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HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships

Oxytocin and animals

Filed under: Mood, Pets
Having a pet has many positive effects. Learn one explanation researchers have for why our pets make us feel good.

As we’ve highlighted before, pets bring special benefits to their humans.  But is there a “logical” explanation for why the human-animal connection is so rewarding? Some scientists think that physical contact with your pet (especially a dog)—such as stroking or holding the animal on your lap—as well as having a relationship with that animal (that is, knowing and caring for the pet) are two components that make the owner-pet relationship therapeutic. It appears that these can lead to an increase in a “feel-good” hormone (oxytocin) in humans. (Check out last week’s post to learn about oxytocin and its impact on human relationships.) As little as five minutes of stroking a dog can result in a measurable increase in oxytocin levels. While it works for most people with any animal, the effect is stronger if the animal is one’s own pet. In fact, the closer the relationship (including affectionate behavior), the more oxytocin is released. Researchers caution, though, that this effect doesn’t work in those who don’t like animals, a finding that needs more research.

A holistic approach to performance

Check out the customizable “One Shot One Kill” (OSOK) performance enhancement program to jumpstart your performance.

Wanting some holistic strategies to enhance your performance? Check out the “One Shot One Kill (OSOK) Performance Enhancement Program” that shows Warfighters how to set up and manage their own performance-enhancement system. OSOK is designed not only to enhance performance but also to jumpstart Warfighter resilience. It builds on the skills that Warfighters already possess and then teaches new ones as needed.

There are two ways you can use OSOK: as an individual through “OSOK Solo” and as a unit/group through “OSOK-IP Unit.” Both highlight “10 Rules of Engagement” and provide seven core modules: Controlled Response, Mind Tactics, Performance-Based Nutrition, Primal Fitness, Purpose, Code, and Recharge. OSOK also provides self-assessment forms so you can track your progress over time.

For other performance-enhancement programs and information about holistic (total) fitness, check out HPRC’s Total Force Fitness domain.

Taking a deeper look at love this Valentine’s Day

Filed under: Love, Relationships
Many people think more than usual about love on Valentine’s Day. This year, learn about a hormone that is linked to feelings of closeness and bonding.

Think about your feelings of connection in an intimate relationship, or the last time you were physically intimate with your loved one, and how you felt afterwards. Did you feel a flood of happiness, a feeling of closeness, or a sense of bonding? There is actually a physical reason behind some of these sensations: the hormone oxytocin.

Your body releases oxytocin into your blood and brain in response to sex, breastfeeding, and childbirth, as well as everyday behaviors such as touching and stroking—usually in trusting relationships. Oxytocin promotes social bonds; that is, it makes you feel “close” (emotionally) to another person, and it makes you feel good. Specifically, it increases eye contact, your ability to remember faces, and feelings of trust, generosity, and empathy. Other benefits of oxytocin include reduced aggression and stress and increased bonding, especially maternal bonding after birth. In fact, oxytocin is so effective at making you feel good and loving that it’s often called the “love hormone” or the “cuddle drug.”

With Valentine’s Day approaching this week, many of you have love on your brains. So now you can think about it from a deeper perspective: how oxytocin plays a role in your love life.

Questions families of Reserve & National Guard members need to ask

Asking some questions ahead of time can help families of National Guard and Reserve Warfighters when it is time to deploy.

HPRC recently posted an article with questions that parents of deploying Warfighters need to ask, but families of National Guard and Reserve Warfighters have additional challenges when their Warfighter deploys (such as being away from support at installations, financial changes, and shifts in childcare). It can help to think through some of these challenges and come up with a game plan ahead of time. Here are some examples to start with:

  • Who needs to know about the upcoming deployment? (Teachers, doctors…)
  • What’s the plan in case of an emergency (either stateside or while deployed)?
  • Will the childcare arrangements need to shift during deployment? (This is especially important for single parents.)
  • Will family income be reduced? Who will manage finances during this time?
  • How will family members keep in touch with the deployed Warfighter? Does everyone in the family agree, or are there individual preferences? (For example, your oldest child may prefer to Skype rather than write letters.)
  • Are there any military support organizations those at home can use for extra support?
  • Will any holidays or birthdays be missed during the deployment? If so, maybe something special can be done ahead of time and saved for the specific day.

For more information on resources for before, during, and after deployment, check out the “Deployment“ section of HPRC’s website.

Adjusting to work relationships after deployment

Deployment stress can sometimes hang around and impact work relationships after you are back home. Learn more about common issues and tips to deal with them.

The stress of deployment can linger when you return home and resume (or start new) work responsibilities and relationships. Sometimes it can be difficult to know how much to share about recent deployment experiences in the work environment, particularly if your coworkers are not or have not been in the military. Some may ask a lot of questions and others may steer clear of the subject entirely. This can create an interesting dynamic in your work relationships. Afterdeployment.org emphasizes that discussing your experience is a decision that’s completely up to you. So think ahead of time about how much (if any) you want to share, and be cautious about whom you choose to share with initially.

Afterdeployment.org also describes some common problems that can affect performance in the workplace. For example, combat experiences sometimes can impact your sleep quality, making it difficult to be at your peak at work. Other possible issues include inappropriate anger in response to people or situations and feeling uneasy and unable to let one’s guard down in a crowded office or worksite.  This Work Adjustment factsheet provides more information and tips that can help with common issues, and another on Informal Relationships at work for more information.

Building family resilience

Further strengthen your family’s resilience with this new resource that discusses how to build it during and following deployment.

Building family resilience is a process that lasts a lifetime, but it can be immensely rewarding. But what is resilience and how can military families in particular build it? HPRC has a resource called “Building Family Resilience” that can give you answers to these questions. The article covers military-specific stressors for families—including how deployment and reintegration impact family relationships, war-related physical and mental health conditions, and individual stress responses and risky behaviors in family members, both adults and children. It also highlights three key resilience-building skills—mind-body, cognitive-behavioral, and communication—and highlights resources to build resilience. Check it out.

For more information on building family resilience, check out the Family Resilience section of HPRC’s website.

How parents of service members can help

Parents of deploying Warfighters can help their son or daughter in many ways to get ready for deployment.

Calling all parents of deployed or soon-to-be deployed Warfighters! With your son or daughter’s deployment—particularly the first one—there are probably questions that need answering before your son or daughter heads out. Experts suggest some of the following may help prepare for your child’s deployment:

  • Help your Warfighter figure out what responsibilities need to be covered while he or she is deployed and which ones can be managed from abroad. For example, how will the cell phone bill get paid? If he/she has a pet, who will care for it? Are there any bills that can be put on autopayment (such as a car payment)?
  • Also, who will keep/store the car, motorcycle, or other belongings? Will anyone be allowed to drive or use them?
  • Then there are the tough but necessary questions such as who will make medical decisions if your Warfighter becomes disabled and who will be the beneficiary of death benefits.
  • Finally, if your Warfighter has a girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband, make sure you know them and have established open lines of communication, as they are often the ones with the most information about your son or daughter while deployed.

Planning for these kinds of details ahead of time can help make deployment(s) go smoothly. You can also encourage them to take advantage of their G.I. benefits for schooling while deployed. For more resources to help with deployment, explore the Deployment section of HPRC’s Family & Relationships domain.

Keep the happy in holidays: Wrapping up

Filed under: Holidays, Mind
To wrap up our series on keeping the happy in holidays, we suggest you mix and match the tips we’ve presented over the past weeks during the upcoming New Year as well.

Over the last seven weeks, HPRC has run a series on tips for keeping the happy in holidays this season for you and your family. We highlighted many strategies, such as being a gratitude hunter, how to be more optimistic, and how to accept things you can’t control. We also highlighted tips for your relationships, such as setting appropriate expectations, identifying possible friction points ahead of time, and celebrating your family and friends. Look back over these in our Mind Tactics and Family & Relationships domains over the last seven weeks to review.

In wrapping up, our last tip is to remember that you know yourself best. Try a combination of the tips we highlighted each week to see which ones work for you, the ones that fit your strengths, and those that suit where you are right now in life. Ups and downs are common during the holiday season, but if you keep your perspective, stay realistic, make time for fitness, and foster new memories with your loved ones, this just might be your best New Year yet!

Keep the happy in holidays: Wrapping up

Wrapping up our series on keeping the happy in holidays, mix and match the tips we’ve presented each week during the upcoming new year, as well.

Over the last 7 weeks, HPRC has run a series on tips for keeping the happy in the holidays this season for you and your family. We highlighted many strategies like being a gratitude hunter, how to be more optimistic, and how to accept things you can’t control. We also highlighted tips for your relationships, such as setting appropriate expectations, identifying possible friction points ahead of time, and celebrating your family and friends. Look back over the last 7 weeks to read more.

In wrapping up, our last tip is to remember that you know yourself best. Try a combination of the tips we highlighted each week to see which ones work for you, the ones that fit your strengths and where you are right now in life. Ups and downs are common during the holiday season, but if you keep your perspective, stay realistic, make time for fitness, and foster new memories with your loved ones, this just might be your best new year yet!

When dogs are on duty

Learn how service dogs are selected and trained and how you should interact with them in public.

Service dogs aren’t the same as pet dogs. They’re working dogs with specific missions. More and more, the military and individuals are using service dogs for a wide variety of reasons. If you’ve ever been curious about what it takes for a dog to become a service dog or how you should act around one of them, check out HPRC’s “Service dogs 101.” You’ll learn about how service dogs are selected, the bond between a service dog and its handler, and the most important rule for interacting with them in public. And to learn about one program designed specifically to help dogs help more Warfighters in more ways, visit the Warrior Canine Connection.

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