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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.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics

Appreciate your spouse this month...and always

Write a “gratitude letter” this month to show your spouse you appreciate all he or she does.

The daily grind can make it easy to forget to tell your spouse how much you appreciate him or her. This month, focus on showing your partner how much he or she means to you. There are many ways to show appreciation. One way is to write a “gratitude letter” in which you tell your partner in writing how his or her actions have affected your life in a positive way. Describe all the little things that you appreciate—from kindness toward others to making you a special dinner. Try to be specific so that he or she knows you put a lot of thought into it. And try not to expect something in return. The essence of gratitude is to give without expecting something in return.

For more ideas on fostering gratitude, read “Just the Facts: Resilience—Gratitude” from afterdeployment.org.

How am I doing? Ask my computer…

Technology can help us be more aware of how we think and even how we feel. It is all still evolving, but these advances are promising for optimal Warfighter training and health.

Good decision-making is crucial to mission success for any Warfighter. Advancements in technology can help build awareness of how people think (that is, how they remember and evaluate information) and even how they feel (recognizing “gut feelings” and what drives them). “Affective computing” and “wearable sensing” are no longer science fiction. Special bracelets or other articles of clothing can sense one’s needs in terms of exercise, diet, and sleep and can even be programmed to communicate physical or emotional needs to others. Optimal training can occur when emotions facilitate learning rather than impede it. And it doesn’t stop with training; “e-health” applications for mental health, delivered via smart phones or other small mobile devices, are promising, especially as the technology continues to advance.

“STOP” what you’re doing and read this…

Filed under: Mind, Stress
Learn a quick “STOP” technique to help you make better decisions under pressure.

The American Psychological Association just released an article suggesting that trial judges make better decisions when they do “STOP” meditations:

  • Stop what you are doing
  • Take a few deep breaths and focus on the experience of breathing
  • Observe your thoughts, feelings, and actions
  • Proceed with new awareness

Like Warfighters, judges make very important decisions that affect peoples’ lives, but judges also are not immune to impacts of stress. Like everyone else under stress, they can thoughtlessly make quick decisions based on “rules of thumb,” but because we are human biases creep in, sometimes leading to bad decisions.

So, the STOP technique can be important too for Warfighters, spouses, parents, or anyone else looking to make good decisions when it matters. STOP-ping allows you to monitor and adjust your current stress in order to make good decisions.

Staggering stats about teens and stress

Teens are stressed out, and families dealing with deployments can face extra stress. Learn more and pick up some practical tips.

The American Psychological Association (APA) wants to know how stressed out Americans are. Every year since 2007, they’ve conducted a yearly “Stress in America” survey in which they analyze trends about stress and its associated symptoms and behaviors across a range of people living in the U.S. In August 2013, they focused on 1,018 teens (ages 13-17).

A recent report of this information about teens and stress showed that the stats are staggering. Teens from the general population (civilian and military) exceed healthy levels of stress, mirroring the trends in the U.S. among adults. Stress affects sleep, exercise, and eating. Teens tend to get 7.4 hours of sleep on school nights, while the recommended amount is around nine or more hours according to the National Sleep Foundation, and between nine and 10 hours according to the National Institutes of Health. One in five teens exercises less than once a week or not at all. And 23% of teens report that they’ve skipped at least one meal in the past month due to stress.

Parents’ deployments are extremely challenging for children and teens, so military teens often have to deal with additional stressors. Consider this:

  • When a parent deploys for 19 months or more, kids’ achievement scores are lower than peers’ scores.
  • Teachers and counselors say that parental deployment can cause stress at home, often leading to more problems at school (such as incomplete homework, skipping school, or a less-engaged parent).
  • Kids’ resiliency can be impacted when a parent is away, and parents/teachers/counselors sometimes feel that helpful resources can be hard to navigate.

What can you and your teens do to combat their stress?

  • Watch for signs of stress, and actively use stress-management techniques. You can also find children-centered techniques in these HPRC resources. Recognize that stress-management skills are important to develop whether you are a Warfighter, family member, or civilian.
  • Military parents can alert teachers and counselors when a parent is deployed and enlist whatever support is available.
  • Parents’ well-being impacts their teens’ well-being. Be sure to take care of yourself by eating right (individually or with your family), exercising, and managing your own stress.
  • Bolster resiliency skills, both in times of stress and in times of calm. You can learn how with practical tips in "Building Family Resilience."

First steps to a financially fit force

Saving money can be difficult but with some planning, it is possible to turn $200 a month into $2400 in a year in savings.

A lot of money-saving challenges have been sprouting up all over the web. These savings challenges may seem like one-size-fits-all easy-savings plans, but can they really help Warfighters save money?

As for most for financial questions, the answer is “it depends.” For some, using one of these challenges can be a fun, easy way to set aside additional savings, but for others it could be a futile attempt ending in frustration. Problems arise when the lofty savings goals touted by such plans just don’t fit your lifestyle.

So what then? Should you give up and do nothing? No! Have a savings goal, but make sure it’s one tailored to your own financial abilities. Start with an understanding of what you can save, and be realistic about your savings goals and how they can fit into your life. If $200 a month is too much, then don’t aim to save $2400 by the end of the year.

If you decide you can save $1400 a year, that averages out to be $26.50 per week, or about the cost of two pizzas. Maybe you can save more some weeks than others. If so, then just keep track of what you’ve saved. As long as you average about $115 per month, you can reach your goal of $1400 by the end of the year. If you start to see that your goal was too ambitious, don’t be afraid to adjust it instead of being disappointed at the end of the year or, worse, giving up.

For more information, visit Military OneSource’s “How to Save” web page.

Relief for your aching back?

Epidural steroid injections can provide short-term relief for back and neck pain.

HPRC continues its series on Pain Management with an article on epidural steroid injections (ESIs), which involve injections of pain medication around the spinal nerve roots. They are done by qualified healthcare providers for short-term relief of back and neck pain. They also can help doctors diagnose some types of pain. Learn more in HPRC’s “Epidural Steroid Injections for Pain."

Relax and overcome your stress

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Mind, Relaxation, Stress
Learn about two natural responses—stress and relaxation—you can learn to influence and help you on your way to optimum performance.

The “relaxation response” is your body’s natural reaction against the negative effects of stress; it shuts off the “stress response” when the need for it is over. Recent research has shown that the relaxation response can decrease the harmful effects of chronic stress even at the gene level. Learn about your body’s natural stress and relaxation responses, when they are and aren’t helpful, and how to control them when their natural operations fail in HPRC’s “Influence Your Body’s Stress & Relaxation Responses.

A mesmerizing strategy for pain

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Hypnosis is a strategy that can be used for pain management.

Hypnosis is a trance-like state produced from a heightened sense of focus and concentration. Like other mind-body strategies, hypnosis can sometimes provide temporary pain relief for many pain conditions. Learn more about what hypnosis is, the research on what pain conditions it can help, things to be aware of, and its relevance to the military in HPRC’s “Hypnosis for Pain.”

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.

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