy and mission-ready.
If you notice anything out of the norm for your shipmate, break the silence and speak with others who know him or her well—a unit leader, roommate, family member or friend. They may have noticed the same cues or observed some that you weren’t aware of, helping to “connect the dots” and facilitate the intervention process. While you may not be able to tell if your shipmate is or isn’t in crisis on your own, by openly communicating to piece things together, you’re helping to ensure that your buddy has resources in place to help him or her build resilience and thrive in their next phase in life.
Ongoing communication is critical. Once your shipmate has checked out of your command, don’t lose track of him or her. Ensure that you have his or her accurate contact information, ask about upcoming plans, and check-in with them on their progress often. Remind your shipmate that they’re still a part of your family and that you care about their well-being. Preventing suicide starts by being there for every Sailor, every day—no matter where they are.
Transitions are an inevitable part of life, especially for Sailors. Even the most anticipated 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 email@example.com or visit the LifeLink Newsletter webpage.
Navy life is exciting but it can also be stressful. Some stress can help us to perform at our peak level, however too much stress can be harmful. Knowing what to expect and where to go for help can ease the negative impact of stress. Looking ahead can help us be better prepared for life’s inevitable challenges.
The recent Enlisted Retention Board results are a case in point. Some Sailors and families are faced with the challenges of leaving the Navy, while others are losing their shipmates and friends. We are all affected. But there is help available. There are some valuable resources available to lessen the impact of uncertainty and help Sailors and families better navigate the ERB process.
The Navy Personnel Command has recently launched a section on their website to focus on the ERB process as part of their resources for those Sailors transitioning to civilian life.
The NPC website highlights:
- Transition Handbook
- Transition Resource Guide
- US Chamber of Commerce Hiring our Heroes Career Fair links
- and more
When you are feeling the negative affects of stress here are some things you can do that will help:
- Talk to someone you trust
- Eat healthy
- Visit your local Fleet and Family Support Center to find out what resources are available to you as you begin your transition
- Stay positive
Knowing your options and what resources are available are key to a successful transition. The Navy is taking great care to keep Sailors informed of their options, available resources and new opportunities through promotion of career forums like the recent VA Veteran Career Job Fair and Expo in Washington, DC, as part of the VA for Vets initiative.
“Sailors looking for further transition assistance resources can access TurboTAP at www.TurboTAP.org for 24/7 access to helpful pre-separation and transition guides, employment, education, relocation and benefits checklists and more. Other information about career options and employment opportunities is available at www.careeronestop.org, a Department of Labor website.”
“Our Sailors have served honorably and our Navy is committed to doing all we can to help them and their families successfully transition to the civilian sector,” said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) (SS/SW) Rick D. West.
Complete information about all of the transition assistance resources available through CNIC and FFSC’s worldwide can be found at www.cnic.navy.mil.
More information on ERB transition assistance can be found on the NPC Web page at http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/boards/ERB/Pages/TransitionInfo.aspx.
Early Retirement Option Approved for Some ERB-Separating Sailors
Transition Benefits: Many Are Available to All Sailors
Transitions are an inevitable part of life… particularly in the Navy. We may have joined the Navy in part for the opportunity to see new places and do new things. But, as Captain Richard Rahe, USN, discovered as he helped develop the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale back in 1967, changes (even good ones) cause stress. Remember your or your family member’s first months in the Navy? Even though it was a new opportunity and presented maybe a new beginning for better things in life, it was still a challenge and probably stressful
Small transitions may include changes of command or supervisor. Bigger transitions include Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves and return from deployment. One of the most significant transitions may be that of separation or retirement from service. Transitions require us to adapt to new circumstances and at the same time may interfere with our usual strategies for navigating stress. Sometimes we leave friends and those people we have come to trust, old routines of exercise and relaxation are interrupted, and some of the support mechanisms that gave us confidence when we faced day to day challenges (kid’s pediatrician, the honest mechanic, etc.) are no longer available.
Change always presents new opportunities when we are prepared to take them. On a practical note, the Fleet and Family Service Center and the Veterans Administration offer programs to help prepare us for moves, separation and retirement. Many families who attend remark afterward that they wish they had taken advantage of these classes and services even sooner. In the midst of transition, make an extra effort to reduce stress for you and your loved ones by hanging on to some routines, taking time to relax, and tackling transition tasks “one bite at a time.” Make every effort to stay in contact with family and friends. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, worrying about all the changes in front of you, try to stop and “be in the present” by focusing on the sensations (sights, sounds, smells, etc.) around you and then on the task at hand.
Transitions can be stressful, but also a time for new beginnings. Learn how to make the most of yours.
“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.” Richard Bach