Filed under: Wounded Warriors
When Warfighters are wounded, ill, or in the midst of a major transition, focusing on strengths can help boost confidence and morale and instill hope during recovery. Human nature makes it so that you’re already hardwired to notice the bad more than the good. When you’re struggling to get well or are in transition, it’s even easier to get stuck thinking only about deficiencies and weaknesses.
You probably have spent lots of time contemplating how you could be better. Try asking yourself any of these questions to help you think more deeply about your strengths.
- What is right about me?
- When do I feel most true to myself?
- Who am I when I’m at my best?
- What strengths do I bring to the table at home and at work?
- What do others appreciate about me?
Reflecting on your strengths can help you shine the light on your internal resources and overcome adversity. If you’re able to mobilize certain strengths—such as bravery, kindness, and humor—you might temper the impact that physical illness can have on your well-being. Managing physical or psychological illness also can give way to the development of personal strengths and resources. Using these strengths daily can prevent burnout and enhance overall satisfaction with your life.
Show your strengths: Wounded warriors likely spend a lot of time deliberating what’s wrong. Consider the benefits of also highlighting what’s right and how you can use your strengths during healing.
To take a survey about your character strengths, visit the VIA Institute on Character page. Check out the Office of Warrior Care Policy page for resources and tips to help raise awareness about Warrior Care Month too.
Adaptive sport programs for wounded, injured, and ill service members are an important part of the rehabilitation process. And the Paralympic Military Program provides Paralympic sport opportunities—including camps, clinics, and competitions—to over 2,000 athletes each year. The program also promotes mentorship, teamwork, and fellowship for its athletes, especially those starting their roads to recovery. The results are impressive too: 5 military athletes won medals at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia!
The Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also offer many adaptive sport programs and clinics throughout the country. Whether you’re looking for a new challenge or going for the Gold, the first step is getting out there and being active!
Check out the Paralympic Military Program page to learn more about adaptive sport opportunities in your community. And be sure to cheer on service members, veterans, and other Paralympians at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, beginning September 7.
Go team USA!
Returning home after a deployment can be exciting but stressful. Still, coming home might present even greater challenges, especially when a service member is injured. Explaining an injury—either visible or invisible—to your children can seem overwhelming, but there are ways to help them cope with things.
It’s normal to worry about your children’s reaction to physical or mental injuries. If possible, talk with them about their other parent’s injuries before your family reunites. Children, family dynamics, and injuries are all unique. So, keep these in mind during your talk:
- Use age-appropriate words to describe the other parent’s injury. For example, what you say to your six-year-old is different than what you discuss with your sixteen-year-old.
- Talk about what happened. Be honest when explaining the injury, how it occurred, and any expectations about recovery. Not knowing what’s going on might cause kids to imagine scary, wrong, or bad things.
- Give it time. Everyone responds differently to difficult news. Don’t force things. Be patient with your kids and yourself too. Support your children however they respond. And encourage them to share their feelings and ask questions.
- Be a role model. Children take cues from their parents. If you cope well with your service member’s treatment, your kids are more likely to as well.
- Reassure your children. They’ll want to know that even though their injured parent looks or acts differently, he or she is still the same person who loves and cares about them.
Remember: There’s no perfect explanation you can give your children. What’s most important? Talk, listen, and avoid judging their responses. And visit HPRC’s Returning Home/Reintegration and Post-Deployment sections to learn more.
This summer marks the 36th annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG). The events, co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Paralyzed Veterans of America, begin on June 27, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Registration deadline is April 15, 2016. Register early as events fill up fast. Any veteran who uses a wheelchair for sport and is eligible for care in the VA system (due to spinal cord injury, Multiple Sclerosis, amputation, or neurological condition) can participate. Need some motivation? Check out this video from last year’s games.
We’re always looking for sponsors and volunteers to help with NVWG activities—come on out and support our vets!
The 2015 Warrior Games will be held June 19–28 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. From 2010–2014, the Olympic Committee hosted the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This year, DoD has taken over organizing the event.
The Warrior Games use adaptive sports and athletic reconditioning to help service members recover, rehabilitate, and reintegrate following injury. This year’s games will feature almost 200 wounded, ill, and injured service members from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and the British Armed Forces competing in eight different sporting events. Get more information and details about this year’s exciting and extremely competitive event!
April 15th brings to mind the dreaded tax deadline. But it’s also the registration deadline for a much more enjoyable event: The 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games. The games will be held in Dallas, Texas, June 21–26, 2015. Participation in the games is open to veterans who require a wheelchair for athletic competition due to spinal cord injuries, amputations, multiple sclerosis, or other neurologic conditions. Events include air pistols, air rifle, archery, basketball, bowling, hand cycling, motor rally, power soccer, quad rugby, and more! To register and get more information, go to wheelchairgames.org/registration/. And for those of you not competing, consider volunteering. See the website’s volunteer page to learn how.
For some injured Warfighters, achieving total fitness may include assistive technology (AT). Assistive technology is any physical equipment or system used to improve or help maintain the functional abilities of an individual. There are assistive technologies for almost every disability or injury, such as communication boards, both manual and electronic; technology for vision and hearing impairments (magnifiers, talking watches, hearing aids); tools to assist daily tasks (shower chair, adapted eating utensils); adaptive sports equipment (sit-skis, sport wheelchairs, recumbent tricycles); and technologies that enable mobility (from a cane or walker to sophisticated prosthetic legs and powered wheelchairs). Driving aids and fully equipped vans are other important assistive mobile technologies. Mobile assistive technology can promote independence and increased quality of life. Even phones and apps can be used as memory aids and organization- and time-management tools for helping with traumatic brain injury and psychological health. If you’re an injured Warfighter looking at the possibility of AT (or if you just want to know more), there are many things to consider when choosing the right AT for you, including:
- First and foremost, understand your own goals, priorities, and preferences and discuss them with your healthcare team. A person’s reaction to AT is both personal and complex. You must be closely involved in the choice of your assistive technology to ensure a “good match.”
- Consider where you will be using your assistive technology (indoors or outdoors).
- Consider how you will feel about using your equipment. AT equipment shouldn’t be embarrassing, inconvenient, or cumbersome.
- Have you accepted your challenge, and are you ready to move forward? Finding a "new normal" to accomplish your goals may include using assistive technology, but you must first embrace this concept.
For those who can benefit, AT can be a big piece of Human Performance Optimization (HPO), part of HPRC’s Total Force Fitness mission.
It’s almost time for the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs! Athletes and teams from each branch of service have already qualified in their respective trials and are set to compete from 28 September through 6 October at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado. The Warrior Games give wounded service members and veterans an opportunity to compete in adaptive sports. For some, this is a continuation of their competitive careers; for others, it’s a new experience and part of the healing process. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by to cheer on the athletes—admission is free! Semper Citius, Altius, Fortius!
Not only is exercise good for the body, it’s good for the mind. The expert consensus from the International Society of Sport Psychology is that exercise can increase your sense of well-being and help reduce anxiety, tension, and depression.
For veterans coping with depression, PTSD, or other mental-health issues, sports and exercise may be a great way to relieve stress. Scientists have shown the positive benefits of physical activity on symptoms of depression in veterans. What’s more, Veterans’ Administration studies have found that physical activity—especially vigorous activity—can decrease the risk of PTSD among Warfighters. The opposite is also true: Veterans who do not engage in physical activity are more likely to experience PTSD. Several organizations specialize in physical activity and exercise for warriors and their families, but you can always try a yoga class, a family bike ride, or other fitness opportunities in your community.
Getting motivated to exercise and stay active can be especially difficult for those suffering from PTSD and depression. Here are some tips to help you get up and get out the door.
- Make a date with yourself. Put it on your calendar or set a daily alarm—whatever you need to do to remind yourself that you’ve set aside some time for you to exercise. And don’t stand yourself up!
- Set a SMART goal and write it down. Post it on your bathroom mirror, your fridge, your car dashboard—wherever you’ll see it daily to remind yourself of what you want to accomplish.
- Recruit friends or family members to help. Telling people what your goals are is a great way to stay accountable. An exercise partner is especially helpful when you need that extra nudge to get off the couch and start moving.
- Keep a journal. Record your exercise activities and how you felt afterwards. While you may not feel better after every workout, you probably will most of the time. Being able to go back and read/remember how good exercise made you feel may motivate you for the next workout.
Physical and mental rehab for wounded warriors can come in the form of an undersea adventure. A 2011 study at Johns Hopkins University looked at the effects of a four-day scuba certification class on a group of veterans with spinal injuries. The benefits noted included improved muscle movements, reduction of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, and improved sensitivity/sensation for those with certain spinal cord injuries.
Being in the water offers a zero-gravity environment that enables Warfighters to develop the confidence and ability to do activities they may not feel comfortable doing on land. There are organizations that provide scuba lessons and outings for wounded veterans and their families free of charge, such as Adaptive Heroes, Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba (SUDS), and Divers4Heroes, to name a few. Check for programs in your area and explore the great unknown!