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HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body

Mindfully remembering fallen service members

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
This Memorial Day, take a mindful moment to remember those who have served honorably and made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.

Memorial Day marks a national day of remembrance to honor those who lost their lives while protecting our country and values. Our fallen service members deserve our utmost respect, so take some time to mindfully acknowledge and respect their sacrifices.

Mindfulness is the practice of cultivating your attention and focus in a way that allows you to deeply appreciate the present moment. The practice of mindful remembrance also can help you more fully acknowledge the sacrifices of others. Whatever your plans this Memorial Day, try to engage in the 3 R’s:

Reflect: Stop, take a deep breath, and reflect on what you value most in your life. Appreciate what’s around you: your home, treasured friends and family, health, and career. Then internally shift attention: Tune into your heart beating and chest rising and falling with each breath.

Recognize: There are many people who enable the life you lead. They contribute in both small and big ways too. So pause and thank those who make things possible. Mindful appreciation can amplify your ability to feel gratitude toward people and events that you often might take for granted.

Remember: Think of someone you know who has lost his or her life in service to our country. Say the service member’s name out loud. Repeat it to yourself. Take a few quiet moments to recall a special memory, photograph, or simply what this person meant to you. Or commit to reading or sharing a story about a Warfighter whose actions you revere.

Remembering the fallen is a sacred and enduring responsibility that should be front and center at all Memorial Day festivities, and this practice can start with you. To learn about an organization that has created the goal of mindfully recognizing every fallen service member since September 11, 2001, visit the Mindful Memorial Day page. 

Watch HPRC’s video below for more on how to cultivate a mindful remembrance practice.

Posted 22 May 2017

Take responsible action for your mental health

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
During Mental Health Awareness Month, HPRC takes a look at common barriers to seeking support for mental health concerns. Learn what you can do to get the help you need.

Warfighters lead stressful lives, so it’s important to seek support and resources to help you cope and stay ready for duty. While many wouldn’t hesitate to see their doctor about a physical ailment, asking for help to address psychological struggles can feel overwhelming.

Nearly 44 million adults in the U.S.—about 1 in 5—experience a mental illness every year. In the military population, those statistics are even higher. More than 1.6 million service members have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001, and almost 19% have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. And only half of those who need mental health support actually seek treatment.

There are many barriers that people encounter when seeking mental health support from outside sources. Here are examples of what the most common barriers sound like and some recommended courses of action (COA) you can take to start moving past whatever’s standing in your way. Read more...

How TBI affects couples' relationships

A traumatic brain injury not only changes your loved one, it also changes your relationship as a couple.

When your partner suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI), changes to your relationship are likely. Both of you can experience a range of emotions as you adapt to new expectations in your relationship, but you can weather the changes. TBIs can occur without warning, and the path to recovery isn’t always clear, which can add strain to your romantic relationship. Read more...

Lavender and stress reduction

Filed under: Anxiety, Lavender, Stress
Your sense of smell causes a variety of emotional responses. Can certain smells help you feel better?

Your sense of smell is a powerful tool when it comes to how you interact with your environment. Certain smells can alert you to danger or caution, while others can invoke feelings of relaxation or alertness. Lavender, in particular, might help reduce stress and anxiety.

The general properties of lavender oil are antibacterial, antifungal, sedative, and antidepressant among other things. While its pleasant smell might not physiologically change your stress response (that is, affect things such as cortisol, a stress hormone), it might just make you feel better. People have reported feeling less depressed and more relaxed when they inhale the scent of lavender. While this can be helpful for general anxiety, it might not be as helpful if your anxiety levels get too high.

Some also have reported that smelling lavender before bedtime helped them fall asleep more easily, wake less during the night, and feel less daytime fatigue. Next time you’re feeling stressed, try taking some deep breaths—and maybe have some lavender nearby to help. It comes in different forms such as essential oils, incense, Epsom salts, and whole herb. Find which one works best for you.

For more information about lavender, read the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health's web page. Visit HPRC’s Stress Management Strategies section to learn more about coping with stress too.

Posted 09 May 2017

Security clearances and mental health—Part 2: Q21 on SF86

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Part 2 of HPRC’s security clearances and mental health series takes a closer look at the implications of responses to question 21 on your SF86 security clearance application.

This is the second and final article in HPRC’s series about misunderstandings often connected to the relationship between mental health and security clearances. Keep in mind that the trustworthiness, dependability, reliability, and good judgment of an individual matter more than the simple act of seeking care for mental health issues.

Another common myth is that you may not be granted clearance by answering affirmatively to question 21 on the SF86. In fact, answering, “yes” to question 21 on the SF86 will not automatically disqualify you from gaining or retaining an active clearance. Read more...

Security clearances and mental health—Part 1: Judgment matters

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
In this two-part series, HPRC unpacks myths about the impact of mental health care on security clearances. Learn how good judgment and your response on question 21 on the SF86 are what really matters when it comes to clearance status.

One of the biggest reasons Warfighters hesitate to seek professional mental health care is the commonly held misunderstanding that getting such assistance could impact their security clearances. Here are some basics: The existence of a psychological diagnosis or disorder will not automatically disqualify you from getting or retaining a security clearance. Almost no one has lost a clearance for having a behavioral health diagnosis. Of those who have lost clearances, only 0.04% did so for solely psychological reasons. What’s more, the simple act of meeting with a mental health professional or obtaining mental health care will not automatically result in a loss of clearance. The issue of mental health and security clearance is complex, so it’s important to clear up some common misconceptions about how mental health can impact security clearance status.

HPRC provides a series of articles about mental health and security clearances, beginning with this one on how your good judgment favorably affects your clearance status. Read more...

Myths and facts about mental toughness

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn some common myths about mental toughness, and then get the facts to help understand what it’s all about.

Mental toughness is often described as a psychological edge that helps people endure challenges, overcome adversity, and achieve more success. There are many common myths about mental toughness that can influence your beliefs about where it comes from and your willingness to work at getting more of it. Big businesses, elite athletes, and now military leaders are interested in mental toughness because it helps you overcome challenges, achieve optimal performance, and maintain readiness. Check out these 7 common myths and facts about mental toughness. Read more...

Resilience tips for job-seeking military spouses

If you’re a military spouse, looking for a job sometimes can feel overwhelming. Find out how to feel confident during your job search.

As a military spouse, it can be challenging to sustain your career along with your PCS moves. The good news is there are ways to help manage the stress of job searching and cope with setbacks along the way. These tips also can encourage a positive mind-set and help you feel more prepared to meet with potential employers. Consider these strategies to help stay resilient during your job search. Read more...

Who are you at your best?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn how knowing your strengths and finding ways to use them every day can enable you to be your best version of yourself.

Knowing your strengths is as important as knowing your weaknesses when it comes to optimizing performance. Strengths aren’t just those skills that make you perform well. They also make up the best of who you are. Most people are comfortable talking about their own flaws, but might not be as willing to explore their strengths and who they are at their best. Your strengths often reflect your values and how they show up in your daily behavior and attitude. You know you’re operating from strengths when they feel personally authentic, energize rather than exhaust you, and fuel your motivation from within.

If you want to discover your strengths, take the Character Strengths Test on the Values in Action (VIA) Institute on Character’s webpage. But discovering your strengths is just half the battle. The other half is learning how to bring them more fully to your role as a leader, parent, or friend. Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Figure out how to creatively use your strengths every day. Doing so can make humdrum things more exciting, or it can help transform tasks that you might not enjoy doing. For example, maybe you really dislike morning PT. If you have the signature strength of “social intelligence,” perhaps you can shift your lens to view your morning workout as a time to connect with others and build friendships.
  • Are your strengths getting in your way? The best of who you are can get you into trouble too. Part of using your strengths more effectively comes with thinking about the ways in which they aren’t working. For example, if you have the strength of “humor,” you might have noticed what happens when you crack a joke that’s inappropriate or ill-timed. Try to raise your awareness about how your strengths show up in those situations.
  • Examine beliefs that might get in your way. People have beliefs about what they should or need to be in order to fulfill different roles in their lives. For example, you might believe that you can’t bring your character strength of “kindness” while in uniform because others might take advantage of you. You might want to think about whether those beliefs are indeed accurate, and ask yourself what benefits you might see if you try to be more of who you really are.

Debrief/Bottom line

You probably spend a lot of time thinking about all the ways you need to improve yourself. That’s partly due to negativity bias, and because it’s healthy, functional, and contributes to your growth. To fully optimize your performance, don’t just focus on how to fix your weaknesses: Try to use your strengths to help cope with transitions, recover from illness, and handle other things too. Doing so enables you to be your best version of yourself—no matter where you go.

Why grit matters

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn what grit is, how it contributes to success, and how to grow more of it.

Most people believe that talent and ability primarily enable peak performance and achievement. Emerging research shows that “grit”—a combination of effort and interest—also can predict success across a variety of domains, above and beyond your talents and skills. But what is grit? And is it possible to get more of it? Read more...

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