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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: Total Force Fitness

Safe return to duty after a head injury

Filed under: Concussion, Injuries, TBI
Mild traumatic brain injuries (concussions) are very common in the military. Learn how you and your doctor can get you safely back to duty.

Returning to duty after a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI; also referred to as acute concussion) requires a special recovery process. Until now, procedures used by military healthcare professionals were largely based on sports-related mTBI practices, which are not always appropriate for returning Warfighters to military activities and demands. Medical and military experts worked together to develop new recommendations for returning service members to military activity after mild traumatic brain injury. The six-step process includes progressing from rest through light to moderate activity and exercise and eventually to unrestricted activity. Patients cannot progress until they are symptom free at any given stage in the process. Almost 84% of military brain injuries in 2014 were from mTBI/concussions. Some of the most common causes of concussions occur in non-deployed setting. While not all mTBI/concussions are preventable, there are things that you can do to reduce your risk in your day-to-day life:

  • Always wear a seat belt when driving or riding in a vehicle.
  • Wear a helmet when suitable (for example, on a bicycle or motorcycle).
  • Create safe living spaces to reduce falls. Remove or secure potentially hazardous items from floors and overhead.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Try these Mind Tactics Performance Strategies to improve your ability to control your attention.

Those last 10 pounds—the weight-loss plateau

Struggling to lose those last few pounds? Here are some tips to help you get past the plateau and back on track to achieving your goal.

You’re watching what you eat. You’re exercising regularly. You’re doing everything right. But for some reason, your weight-loss goal is just out of reach. It seems those “last 10 pounds” are often the hardest ones to shake! Fortunately, with continued effort and persistence, you likely can achieve your weight-loss goals.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to make sure the goals you’ve set for yourself are realistic, healthy, and sustainable. After that, it’s time to get to work.

Go back to square one. That is, make sure you’re as careful about what you choose to eat now as when you first started on your weight-loss journey. Sometimes we lapse into old habits over time and start “allowing” unhealthy choices to creep back into our diet patterns. Keeping a food diary will help you keep track of what you’re really eating. And don’t forget to watch your portion sizes.

Be a weekend warrior. Many people find it harder to make healthy choices on the weekend—tailgate parties, family celebrations, and road trips all offer opportunities to “slip.” But eating healthy is a full-time job, so it’s important to plan ahead: Take a low-fat dish that you’ve prepared and choose restaurants where you know you’ll have healthy options available.

Stand up for yourself. Literally. Standing, rather than sitting, can burn as many as 200 to 300 calories per day and can help prevent many types of disease. Find as many opportunities in your day to stand, walk, and move as much as you can. Check out HPRC’s blog about “sitting disease” for more information about the risks of sitting too much.

Shake things up. Varying the type and intensity of your exercise is a great way to challenge yourself and prevent boredom—and can make a big difference toward achieving your goals.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is important not only in the short term (for your performance as well as your career) but also in the long term, reducing your risk of many diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.

Messed up? Own it.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Mind, Relationships
Facing your mistakes can improve your interpersonal relationships and enhance performance. Learn more.

You probably realize that learning from your mistakes can enhance your performance. But do you know it can also enhance your relationships? Acknowledging mistakes can be easier said than done. Before you can learn from your mistakes, you have to admit to them.

Admitting mistakes can be powerful. When you own up to your mistakes in relationships with other people, it makes it easier for the other person to really forgive you, allowing both of you to move forward. Whether in your interactions with others or in learning skills such as SOPs for handling a weapon, fully acknowledging your mistakes enables you to learn from them.

But sometimes you may have difficulty admitting that you screwed up. If you’re a perfectionist, for example, your identity can get wrapped up in being the person who always does things right. Admitting you screwed up can open the door to intense feelings such as shame and doubt. However, hiding from those feelings won’t work; they’ll eat at you in some way. Instead of hiding from them, try facing them.

Here are some tips for owning up to your mistakes and moving forward:

  • Face shame and doubt by simply being mindful of those feelings, letting them come and go.
  • Recognize when you’re falling into a thinking trap such as “I must be perfect,” and experiment with more helpful thoughts such as “I strive for excellence.”
  • Forgive yourself and others when mistakes happen, trusting that people really do learn from their mistakes.

Mistakes happen. Give yourself (and others) permission to label mistakes as changeable behaviors rather than reflections of who you are.

Products claiming to prevent or treat Ebola

Avoid dietary supplement products claiming to prevent or treat Ebola.

At this time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved any vaccines or drugs for the prevention or treatment of Ebola. However, online advertising of some dietary supplement products makes claims that they can prevent or cure this deadly infectious disease.

By definition, a dietary supplement product cannot make a claim that it will prevent or cure a disease. FDA advises consumers to be aware that these products are fraudulent and should not be used. You can read more about these products and about Ebola in FDA’s Press Announcement. And be sure to visit the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) website to learn more about dietary supplements in general and how to choose supplements wisely.

Need to update your parenting style?

Your parenting style has an important impact on your teen’s behaviors. And it turns out that many parents change their style along the way. Learn more about different styles and changes.

You can think of parenting styles as having two key elements: control and compassion. At one end of the spectrum, you can demand a lot of your child to get him or her on the right track. At the other end, you can let him or her do whatever he or she pleases. Similarly, you can show interest, respect, and caring warmth toward your child, or at the other end of the continuum, show disinterest.

There are four parenting styles that combine these elements:

  1. Drill Sergeants: These parents are very pushy and not very warm.
  2. Warm Leaders: These parents are fairly demanding but also warm.
  3. Teddy Bears: These parents are not demanding and are very warm.
  4. Ghosts: These parents are uninvolved—neither demanding nor warm.

Why does it matter what parenting style you use? Your style not only affects how your kids are bonded with you, but your parenting style is also linked to your child’s outcome. For example, Warm Leader parents are more likely to have well-adjusted kids who have fewer behavior problems and are less likely to get in trouble.  

Parenting styles commonly change over the course of a child’s life; a change can happen because of divorce, life events, or any number of other reasons. So what happens when parents change their parenting approach?

When Drill Sergeants become Warm Leaders, parent-child bonds can improve. When Teddy Bears and Ghosts become Warm Leaders, the bond typically improves and so does behavior. But when Teddy Bears become Drill Sergeants or Ghosts, kids tend to engage in delinquent behavior. In other words, either clamping down hard or dropping out of a kid’s life after being warm but undemanding won’t help your kids become happy and well adjusted.

If you are a Warm Leader parent already, you may need to give your teen more space as he or she matures (which is developmentally appropriate), but overall, keep at it! If you’re not, consider moving towards becoming a “Warm Leader.” To do so, focus on being rational, warm, and consistent in your interactions with your teen. 

Nutrition strategies for the amputee

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
HPRC offers some tips on how to eat to improve health and prevent weight gain after an amputation.

Adjusting to life after an amputation often includes adjusting your eating habits. If your goals include improving your health, healing, and returning to your active lifestyle, then nutrition plays an important role in getting you there. Check out HPRC’s Performance Strategies for “Healthy eating for amputees,” which has tips on how to eat healthy and balanced after an amputation. 

Cultivate your motivation

Filed under: Goals, Motivation
Who doesn’t like having big things happen? But they don’t happen on their own. Learn how motivation helps.

Think of a goal that you’ve been working for lately or that you’re about to go after. How about all those New Year’s resolutions? Do you know why you want it? In other words, what’s your motivation? Do you simply love what you’re doing, or is there a reward you are pursuing?

Being clear about what motivates you can help fuel your motivation with intention. For example, if you’re a runner, maybe you love the feeling of pushing yourself hard with training runs. On the other hand, maybe it’s the end result—the accomplishment—associated with completing another marathon that’s the fuel to keep you going or even push you to the next level.

There isn’t one right form of motivation, and your motivators might be a mix of little steps and big outcomes. Remember to enjoy the steps along the way; they can make the experience more enjoyable. But sometimes remembering your ultimate goal can help you persist on days when you’re just not feeling it.

Often when you’re pursuing a goal, you’re part of a larger community, and you may find that just being involved is motivation itself because of the people you meet, the places you see, or the experiences you have along the way! It’s true what they say: The journey matters.

Add mindfulness to your total fitness arsenal

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
In the new year take a moment to bring yourself peace – and give some inner peace to others.

To start 2015 off right, take a moment to focus on your peace of mind. A great way to do that is through mindfulness. Mindfulness can provide some amazing benefits, physically and mentally. Engaging in mindfulness can be done as easily as pausing, taking a deep breath, and bringing your attention inward for a moment. This is one of the first steps in mindfulness. Next, what is your body feeling? If there’s tension, see if you can you let it go, beginning with your forehead, then neck, shoulders, spine, and legs. Then check your posture. Take a minute to stand tall and grounded, with your feet planted firmly on the floor. Continue to focus on your breath, letting your exhales be longer than your inhales.

You can practice many variations of mindfulness, in many environments! For example:

  • As you stand waiting in line somewhere, practice feeling rooted to the ground. Take a moment to imagine your legs are roots growing into the ground; lengthen your spine and breathe deeply.
  • After pulling into a parking spot, or sitting on public transport, take a moment to check in with your body and take a breath deep into your lungs. Focus on experiencing just your breath and relaxing into the ease and tranquility of a peaceful moment.
  • In the middle of your workday, set aside two minutes to close your eyes. Practice breathing in and out and just sitting in the moment.
  • When you are around children who are overly excited and “bouncing off the walls,” think of it as the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. Just take a minute or two and focus on your breathing, again taking longer exhales than inhales. These few moments may just give you that extra patience and inner calm you need to be your best.

Mindfulness can be practiced any time: while you exercise, when you eat, when you are hanging out with loved ones/friends at the end of the day, and as you go to sleep. It can be as quick as a minute or two or a more dedicated practice that is 12–20 minutes long. Mindfulness is a total fitness skill! Make a resolution this New Year to spend a few moments every day practicing mindfulness. 

What really matters to you?

Filed under: Motivation, Values
Have you considered what really matters to you? When you face adversity, remembering your core values can help lead the way to better “performances” in training, life, and even combat.

What do you value? It’s an important question to ask yourself—often.

When you figure out what matters most to you, it can help guide what you do, even when you’re at your lowest. Values help you make big things happen—and little things along the way too.

In identifying what you value, consider aspects of your life now or how you’d like it to be in terms of family, independence, adventure, stability, compassion, financial security, integrity, health, outdoors, and so on. Sometimes a key word or group of words says it all. Sometimes the essence is best expressed in a statement such as, “I am a healthy family man.”

Warfighters know the importance of values. Values are embedded in military life and center on excellence. The Warrior Ethos, for instance, helps Airmen reach and maintain an optimal state of readiness and survive the rigors of operational demands and life in the military.

When you know what you value, and you act in line with that, you experience a sense of clarity. When there’s a disconnect between what really matters to you and your behavior, however, you can either ignore it (through distractions such as drinking, drugs, video games, and reckless behaviors) or you can give yourself a gut-check and take action.

Try asking yourself these questions:

  • What do I value most?
  • Do I view each day as a chance to better myself and learn from my successes and failures?
  • Do I pursue excellence (not perfection) but act with compassion towards myself and others?
  • Do I maintain balance and perspective between work and the rest of my life?
  • Do I respect other people in my day-to-day life?
  • Are my actions in line with my values?

There is no one right set of values, and there is no one right set of answers to these questions. Whether you call it a “New Year’s resolution,” or use a different name, launch 2015 by giving yourself honest answers to these questions and staying on target with what really matters to you.

Take a moment to connect with kids

Take a moment to connect with the children in your life this year. It can have amazing benefits.

The smallest acts of kindness and caring can have powerful results for kids of all ages. With everyone so busy juggling multiple responsibilities—especially military families—it can sometimes feel as if there’s never enough time to have meaningful connections with children. But kids still need those moments. A meaningful connection can be a hug, a smile, a loving word, a compliment, or just giving them your undivided attention for a few minutes to listen to a story they are telling, to sing a song, or dance together. Feeling loved in these small moments stays with a child his or her entire life. This New Year, set an intention to make a meaningful connection with any child(ren) in your life regularly. And remember: Adults also benefit from heartfelt connections. Hug your loved ones today.

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