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Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.

Shedding light on vitamin D

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Nutrition, Vitamins
Vitamin D is sometimes called “the sunshine vitamin” because sunlight causes your body to produce it. However, you can get some vitamin D from your diet too.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient produced by your body when your skin is exposed to sunlight. It is also found in foods and available in dietary supplements. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and also keeps calcium and phosphate available to help your bones form and grow. Emerging research suggests vitamin D might control cell growth, immunity, and nerve and muscle function, as well as reduce inflammation. Read more...

Flexibility: One key to family resilience

Learn how to be more flexible in your relationships with loved ones.

Your flexibility in relationships is about being able to adapt the way you think and communicate with those around you. Flexibility impacts couple and family functioning, and it’s a key component of family resilience. It helps lessen the impact of daily stressors on your health and wellness too.

As an individual, you embody a level of mental flexibility that influences how effective you are at engaging and communicating with your partner, friends, coworkers, and children. Being mentally flexible means you’re able to shift your mindset, attitudes, and behaviors based on what’s happening in your relationship. This shift helps you interact with potentially stressful situations in different ways and perhaps lead to more productive outcomes.

In relationships, romantic or otherwise, flexibility means adjusting to and accommodating each other. When there’s flexibility in your relationships, others feel supported and respected. You feel you can depend on each other as well. On the other hand, inflexibility is an unwillingness to be open with your thoughts and feelings, and refusing to adjust your own mindset or behaviors. Inflexibility in parenting also can lead to higher anxiety in moms and dads. Still, there are ways to be flexible in your relationships.

  • Consider the other person’s perspective and compromise when making decisions together.
  • Identify clearly defined roles and rules within your family and other groups, while knowing that these might change, especially during stressful events.
  • Strive to find a comfort level in knowing that changes and challenges are unavoidable.
  • Be firm about rules when needed but open to suggestions as a leader in your family or other groups.
  • Nurture your relationships by offering guidance and being a good listener.
  • Prioritize your team and teamwork—whether you’re at home or on a mission.

 

Posted 03 July 2017

PTSD and sleep disruption: Which to tackle when?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: PTSD, Sleep
In this article, learn how to decide on the order in which to pursue treatment options when you’re experiencing both PTSD symptoms and sleep disruption.

PTSD and insomnia often are connected. And while there are effective treatments available for both, deciding the order in which to tackle them can feel like a challenge. Is it better to treat the PTSD first in the expectation that addressing the PTSD will improve your sleep? Or is it better to treat your sleep issues first to help with later treatment of PTSD? Or is it possible to do both at the same time? In this article, guest experts discuss these three options to inform your decision on how to seek treatment for PTSD and insomnia. Read more...

Connect and communicate with eye contact

Filed under: Communication
Look into my eyes! Eye contact plays an important role in starting your conversations and maintaining social connections.

Eye contact is your first step in initiating communication, and your eye gaze conveys what’s important to you. Eye contact can draw in people’s attention. As humans, we’re attracted to faces and particularly other people’s eyes. Looking at someone’s eyes reveals information you automatically decode. You might perceive some eye gazes as welcoming and inviting, while others can seem uncomfortable or perhaps threatening.

Eye contact influences social exchanges and your body’s reaction to those exchanges. And what’s considered “normal” can depend on your culture and location. You might judge other people based on their eye contact, and they might react similarly to you. In North America, for example, direct eye contact tends to signal your intention to engage in an interaction. Prolonged eye contact can activate your nervous system, making you more excited and alert as well. Your eye contact also can influence how others judge your truthfulness and persuasive abilities during discussions. In the U.S., if you avoid eye contact, it might be interpreted as a lack of interest in talking or even that you’re trying to hide something. However, in East Asian cultures, it’s typical to make and sustain eye contact less frequently.

Where you focus your eyes tells others about your interests, intentions, and goals. People are more likely to look each other in the eyes or at each other’s faces when they feel love, respect, or admiration towards each other. In comparison, eye gazes towards someone’s body are more likely to indicate lust or sexual attraction.

Eye contact is part of communicating and connecting with others. For example, initiating eye contact can help make your apology more effective. And it’s a part of confirming your partner’s consent during sex. Eye contact with parents also helps newborns’ brains develop, and it helps them feel comforted and attached to their moms and dads. Use eye contact to connect with someone you care about and further communication with those around you.

Posted 26 June 2017

Mindfulness in military environments

Filed under: Mindfulness, PTSD
Find out how practicing mindfulness can be useful in combat and austere environments.

Mindfulness training, or the practice of training your mind to stay in the present moment, offers many benefits, particularly for Service Members. These vary from pain and stress management related to post-deployment and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to supporting improved emotional states and emotion regulation. Mindfulness training also can enhance your ability to perform optimally in military environments—in garrison, during training, or in theater.

Mindfulness training cultivates your ability to focus on what’s happening internally in your surroundings. Mind-wandering, worrying about what’s coming down the pipeline, or even trying to evaluate what happened in the past can keep you from attending to details critical for the present. A mindfulness practice also encourages you to experience a situation without judgment (thinking, “This is neither good nor bad”) and with acceptance (thinking, “This is what’s happening right now”). 

In garrison or during dwell times, mindfulness can help you cultivate stronger relationships with friends and family and make the most of your time to recover and restore energy. Warfighters lead busy lives, and time with loved ones can feel limited. Mindfulness helps you maximize those precious moments and cope with difficult emotions that can impede communication and intimacy.

Mindfulness during training

In training environments, mindfulness helps Warfighters stay safe while acquiring new skills and tactics. It also aids with their memory and recall on difficult tests and qualifications. For example, Warfighters need to be able to block out distractions and tune into their physiology to obtain optimal performance in shooting tasks for weapons qualifications. Managing your mind-and-body experience of performance anxiety during the evaluative stages is critical for being able to shoot a weapon with accuracy and consistency.

Mindfulness in theater

Your situational awareness is enhanced by mindfulness in a combat environment too. Mind-wandering and judging an experience can create unnecessary stimuli that interfere with your ability to connect with the internal and external resources you need to accomplish your task, avert disaster, or respond to crisis. Warfighters are less lethal and resourceful in combat when their minds wander and they’re unable to fully focus on the situation at hand. Some research shows that mindfulness training—even for relatively short periods of time (for example, 8 hours over 8 weeks)—improves focus in Service Members. That is, they’re able to keep their minds from wandering and have fewer lapses in performance during a given task.

Combat environments are often characterized as Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA), which can easily lead to sensory overload. You might feel overwhelmed too. Cultivating mindfulness can help increase your tolerance of these environments and impede thinking traps about uncertain outcomes, enabling you to hone your skills of attending to the right stimuli at the right time. Mindfulness training also has been found to be effective for managing and tolerating heat pain for both experienced and inexperienced meditators. In one pain-threshold study, some participants who used mindfulness training were able to tolerate higher temperatures before they reported feeling pain, and they were able to endure heat stimuli for longer durations.

Debrief

One of the first steps in mindfulness involves pausing, taking a deep breath, and bringing your attention inward for a moment. For more information on how to begin a mindfulness practice, read HPRC’s “A mindfulness meditation primer” and watch the video below.

Posted 21 June 2017

PTSD and sleep disruption: Available treatments

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: PTSD, Sleep
Highly effective behavioral treatments exist for both PTSD and sleep disruption. Learn more about the types of interventions available to resolve symptoms.

This article provides an overview of evidence-based treatments for PTSD and insomnia. The first article in this 3-part guest-authored series—“A double whammy”—explored the potential interrelationship between these two conditions. Not only is sleep disruption a common symptom of PTSD, but the two can interact in a cycle that can make both worse and can be hard to break. Understanding your treatment options and having more knowledge about available treatments can help you engage in productive discussions with your healthcare providers and make informed choices about treatment. Read more...

Are cell phones ruining family time?

Using cell phones during family time can distract you from connecting with your loved ones. Learn more.

As a parent, you set the “rules” for what role cell phones and other mobile devices play during family time. Keep in mind your phone use is an example your kids are likely to follow too.

Being on your cell phones during family time can distract you from connecting with each other. How appropriate you think it is to use cell phones during family time is likely linked to whether or not you use your own phone then. While some people need to check their phones for work or emergency purposes, it’s also important for parents to model putting away their phones, engage in face-to-face communication with loved ones, and enjoy time together. When teens spend more time with their parents, they tend to set higher educational goals. Less cell-phone use also means less screen time, which enables kids to get outdoors and be more physically active. Quality time together strengthens your family’s resilience too.

Overuse of cell phones can, in some cases, lead to strong urges to use your phone even when it leads to negative outcomes. This can feel like a lack of control over how often you pick up your phone or how long you’re on it. You might feel compelled to constantly check it without a real reason too. And if you don’t have access to your phone, your mood can change.

If it’s hard to get your family on the same page about cell phones, call a family meeting. Consider the following questions and agree on a plan that works for everyone.

  • What does appropriate use of cell phones during mealtimes look like?
  • Can you place all cell phones on silent, in a basket, or out of view during family time?
  • Are you comfortable using cell phones to play family games together?
  • How does everyone feel about limiting cell phone use during family outings?

 

Posted 19 June 2017

Prevent TBIs this summer and beyond

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
It’s Men’s Health Month! Learn what you can do to protect your brain from injury and stay safe.

During Men’s Health Month, HPRC is taking a closer look at men’s risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI). The good news is there are ways to “protect your head” and prevent TBI while you enjoy your favorite summertime activities.

Each year, more than 1 million people visit the emergency room because of TBIs. And contrary to common belief, most TBIs experienced by Service Members result from motor vehicle accidents, not exposures to blasts. TBI can damage your brain tissue, and it can impair your speech and language skills, balance and motor coordination, and memory. Depending on the severity of your injury, your symptoms might last for days, weeks, or even longer. It’s especially important to prevent head injuries because over 50,000 people die from TBI-related symptoms each year. Read more...

Military dads’ strengths and obstacles

As a Service Member, your military training and experiences likely influence your parenting role. Read about the strengths and vulnerabilities of being a military father.

Your skills as a Service Member can work in your favor as a parent, but they sometimes can make fatherhood challenging as well. When fathers are involved in their kids’ lives, children do better in school and they’re good at problem-solving. They’re more socially and emotionally steady too.

Your military training and experiences likely impact your role as a father in ways that strengthen your family and yourself. However, there are potential vulnerabilities you’ll have to actively work to overcome—just like other parents. Read more...

PTSD and sleep disturbance: A double whammy

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn how post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and insomnia work to create a vicious cycle.

Sleep problems and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are two common difficulties experienced by Service Members. They can share a complicated relationship, so for those experiencing or at risk for this double whammy, as well as for those treating patients, it’s important to understand how they can influence each other in a cycle. In a series of 3 articles, beginning with this one, guest experts explore the connection between PTSD and sleep, examine the different ways to approach treatment, and introduce evidence-based therapies available for both PTSD and insomnia. Read more...

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