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.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a condition that can result from experiencing a blow or a jolt to the head, but education and proper safety precautions can prevent many of these injuries. TBI can range from mild concussion to a more serious and debilitating condition. Every year, thousands of Warfighters and veterans are diagnosed with TBI. You might expect that TBI happens mostly during deployments because of combat exposure, but almost 80% of TBIs occur in non-deployed settings, where most could be prevented.
Here are 3 tips that can help prevent TBI:
- Put on a helmet. Whether you’re headed outside on your motorcycle, taking a springtime bicycle ride with your children, or looking to climb your next big rock, make sure everyone straps on a helmet. The helmet should be a well-maintained, approved safety device suitable for the activity and should fit properly. Helmet fact sheets are available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
- Drive safely. Motor vehicle and motorcycle collisions account for most Warfighter TBIs. Always wear a seatbelt, and secure children in appropriate safety or booster seats. Don’t drive when you’re under the influence of drugs, alcohol, medication, or lack of sleep. Talk with your teens (and anyone else who will listen) about the dangers of distracted driving.
- Prevent falls. Examine your environment at home and work, and identify possible safety risks that could contribute to falls and injuries. Clutter, wet or slippery surfaces, and the absence of safety features such as handrails along stairs can increase your chances of injury.
Education and an ounce of prevention are valuable to prevent injuries and TBI. To learn more about preventing, recognizing, and treating TBI, visit “A Head for the Future,” a Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center Initiative, or HPRC’s TBI resource section.
By cooking and eating at home, you’ll save money and prepare healthier meals, but it means you need the right tools. You can pick up kitchen basics from yard sales or thrift stores, family donations, or even when friends or neighbors downsize.
You can purchase all the kitchen basics for roughly $200–300, but compare that to the amount you might spend each year on eating out. Your pieces don’t need to be lavish or color-coordinated, only functional. Remember: Each cook and kitchen are different, so make your choices based on your habits, needs, and space. Read more...
Sleep lays the foundation for the health and well-being of service members and their families, but for many, it’s hard to get enough sleep to maintain optimal performance. Sleep loss impacts many domains of optimal functioning—whether you’re at home, at work, or on a mission. For example, trying to drive a vehicle on an empty tank of fuel isn’t a good idea, but many people routinely “operate” themselves on little or no sleep. In general, sleep deprivation can compromise your cognitive function, ability to manage emotions and handle stress, relationships with others, and physical and nutritional conditioning. Read more...
One of the most important things you can do to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is to become aware of “portion sizes.” That refers to the actual amount of food you eat at a single time. It isn’t necessarily the same as the “serving size” that you see on a food label, but especially if you’re trying to lose weight, you might want to compare. In any case, it isn’t always practical to use a measuring cup when you’re dishing up a plate of food or spreading peanut butter on your toast.
A more realistic way to gauge your portion sizes is to “eyeball” them—that is, to visually compare your food portions to a familiar frame of reference. The graphic below uses your hand as your guide to keep portion sizes in check. Of course, your hand might be larger or smaller than someone else’s, but your hand size generally equates to your body size and, as a result, your portion needs. What’s more, it’s one measuring device you’ll always have on hand.
A Warfighter’s online behavior can affect his or her military career, so it’s important to maintain a respectful online presence. According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), inappropriate use of social media can lead to punishable consequences. While UCMJ doesn’t include specific language about social media, keep in mind that general punitive codes might be applied to harmful conduct online.
Examples of online conduct unbecoming of service members are often made public through news and media. There’s no reasonable expectation of privacy on social media forums, where actions and behaviors can be witnessed by others—and subsequently reported for disciplinary action. Remember: Service members are never off-duty when representing the country and those who honorably served before them. Social media use comes with both benefits and dangers to consider as well. Young service members have grown up with social media as a constant presence in their lives, while older generations still might feel like they’re navigating unchartered territory. It can be difficult to recognize what constitutes a punishable offense. Posting derogatory comments about superior officers, disparaging the president and other government officials, and commenting inappropriately with offensive, discriminatory, or racist language are all punishable offenses.
Current events have inspired many to share their views and engage in discussions about what matters to them. The guiding principle for appropriate behavior should be rooted in the honor and respect deserved by the uniform. Warfighters represent the best our country has to offer, and their online conduct and etiquette always should reflect high standards.
Visit the DoD Social Media Hub for updated policies and links to social media portals for each service branch. And learn more about behavior that’s punishable by UCMJ:
- Article 88: Contempt toward officials
- Article 89: Disrespect toward superior commissioned officer
- Article 91: Insubordinate conduct toward warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer
- Article 133: Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman
- Article 134: General article
Posted 13 March 2017
Family meetings help streamline communication and increase closeness with your loved ones. Use these times to get together, discuss important topics, and listen to each other. These meetings can be helpful if you need to talk about an upcoming problem or situation your family is facing. Your family also can discuss upcoming events, decide on any preventative actions you’ll take, and agree on how you’ll manage things. In addition, the meetings can clear up confusion and ensure everyone understands expectations and action plans.
During family meetings, you might talk about house rules, upcoming family vacations, or changes to your family structure. Or you might settle ongoing disputes between siblings. Invite all family members to participate and gently encourage them to come, but don’t demand attendance. Establish a productive meeting space and consider the following tips to make sure your family meetings are effective.
- Set a specific time and location. The time should work for everyone, and the location should be convenient and conducive to good conversations.
- Establish an agenda. Ask family members in advance what they’d like to cover during the meeting. As you identify topics for discussion, remember your agenda will drive the length of your meeting. Hold shorter meetings—about 10–20 minutes—when younger kids are present too.
- Get everyone involved. All members should take on a role, even little kids. Decide who will be the leader, note taker, and timekeeper. Rotate responsibilities at each meeting.
- Take turns talking and listening. Set some guidelines for how the meeting will run, including how everyone will communicate. Speak one at a time, use “I” statements, and practice good listening skills.
- Encourage participation. Ask for everyone’s opinions and ideas when problem-solving or brainstorming. Enabling all family members’ voices to be heard helps build cohesion in your family unit.
- Write down your plan of action. Once your family decides how you’ll work towards achieving your joint goal, write things down and post the information where everyone can see it.
Family meetings are successful when kids learn effective problem-solving skills and everyone in the family feels heard. Get your loved ones together for your first family meeting this week!
Posted 13 March 2017
Family meetings are important for maintaining communication and cohesive relationships with your loved ones. The environment in which you hold these meetings is just as important as what you talk about. Creating a safe, comfortable, and productive space will help your family get the most out of your meeting times. Just like office meetings, everyone should pay attention, stay involved, feel included, and be respectful too. Before you call your next family meeting, consider these tips to set up a productive meeting space.
- Minimize distractions and ban devices. While some people think they’re good at multitasking, research suggests otherwise. So, turn the TV and other devices off. That includes phones, tablets, and video games. This will help ensure that everyone is focused on the issues at hand.
- Set a comfortable room temperature. A room that’s too hot or too cold can be a distraction. And it can take away from the focus of your meeting.
- Make sure everyone has eaten. It’s difficult to focus when your stomach is growling. Hold family meetings after mealtimes or eat snacks beforehand, so your loved ones don’t get hungry when it’s time to talk.
- Set up effective seating arrangements. Make sure that everyone has “a seat at the table.” Everyone should be visible—not sitting off in a corner or behind other family members. This will help ensure that people are engaged and involved in your conversations.
It might take a few tries to figure out the best environment for your family meetings. Still, be flexible and open to trying new things to get the most out of your time together.
“Spring forward” isn’t just for your clocks! It’s the perfect time to ramp up and renew your health and wellness habits and practices, so you can perform your very best. Make sure to turn your clocks one hour ahead on Sunday, March 12, to mark the start of Daylight Saving Time for much of the continental U.S. Although you lose an hour of sleep, here are 6 ways to leverage the longer periods of daylight and spring your “performance” forward.
- Reset your sleep habits. Adjust your bedtime gradually in 15-minute increments each day leading up to the time change. For example, if your bedtime is 10 p.m., try going to sleep earlier the week before so that you can handle the time change when it arrives. And take naps to help make up for any sleep debt. If you’re not fully adjusted when Sunday arrives, remember that it’s okay to use naps to adapt to your new schedule.
- Make the most of mornings. The impact of the hour of sleep you lose will be temporary, but you can plan carefully to minimize its effects. The good news is you’ll be waking up to brighter skies, which can help you feel more alert and awake. Try to start your day with a few minutes of mindfulness meditation or yoga. Or simply set intentions for how you’ll approach your day.
- Change up your exercise routine. You adapted your exercise routine for the winter, and now is a good time to switch things up. Take a look at your current routine. Are there different activities you can try to test the boundaries of your physical fitness and improve your strength, endurance, and skill?
- Head outside. The warmer temperatures and longer days mean more opportunities to connect with nature. Exercising outdoors can calm your nervous system, help you recover from stressful events, and improve your overall well-being.
- Reevaluate goals. Your mind loves clear markers in time, such as adjusting the clock forward, to signal new starts. Review the goals and resolutions you set for yourself at the start of the year and use the after action review (AAR) process to conduct a quarterly assessment. Adjust or set new goals accordingly.
- Spring clean. Mess causes stress. Refresh and renew your home, but don’t stop at the ceiling fans and baseboards. Clean out your pantry and refrigerator and make space for new spring vegetables and fruits to boost your diet. Toss or donate unused items and clothing to unclutter your physical environment too.
Maintain optimal performance and make the transition smoother with these tips. For more information on sleep and performance, visit HPRC’s Sleep Optimization page.
Girls might be at greater risk of concussion—also known as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI)—than boys, so it’s important to recognize their symptoms and seek medical help. Female high school and college athletes report more concussion symptoms than their male counterparts. In addition, their reported symptoms are more severe and last longer than what boys experience.
In sports, a concussion can happen from hitting another player, ball, or surface with your head. It causes a disturbance in brain functioning and can lead to a number of symptoms, including headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, and sensitivity to light or noise. In addition, you might feel foggy, have difficulty concentrating or remembering things, or feel confused about recent events. You also might feel irritable, sad, or nervous. While concussions can happen in any sport, they’re most likely to occur in football, soccer, rugby, basketball, and hockey.
It’s not clear why girls experience more concussions than boys. Girls are more likely to report symptoms, whereas boys tend to keep their concerns to themselves. So it might be the case that boys and girls are concussed at the same rates, but girls report their injuries more often. Hormone levels and blood flow differences in the sexes also might contribute to the rates of concussion among girls. For girls who have entered puberty, hormonal changes experienced along with their menstrual cycles might impact the severity of concussion symptoms. It takes longer for a girl to be symptom free after her concussion, and that might be due in part to where she is in her menstrual cycle.
If you have a daughter, take steps to prevent her from experiencing a concussion. If she is diagnosed with an mTBI, she’ll need “brain rest” to recover. She also should limit reading, homework, and screen time. And consult with her doctor to make sure that concussion symptoms resolve and she’s medically cleared before she returns to play her sport.