You are here: Home / HPRC Blog
RSS Feed

HPRC Blog

Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.

How TBI affects couples' relationships

A traumatic brain injury not only changes your loved one, it also changes your relationship as a couple.

When your partner suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI), changes to your relationship are likely. Both of you can experience a range of emotions as you adapt to new expectations in your relationship, but you can weather the changes. TBIs can occur without warning, and the path to recovery isn’t always clear, which can add strain to your romantic relationship. Read more...

Protect your back during your PCS

Don’t let PCS put you on profile. Make sure you’re moving properly to prevent injury during your move.

Service members and their families relocate a lot, and moving to a new home is hard enough without adding a back injury to the mix. So be mindful of how you’re lifting and moving while you’re packing up and loading up. Try these tips to help reduce your risk of injury and properly move heavier things such as boxes and furniture.

  • Warm up, just like you would before any workout.
  • Remember to keep your core tight, and use your leg muscles (rather than your back) to lift heavy objects.
  • Keep objects as close to your body as possible.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes to protect your feet from falling items.
  • Take breaks when necessary. Stretching and reassessing your mechanics can help you maintain proper posture when lifting.

The best way to prevent back injury is to strengthen your back and core muscles. You can prep for your PCS by doing exercises—such as planks, lunges, and vertical core training—that focus on these areas.

If you’re sore from all the lifting or think you might have pulled something, you can treat the pain with ice and rest—and perhaps an over-the-counter pain reliever—for the first 48 hours. Follow the MedlinePlus guidelines on how to further treat your back pain if it’s acute. However, if the pain persists, consult your doctor to rule out a more serious back problem or injury before you do any more heavy lifting. Certain yoga stretches also might relieve your pain, build your muscles, and return your back to normal function.

Read the U.S. Army Public Health Command’s “How to Safely Perform Pushing and Pulling Tasks” for more tips. And visit HPRC’s Injury Prevention section to learn more about how to protect your back. Good luck with your PCS!

Posted 11 May 2017

Lavender and stress reduction

Filed under: Anxiety, Lavender, Stress
Your sense of smell causes a variety of emotional responses. Can certain smells help you feel better?

Your sense of smell is a powerful tool when it comes to how you interact with your environment. Certain smells can alert you to danger or caution, while others can invoke feelings of relaxation or alertness. Lavender, in particular, might help reduce stress and anxiety.

The general properties of lavender oil are antibacterial, antifungal, sedative, and antidepressant among other things. While its pleasant smell might not physiologically change your stress response (that is, affect things such as cortisol, a stress hormone), it might just make you feel better. People have reported feeling less depressed and more relaxed when they inhale the scent of lavender. While this can be helpful for general anxiety, it might not be as helpful if your anxiety levels get too high.

Some also have reported that smelling lavender before bedtime helped them fall asleep more easily, wake less during the night, and feel less daytime fatigue. Next time you’re feeling stressed, try taking some deep breaths—and maybe have some lavender nearby to help. It comes in different forms such as essential oils, incense, Epsom salts, and whole herb. Find which one works best for you.

For more information about lavender, read the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health's web page. Visit HPRC’s Stress Management Strategies section to learn more about coping with stress too.

Posted 09 May 2017

Event-day nutrition strategies to excel

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Get nutrition guidance for a successful endurance event or competition. Learn how to fuel before, during, and after an event for optimal performance.

Whether you’re training for a ruck, doing mission-specific training, or competing in a marathon, you should be confident you have done everything you possibly could to prepare for this day. Hopefully, you have followed good basic guidelines for eating well-balanced meals, and you’ve consumed enough carbohydrates and protein during training, as discussed in “Daily nutrition strategies for endurance.” This second article looks at event-day nutritional strategies and event-specific preparation and follow-up to give you a performance edge. Read more...

Military kids and mindfulness

Encouraging your kids to be mindful supports their mental health. Learn how to bring mindfulness into your family.

Children can boost their mental wellness by learning and practicing mindfulness. It helps them be more aware of their thoughts and feelings “in the moment” and enables them to better manage their emotions and reactions. When children and teens accept their emotions, they can avoid becoming overwhelmed and suppressing their feelings. Practicing mindfulness can help reduce anxiety, improve performance, and build resilience. Bringing mindfulness into your family can help create calm and peaceful times together. Read more...

Security clearances and mental health—Part 2: Q21 on SF86

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Part 2 of HPRC’s security clearances and mental health series takes a closer look at the implications of responses to question 21 on your SF86 security clearance application.

This is the second and final article in HPRC’s series about misunderstandings often connected to the relationship between mental health and security clearances. Keep in mind that the trustworthiness, dependability, reliability, and good judgment of an individual matter more than the simple act of seeking care for mental health issues.

Another common myth is that you may not be granted clearance by answering affirmatively to question 21 on the SF86. In fact, answering, “yes” to question 21 on the SF86 will not automatically disqualify you from gaining or retaining an active clearance. Read more...

Security clearances and mental health—Part 1: Judgment matters

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
In this two-part series, HPRC unpacks myths about the impact of mental health care on security clearances. Learn how good judgment and your response on question 21 on the SF86 are what really matters when it comes to clearance status.

One of the biggest reasons Warfighters hesitate to seek professional mental health care is the commonly held misunderstanding that getting such assistance could impact their security clearances. Here are some basics: The existence of a psychological diagnosis or disorder will not automatically disqualify you from getting or retaining a security clearance. Almost no one has lost a clearance for having a behavioral health diagnosis. Of those who have lost clearances, only 0.04% did so for solely psychological reasons. What’s more, the simple act of meeting with a mental health professional or obtaining mental health care will not automatically result in a loss of clearance. The issue of mental health and security clearance is complex, so it’s important to clear up some common misconceptions about how mental health can impact security clearance status.

HPRC provides a series of articles about mental health and security clearances, beginning with this one on how your good judgment favorably affects your clearance status. Read more...

Save more, spend less, and reduce stress

Managing your family’s finances means balancing your spending and saving habits. Get ahead of the stress that financial strain can bring with these money management tips.

“Smart” spending and saving habits might help reduce your stress. Money issues tend to be a major source of stress for many Americans, and military families are no exception. The 2016 Blue Star Families survey results showed that financial issues are a top concern for service members and their families.

Poor money-management skills and lack of financial resources can lead to stress that spills over into your relationships, wearing you down. The good news is “smart” spending and saving can help you cope with stress and feel in control during troublesome times. Good saving habits, in particular, can help reduce financial unpredictability, which also could lower your stress. Read more...

The scoop on probiotic and prebiotic foods

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Learn how foods with probiotics and prebiotics might boost your digestive health.

Eating foods with probiotics and prebiotics might aid your digestion, so try to include them in your healthy-eating plan. Probiotics are live microorganisms (such as bacteria) similar to the healthy bacteria that live in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Prebiotics are natural, non-digestible food ingredients that promote the growth of “good” bacteria in your GI tract. Eating foods with prebiotics might improve your digestive health and enhance calcium absorption too.

Some research shows two strains—Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium—seem to offer the greatest benefits. Both can be found in probiotic foods such as kefir, buttermilk, sauerkraut, olives, pickles, miso (a soybean product), kimchi, and some yogurts and cheeses. Eating these foods might help prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotics and infections. They also might provide relief from symptoms associated with constipation, colds, allergies, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Prebiotic foods include bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, and whole grains. Top your yogurt with bananas or add asparagus to your miso soup to boost the mutual benefits of prebiotics and probiotics.

Probiotics can be found in certain dietary supplements and some skin creams too. However, the jury’s still out on whether they’re safe for long-term use, especially for people who have been diagnosed with weakened immune systems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also hasn’t approved any health claims for probiotics, so check with your healthcare provider about possible risks and side effects.

The greatest benefits from eating foods with probiotics and prebiotics occur when they’re part of a diet that includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat sources of dairy and protein. For more information about probiotics, visit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health's web page.

Posted 01 May 2017

How to breathe during exercise

Paying attention to how you breathe during exercise might boost your performance.

You probably don’t put a lot of thought in your breathing during exercise, except maybe during extra-hard workouts when you’re breathing hard. There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to do it, but some methods are more efficient and can give you an extra boost in performance. During light-to-moderate exercise, people tend to inhale through their noses and exhale through their mouths. Breathing through your nose helps minimize the number of allergens that get into your airway, warm the air before it gets to your lungs (which can be helpful in cold temperatures), and increase the concentration of oxygen in your blood. However, as exercise intensity increases, most people switch to breathing through their mouths because they can inhale more air per breath with less resistance.

Running experts suggest practicing diaphragmatic breathing (“belly breathing”) rather than shallower chest breathing (where you raise your chest and shoulders when you inhale). With diaphragmatic breathing, your diaphragm (an important muscle in the breathing process) is pushed downward when you inhale, creating space in your chest cavity. You should feel your belly expand as you inhale. It promotes greater expansion of your rib cage and lungs, giving you a fuller, deeper breath. It takes a little practice to learn how to breathe like this while you’re running, but if you lie on your back and breathe, practice yoga, or even play a wind instrument, you’ll know what it feels and looks like.

Finally, remember not to slouch when you run. Lift your torso and chest and lean forward slightly. Your running form also can affect how you breathe. Focusing on your breath can help you be mindful and aware of the activity or workout you’re doing as well.

RSS Feed