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HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness

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...

Shedding light on vitamin D

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Nutrients, Vitamin D
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 that your body produces when your skin is exposed to sunlight, but there are ways to get it from foods too. It helps your body absorb calcium and maintains the calcium and phosphate your bones need to form and grow. It also contributes to cell growth, immunity, and nerve and muscle function, and it can help reduce inflammation. In addition, it plays key roles in reducing your risk of many adverse health conditions, including depression, cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, and others. 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...

PFT/PRT training series—Part 3: Flexibility and mobility

The third and final article in HPRC’s series about PFT/PRT training focuses on the importance of flexibility and mobility.

Flexibility and mobility are important because they affect your joints and the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments—and the way you move. You need give-and-take between joint flexibility, mobility, and stability for coordinated and efficient movements as well as injury prevention. It’s important to keep your body fit for movement, especially as you train for your Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness Tests (PRT).

You can perform stretching and mobility exercises to promote long-term changes and improvements too. To boost and maintain your flexibility and mobility, you need to incorporate dynamic warm-ups, as well as a stretching or mobility cool-down into your regular training regimen. Read more...

Eat a rainbow of colorful produce

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Boost your eating plan with colorful fruits and vegetables. Learn more.

Power your performance with colorful produce! Eating colorful fruits and veggies can help reduce your risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers too. They also contain water, electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates—all essential nutrients for top performance in the gym or on the field.

Eat your greens and other colors in the produce “rainbow.”

  • Think pink. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that gives fruits and vegetables their red color, and it might reduce your risk of heart disease and some cancers. Enjoy lycopene-rich foods such as watermelon, pink grapefruit, and tomatoes.
  • Enjoy orange. Many yellow and orange vegetables and fruits get their color from beta-carotene. It’s an antioxidant that can reduce your risk of headaches, high blood pressure, and more. Choose sweet potatoes, mangoes, peaches, and others.
  • Get right with white. These fruits and vegetables contain potassium, fiber, and other nutrients. Fiber-filled fruits and vegetables can help lower your risk of obesity too. White produce includes bananas, white corn, cauliflower, and pears.
  • Pick purple. These vegetables and fruits get their color from anthocyanins, which is a powerful phytonutrient that might reduce your risk of chronic disease. Enjoy purple berries, grapes, eggplants, and more.

For adults, the current daily recommendation is 2–3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit. Remember that raw, cooked, steamed, grilled, and broiled varieties all count, so fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at mealtimes.

 

Posted 05 June 2017

Use assertive communication and be heard

Practice assertive communication in your relationships to express your opinions, convey respect, and be heard.

“How” you say something is as important as “what” you say when it comes to communication. Being assertive means you express your opinion and stand up for yourself in an honest and respectful way while also maintaining consideration for others’ thoughts and feelings. When expressing yourself, it’s important to be assertive—that is, neither aggressive nor passive.

Assertive people offer up their perspectives, are able to say “no” without feeling guilty, and ask for what they need. Assertive communication gives you the best chance at effectively conveying your message, and it’s a way to further build your self-confidence. Being assertive and a good listener leads to healthy, productive communication. Read more...

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