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How physiologic stress-management training can help your relationships at home

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The skills that allow one to calm the body’s physiologic response to stress can also be applied to other areas—most notably, in one’s relationships.

Being in stressful situations activates the body’s physiologic stress response, which is what allows Warfighters the ability to respond to any threat at any time. In the sports world, the stress response is associated with the adrenaline rush that pumps athletes up during competitions, and gives them the edge to win.

Unlike athletes, however, Warfighters are a select group who operate in stressful situations day in and day out. Prolonged exposure to stressful situations has been found to be harmful both physically and psychologically, unless one learns how to successfully manage one’s internal response. To that end, there are programs throughout the uniformed services that teach Warfighters combat stress management techniques. Many use a stoplight system—utlizing the colors green, yellow, and red—to teach Warfighters how to calm the stress response and bring the body back into balance, in order to give it a reprieve. Successful warfighters learn these skills and apply them in theater.

These same skills, which allow one to calm the body’s physiologic response to stress, can also be applied to other areas—most notably, in one’s relationships. The stress response triggered by external threats is the same stress response that is activated during emotionally-charged conflicts with someone you care about (although the degree of stress is different). Conflict between two people creates the same internal stress, coupled with a flood of negative emotions. The techniques learned to manage combat stress are techniques that can also help Warfighters in their personal relationships.

A recent study examined 149 couples in a 15-minute discussion about a marital conflict found that positive emotions helped couples regulate, or calm, their physiologic responses after the conversation. Interestingly, how happy the individual was with their relationship did not impact this finding. This indicates that positive emotions seem to have the ability to “undo” the physiologic arousal of conflict.

The next time you get in a fight with someone you care about, try this: stop, take yourself out of the situation, and start thinking positive thoughts—either about yourself, something else, or your partner. Notice whether you feel calmer, if your body temperature decreased, if your heart rate slowed down, and if your body moved less (we tend to move more when we are upset). You might find this to be an excellent addition not only to your combat stress strategies, but also to your positive relationship strategies.

Source: Yuan, J., McCarthy, M., Holley, S. & Levenson, R. (2010). Physiologic down-regulation and positive emotion in marital interaction. Emotion, 10(4), 467-474.

Bad eating habits: Advice to help service members eat healthier

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Bad eating habits affect both civilians and military members.



Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (DVIDShub.net) has an article on the obesity epidemic - which is a major problem in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The article reports that bad eating habits affect both civilians and military members and provides information on how service members can improve their eating habits.

Click below to access the article.

Bad eating habits: Advice to help service members eat healthier

Exercise to improve the quality of your sleep

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics

According to researchers at Northwestern University, regular exercise may improve your sleep quality and mood. They studied two groups: one that exercised four times per week for 16 weeks, and one that took part in recreational and educational activities but did not exercise. Participants who exercised reported that their sleep quality improved. They also reported fewer depressive symptoms, more vitality, and less sleepiness in the daytime. Sleep is important to good health, so stay physically active to improve your sleep quality and mood! Read HealthDay News for more details.

Include nuts and seeds in your diet


Remember to include nuts and seeds in your diet. Try them as snacks, on salads, or in main dishes. You can even use nuts to replace meat or poultry. For example, add toasted peanuts to a vegetable stir fry instead of meat. Or, add walnuts or pecans to a green salad instead of cheese or meat.

Source: Mypyramid.gov

 

Overcome difficult times using healthy coping strategies.


This new study provides evidence for health and well-being benefits as a result of overcoming moderate adversity. Healthy coping skills are essential to overcome difficult times and bounce back stronger than before. For examples of helpful coping strategies, read this fact sheet .

 

Rake leaves as part of your autumn workout


Autumn is here and so are the leaves! Rake your own leaves, or your neighbor's leaves, for a great workout. Raking is an aerobic exercise and can help strengthen your core muscles. For tips on how to safely rake leaves, read this article by Medicine.net.

 

The consequences of anger and why you should manage it


Domestic abuse, road rage, workplace violence, divorce, and addiction are just a few consequences of not managing your anger. Anger is a normal emotion that can spin out of control and destroy relationships and lives. Anger management techniques are proven ways to help change the way you express anger and will help you diffuse the negative emotions you may feel before they get out of hand.

Click here to read some of the popular tips on how to help you get your anger under control.

Choose a better granola bar

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Granola bars are great for a quick snack, but they're not all the same.

Granola bars are great for a quick, convenient snack.  Be sure to read the Nutrition Facts label to choose a bar that contains some protein and fiber, which will help you stay full longer. Some granola bars are high in sugar and fat, and also total calories. Next time you’re in a store, compare labels and look for one that has at least 4 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and less than 200 calories.

Healthy relationship conflict.

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In all relationships, conflict management is often a key ingredient for success.

In all relationships, conflict management is often a key ingredient for success. However, the old belief that the best relationships are those without conflict is being replaced with the new understanding that conflict is normal in intimate relationships. The happiest couples, come to find out, are those who manage conflict without being destructive to each other.

Interestingly, research of couples problems over time shows that 31 percent of the problems couples deal with are solvable, and 69 percent are perpetual problems - so being able to manage differences over time is key to marital happiness!

Dr. John Gottman, having studied couples for over 20 years, found that there are key ingredients for relationship happiness:

  • Having a strong friendship with your spouse.
  • Being able to manage conflict in the relationship (and knowing which problems are solvable).
  • Avoiding destructive behavior like criticism, contempt, defensiveness or ignoring your spouse.
  • Building dreams and shared meaning with each other.

For military couples in particular, the ability to problem-solve and manage conflict is key to relationship happiness. Fortunately, problem-solving and conflict management are essential ingredients for Warfighter success. Through pre-deployment training, deployment, and reset, Warfighters within each branch learn key strategies for how to manage their emotions, identify problems, develop friendships, share memories together and map strategies for optimal outcomes - all of which are skills that can help foster great family relationships.

However, while deployed, each partner can change in ways that their spouse might not be aware of (both in theater and at home). That’s why making the effort to get to know each other again (even if you've been together for 50 years) is an important part of relationship happiness over time.

Take some time to ask your partner questions like:

  • What attracted you to me when we first met?
  • Who are your best friends at this point?
  • What would you like to see happen for us in the next five years?
  • What about yourself are you most proud of?

Questions like these can help foster friendship and positive feelings between you, and keep building dreams for a happy relationship and future together.

Source: These strategies were discussed at the recent American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists conference in September. Specific ideas from Dr. John Gottman's keynote speech, as well as Dr. Robert O'Brien's workshop on "Research-based Conflict Management After Combat Trauma," were used.

Not all carbohydrate foods are equally effective

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Certain foods raise blood sugar better than others. It's important to what to eat after a moderate to high intensity mission or exercise.

As stated in the Warfighter Nutrition Guide (chapter 5) , certain foods raise blood sugar, or glucose, levels better than others. Ultimately, blood glucose from foods you eat are stored in the muscles and liver, in the form of glycogen, to supply energy for future physical activity.

The term glycemic index (GI) is used to describe how high a particular food will raise blood glucose. A high GI food is more effective for replenishing muscle and liver stores of glycogen than one with a low GI. Immediately after a moderate/high intensity mission or exercise, eat foods and beverages that have a moderate to high GI to replenish the glucose used up.

Click here for more information on the Glycemic Index.

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