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Filed under: Mind tactics

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.”

“Good” stress—Is there such a thing?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Sometimes stress can be helpful. When it is, it’s called “eustress.” Learn how to shift your view of stress.

Some intense military training, such as in the Special Operations Forces, screens personnel by ultimately selecting those who can handle extreme adversity. In fact, how you view stress can have a big impact on whether the stress you experience is helpful or not. When you have a positive interpretation of your stress—that is, “eustress”—you may feel “amped up” enough to perform your best without experiencing any negative effects.

How do you experience stress in a positive manner? Try reframing it. Your situation doesn’t have to “suck”—it can just be a challenge that ultimately helps you grow more resilient. When you use this approach, it’s easier to take on whatever comes your way instead of engaging in unhelpful practices that may just increase your stress. Learn to find meaning in what’s difficult with your word choices. Here are some examples of statements you may find helpful:

  • “Go beyond!”
  • “I can!”
  • “I am!”
  • “Makes me stronger.”
  • “For my buddies.”
  • “For good.” (Or if you are spiritual, “For God.”)
  • “Feel it!”
  • “Dig deep.”
  • “You got it!”
  • “It’s all good.”

The list goes on. Figure out what words or phrases help you switch from seeing stress as a negative to feeling it’s just another challenge to tackle.

For more information on how to handle stress, check out HPRC’s Stress Management section.

The best routines are…not routine?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Routines help athletes and Warfighters achieve their best, but rigid routines can get in the way. Flexibility and adaptation are keys to success.

Routines often help performance, and some of the world’s best athletes have scripted routines that begin with what time they wake up. This type of rigid approach can be useful when the environment is predictable. Top performers find that routines can help shift them from the stressful anticipation of how things are going to turn out to a focus on what’s most important in that moment; in other words, routines can provide an escape from anxiety. But overly rigid routines can morph a helpful tool into a superstitious or obsessive ritual. The best athletes regard flexibility and adaptation as crucial to their own, often finely honed, routines. With Warfighters, for whom crises are part of the job, the best teams are able to go “off-script” when needed in order to work together most effectively.

For more information on mental aspects of performance check out HPRC’s Mind Tactics domain.

Get the most out of your nap

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Didn’t get enough sleep last night? Learn how to nap so your mind can perform at its best.

Misinformation abounds regarding ideal nap lengths for optimal cognitive performance. You need sleep to function at your best. If you do not get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night, then napping can help. Learn more in HPRC’s Answer, “Nap to be at Your Best Mentally.”

Keep the happy in the holidays: Be a gratitude-seeker

Developing a sense of gratitude can enhance your happiness. Learn more about this skill for promoting happiness this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving! In HPRC’s series on “Keeping the Happy in the Holidays,” this week we focus on being a gratitude-seeker. Gratitude is a state of mind that that can be hard to foster in our busy lives, particularly during the holidays. This holiday season set some time aside for gratitude.

The Defense Centers of Excellence suggests some tips for cultivating this skill, including:

• Spend two minutes a day thinking about what you are grateful for,

• Write five things daily in a gratitude journal

• Look for things to be grateful for in your everyday life.

For more ideas on fostering happiness, check out HPRC’s section on Mental Resilience.

Keep the happy in the holidays: Experiment with expectations

Experiment with your expectations this holiday season and see how shifting your thinking can shift your experiences with your loved ones.

HPRC’s series on staying happy over the holidays started last week (read the first BLUF here). This week, try experimenting with your expectations in order to sail through the holidays with a smile.

If you have visions of the holidays being a certain way—with lots of fun, togetherness, love, joy, and no discord—you may feel disappointed when the reality turns out to be something else. It’s natural to feel this way, but take stock of how your expectations perhaps contributed to your disappointment. Try experimenting with different ways of looking at things. For example, think about what’s behind your holiday expectations. Is it really a happier holiday when you spend more money? Can the entire holidays be filled with fun? Can you get along with everyone all the time? Are your expectations realistic?

Afterdeployment.org describes how to foster realistic thinking and have a clearer lens to the world by focusing on what is probable instead of wasting time thinking about things that are unlikely. In other words, focus on what you can control, not what you can’t. This can be particularly helpful for your relationships.

For more ideas on enhancing your relationships, check out HPRC’s Relationship Enhancement section and, for other mind tactics, Mental Resilience section.

Keep the happy in the holidays: Shift your thinking

Start this year’s holiday season by focusing on being happy. Shift your thinking to decrease stress.

The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, but for many the expectations around the season leave them feeling depressed, lacking in motivation, feeling family friction more acutely, and on top of all of that, vulnerable to overeating. Now’s the time to shift your thinking to stay happy this holiday season. Check back every week as we present tips on how you can do this for yourself.

Tip #1: Shift your thinking to decrease stress

Realistically, it’s unlikely you can make holiday stress just go away, but you can change your response to that stress. Noticing your thoughts and emotional reactions can empower you to experience different, less-charged reactions, resulting in more positive thoughts and actions. Learn about the common thinking traps that you can get stuck in and how to reframe them. Noticing and then shifting your thinking can have a big impact on what you feel—try it out and see for yourself.

For more ideas, check out HPRC’s section on Mental Resilience.

Get SMART about setting goals

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Goals, Mind, Mind tactics
Want to train smarter? Learn this structured process for setting goals in a way that will help you reach them.

There is a structured technique to setting goals called “SMART.” It stands for “Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Relevant, and Time-sensitive.” Using the SMART technique can help you to jump in to a goal now, fuel your motivation, and help you follow through. Check out HPRC’s Answer “Set SMART goals” to learn how you can put this method to work for you.

Get into a state of flow

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
You’ve heard of being “in the zone,” but do you really know what it is? Find out what is involved in getting yourself into this optimal state of flow.

The state in which athletes perform at their best is often referred to as “the zone,” but researchers refer to it as “flow.” This experience of being completely immersed in an activity involves:

  • Clear goals and immediate understanding of whether actions are helping or hurting progress towards goals.
  • Intense and focused concentration on the present moment.
  • Merging of action and awareness.
  • Absence of self-consciousness and anxiety.
  • Time seems distorted (slow in the moment and fast retrospectively).
  • Targeting of your attention where it is most needed.
  • Challenges or opportunities feel like a stretch but still match your skill level.
  • Feeling in control and prepared to face whatever happens next.

You can experience flow in myriad ways, whether you’re engaged in combat, playing competitive sports, or raising children. Flow can’t be forced, but you can set the stage for it by learning good stress management and practicing key skills through repetition.

For more information you can use to help you get in the zone, check out HPRC’s Stress Management and Mind-Body Skills sections.

Turn on your body’s “relaxation response”

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Turn on your body’s natural relaxation response through specific techniques you can learn to do.

The “relaxation response” is your body’s counterpart to the stress response you feel during critical situations. As the name suggests, the relaxation response has a calming effect on your mental and physical state, with benefits that include less anxiety, a more positive mood, a sense of calmness and well-being, and reduced heart rate, breathing and metabolic rates, blood pressure, and muscle tension.

Sound good? You can learn how to use your body’s relaxation response for health and well-being. Various mind-body techniques such as deep-breathing exercises, guided imagery, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, tai-chi, and qigong all train you to turn this response on. Practicing these mind-body techniques has been found to help with anxiety and depression, as well as physical conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and types of cancer that are exacerbated by stress.

To learn more about mind-body techniques, check out HPRC’s Mind-Body Skills section.

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