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Progressive Muscle Relaxation—A great total-body skill!

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Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a way to relieve the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety—read on to learn how to relax!

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a way to relieve the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety that show up as tense, aching muscles. This mind-body practice helps you consciously release muscle tension so that you’re able to function throughout the day and relax during downtime. Using PMR, you learn to release tension and develop deep relaxation by actively tensing and then relaxing the muscles throughout your body. The outcome: You can train your body to relax on command. Check out the description of how to do PMR in the Controlled Response handbook section of the OSOK Total Force Fitness program.

For more information on relaxation strategies, check out the Stress Control resources in HPRC’s Mind Tactics domain.

Five simple strategies for sticking to your goals

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New Year’s Day is behind us, but it’s never too late to revisit your resolutions or make new ones. These simple strategies can help you reach your performance goals.

If you’re looking to get healthier, stronger, more energetic, or less injury-prone, setting goals can help you achieve this type of optimal performance. Use the American Psychological Association’s five tips for “Making your New Year's resolutions stick“ regardless of the time of the year.

  1. 1. One at a time. Doing everything at once can lead to burnout. Tackle one issue at a time by breaking your goals into pieces to build on.
  2. 2. Start small. Pace yourself to go the distance. You may be eager to get started on your performance goals, but start with manageable goals and build up to the more challenging ones.
  3. 3. Share. Talk about your goals and progress with family and friends, as they can be your biggest supporters. It may also help them understand what you’re trying to accomplish and might interest them enough to join you.
  4. 4. Ask your buddies. Getting help is a sign of strength. It can help reduce the stress of trying to achieve your goals. If you know you are struggling with one aspect of your goal, the best thing to do is seek out advice and support. Use resources such as HPRC's Mind Tactics to get accurate information that can help you progress towards your goals.
  5. 5. Don’t strive for perfection. Perfection, if not impossible, is an ever-moving target. Don’t waste your time chasing it. Performance optimization is about being at your best, not achieving perfection. How you recover from mistakes matters—don’t abandon your goals. Learn from your mistakes instead and get back to your goals.

For more information on how to become the best that you can be, check out the HPRC’s Performance Strategies: Ten Rules of Engagement for performance enhancement.

Make the grass greener on your own side of the fence!

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"The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be."-Robert Fulghum, author & essayist

"The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be." – Robert Fulghum, author & essayist

Don’t waste time hoping for a better situation; make the best of wherever you find yourself and plan to be successful while you’re there using the resources you have. Whether you have performance goals of enhancing your physical fitness, becoming stronger mentally, bolstering your spirit, eating better, or enhancing your relationships, make sure that your “tools” are in good condition and ready to be used at any time. This can be particularly helpful if you (or your loved one) are on TDY or deployment because you can carry your performance-enhancement tools within you and employ them when needed.

For ways to sharpen your tools for Total Fitness (resilience and performance enhancement), check out the One Shot One Kill performance enhancement program to be prepared no matter where you are. Or if you have specific performance areas you want to strengthen, check out the other domains of HPRC’s website: Physical Fitness, Environment, Nutrition, Dietary Supplements, Family & Relationships, and Mind Tactics.

Accident prone? Get some sleep!

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When it comes to reducing your risk for accidents and enhancing your performance, sleep is one tool that has comprehensive benefits!

Did you know that missing a night of sleep can produce performance results similar to those of being legally drunk? Even losing just a few hours of sleep can result in accidents and poor physical and mental performance. Sleepiness can inhibit balance, coordination, concentration, and response time—creating “the perfect storm” for accidents.

Make sure your sleep is optimal by turning off your electronics and other distractions well before bedtime, exercising during the day, avoiding caffeine late in the day, and sticking to a consistent sleep schedule. If you are in a situation where sleep is hard to come by, try to squeeze in naps when possible. For more information and ideas, check out HPRC’s article on sleep and visit HPRC’s Sleep Optimization resources.

Reframe your thoughts for peak performance

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Interpreting things for the worse can really hold you back. Learn how to limit this habit so you can achieve optimum performance.

The way you interpret what other people say and do affects your performance as a Warfighter. Sometimes you may interpret things in faulty or unproductive ways called “thinking traps.” They can significantly damage your ability to reach your full potential. However, there are methods you can learn and use to develop alternate thoughts that promote productive and positive thoughts—a process is called “cognitive reframing”—that will lead to optimum performance. Learn about how to do it in HPRC’s Performance Strategy on how to “Reframe your ‘thinking traps’ for peak performance.”

Virtual reality: game or treatment?

Virtual reality isn’t just for entertainment anymore—its applications include use by the military to treat symptoms of PTSD and other combat-related injuries.

Virtual reality was first introduced as a therapy tool for people with anxiety disorders such as phobias, but it is now used for a wide range of conditions, from PTSD to childhood ADHD. In fact, it recently warranted its own symposium at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where experts exchanged ideas on the current state of research.

Virtual environments used in therapy sessions are created for the individual’s needs—for example, a noisy classroom for a child with ADHD, the re-creation of the 9/11 attacks for a firefighter or police officer, or “Virtual Iraq” for a soldier. “Virtual Afghanistan” is the newest creation and is already being used to help service members overcome PTSD. Active-duty men and women are gradually brought back to their traumatic event using the virtual world as the therapist provides verbal cues to facilitate the healing process.

With a view to mitigating future need for therapy, a series of episodes is currently being created to provide pre-deployment “Stress Resilience Training for Warfighters.” The goal is to help reduce the risk of PTSD and better prepare warriors for actual scenarios they will encounter in theater.

For more information about how to prevent and manage stress, visit HPRC’s Stress Control section.

Don’t let anger control you

Mad at your spouse, your kids, a friend? It’s okay, but you also need to know how to manage that anger so it doesn’t damage your relationships.

Anger is a normal feeling. It’s also inevitable that the people you love will at some point make you angry. Instead of letting your anger control you, however, find out how to control your anger. Managing your anger is important for both yourself and your relationships. Afterdeployment.org has handouts with information on anger and anger management, common myths about anger, tips on how to use timeouts to manage anger, and how to create an “anger control plan.” For strategies on how to further enhance your relationships, visit HPRC’s Overall Family Optimization Skills section.

Meditation can improve pain tolerance

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Recent research indicates that meditation may help you deal with pain and related anxiety.

When you’re in pain, any relief is welcome. The good news is that researchers have found pain can be managed and alleviated, to a degree, by employing strategies that have you put your focus elsewhere. Meditation is one such strategy. A recent small study examined the experience of pain from fourteen experienced meditators and fourteen inexperienced participants. It turns out that the old adage is true: Practice makes perfect. The experienced meditators experienced pain to a lesser degree and got used to the pain more quickly. They also registered less anxiety than the unpracticed participants. The message? Practicing meditation regularly may improve how your brain handles pain.

For more information see the write-up on the University of Wisconsin's news page or the research article.

And tune in again later for HPRC’s new section in Total Force Fitness on pain management—coming soon.

Online tool for triumphing over difficulties

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There’s a new website for Warfighters and Veterans that can help you face and overcome life’s challenges – especially useful for the upcoming holiday season.

With the holidays upon us, the number of problems that you have to solve might be kicking up a notch or two. A Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs initiative, Moving Forward, has a website that gives you tools for “overcoming life’s challenges.” As you encounter challenges this holiday season, give their module a test run—it takes you through a step-by-step process for solving problems. They suggest:

  1. Define the problem and set goals
  2. Come up with alternative solutions.
  3. Pick one solution
  4. Put your solution into action and analyze the outcome.

HPRC’s website also has useful information on stress management.

Performance Quote: Thinking on the bright side

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
"Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” - Lou Holtz, NFL & NCAA coach

 

“Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” - Lou Holtz, NFL and NCAA coach

Identifying the differences between these three things—ability, motivation, and attitude—is very important to performance optimization. Assessing your ability to perform a task is where optimization starts. Whether or not you feel like doing something when the situation calls for you to perform, motivation will power you to complete the task. Finally, having a positive attitude about your performance and how things turn out can make the difference between simply getting the job done and performing optimally.

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