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Filed under: Stress

Meditation has a lasting effect on emotions

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Need another reason to meditate? Integrating meditation into your daily routine may benefit how you process your emotions in the long term.

Researchers have long been interested in meditation and its potential benefits. A recent study found that regular meditation practice of 20 minutes a day has a lasting effect on how your brain processes emotions. This suggests that meditation could potentially help your brain handle stress, anxiety, and depression, and possibly other feelings. For those individuals dealing with relocation, deployment after-effects, chronic stress overload, recent family changes, or new training assignments, having a strategy to improve your resilience and help process the expected extra doses of emotions can be helpful.

For more information on meditation, visit the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s meditation page. HPRC will be adding a new section on Mind-Body Strategies in the near future that will give you more resources, too—so check back for that.

Reduce work-related aches and pains

Filed under: Exercise, Stress, Yoga
Not only can yoga reduce stress, it can also help to reduce the risk of those annoying aches and pains.

Many jobs involve duties that can cause minor musculoskeletal tension that builds over time until you find yourself experiencing pain. Sitting or standing for long periods of time, lifting or carrying heavy objects, and other common mission-related actions of active-duty personnel wear on the body, leading to increased risk for injury. Yoga can help to reduce this risk by improving posture, increasing energy, and stretching overused or tense muscles. If you don’t have time for yoga between work, your normal exercise routine, or family obligations, suggest sharing a quick yoga session with buddies in your unit during a break to reduce your risk for injury and help get through the afternoon. There are different styles of yoga for all skill levels.

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.

Meditation can improve pain tolerance

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
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.

How you “stress out” affects your health

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 How you react to stressful situations can impact your health in the long run.

It’s how you react to stressful situations—not the causes of stress themselves—that can affect your future health. Research has shown that people who react more strongly and remain “stressed out” longer are more likely to develop chronic diseases such as heart conditions and arthritis.

Even if you can’t control the stressful situations you find yourself in, you can learn to control how you react to them. Simple mind-body strategies such as deep breathing and cognitive reframing can help. Try some of the relaxation strategies from the Navy & Marine Public Health Center website the next time you find yourself reacting to a stressful situation and see if they make a difference.

Training Warfighters for optimal mental performance

Stress as part of combat preparation—can you take the heat?

Understanding how stress affects you both mentally and physically in high-stress situations is important for optimal performance—which is why training under stress is a central part of combat preparation. Knowing what your reactions are, when to pause and take a deep breath, how to use positive self-talk, when to recalibrate one’s physical responses, and how to recharge (sleep and proper nutrition) after a stressful event are key for being at your peak mental performance. Getting support from comrades and using appropriate humor also can help relieve stress.

Be mindful during the holidays

Stressed out by the holidays? A bit of mindfulness can help.

The holidays can sometimes be a stressful time filled with loved ones and activities. This year, try practicing one of the healthy stress busters you can find on HPRC’s website—by yourself or with your family. For example, give brief meditation a try.

You can even try this as a family: Have someone lead the meditation and give occasional cues. Note that this generally works better with older children!

For more information on strategies for stress, visit the Stress Control section in HPRC’s Mind Tactics domain.

Does your child lose sleep over worries?

School age children are often burdened with a lot of worries; more so if if one parent is deployed. Here's a simple strategy to help worrying minds.

Not being able to quiet your mind at night can be very frustrating— and it’s not just an “adult” problem. If your child has difficulty sleeping because of a restless mind, try setting aside some “worry time” during the day. Help your child create a “worry box” and personalize it through art. Children can write down their worries—each on a separate index card—and deposit the worry in the worry box. Doing this while getting ready for bedtime can be a good way to spend some quality time with your child every night. For more information on sleep strategies, visit HPRC’s Mind Tactics section.

Distract yourself from pain

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Distraction can help Warfighters cope with pain and other difficulties.

Ever notice that pain isn’t as bad when you are doing something: hanging out with friends; playing video games; taking a walk? Simply put, distraction works—sort of like having a busy signal for your brain. Distraction may not have the other benefits of exercise and meditation, but it can help you manage pain and other problems such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and anger.

A couple tips:

  • Choose healthy distractions that make your life better, such as exercise, fostering good friendships, art...
  • Don’t use too much distraction. Save it for when it can benefit you the most. If you use it too much, it loses its effect.
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