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Your Personal Wellness— Increasing Your Resilience to Stress

Courtesy Story

111th Attack Wing

by Mark Obenour, 111th Attack Wing director of psychological health

Stress doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but a negative response, be it behavioral or emotional, can make it more likely you’ll encounter serious consequences down the road.

Moving to a new home or taking on a more challenging position at work can have many benefits; but if we choose to focus on the negatives of change we can harm ourselves with unnecessary burdens such as anxiety or depression. Ineffective ways of coping with stress may include smoking, overeating, substance abuse, relationship conflict, procrastination and social withdrawal. The below are a few ideas that will help outline an approach or “wellness plan” for dealing with common stressors in your life; therefore, strengthening your resilience;

*Develop a Healthy Support System Choose to include healthy people in your life. Healthy individuals are usually a good influence. They build us up rather than tearing us down, and they provide honest feedback, support and respect. They are often nurturing and provide stability when you’re weathering stress. If you have a choice, limit your exposure to “toxic” individuals in your life. Toxic relationships can drain your energy. Substantially challenging relationships can and will consistently stress-you-out.

*Resolve conflict with others by identifying unresolved or displaced anger Relationships are a major cause of anxiety, depression or worse. Take charge of your relationships when they’re in trouble by consulting with your supervisor, trusted counselor, minister, base chaplain, on base director of psychological health or Military OneSource.

*Practice the art of assertion — Assertive behavior is simply communicating your needs in a non-threatening manner. Ask for what you want and don’t bottle-up your resentment and frustration brought on by the behavior of others.

*Take care of yourself — Exercise, relax and vary your work and play activities. Practice relaxation strategies that don’t include the abuse of substances or other addictive behaviors. Try to avoid being a workaholic. If your friends and family tell you that you work too much—you probably do. Balancing work and play is the key to a healthy lifestyle and effective stress reduction. Learn to work, play and love in balance!

*Engage in positive self-talk — Ditch the negative internal messages you tell yourself that may include; “I’m stupid”, “I’ll never find a good partner”, “I’ll never learn this new job”, “She hates me” or “I’m not good enough…” Try to replay recurring negative messages like these with “It may take me awhile, but I’m learning this new job”, “I’m better at some things than others”, or “I’ll wait for the partner that treats me with the respect I deserve”. Simple editing or flipping the words can markedly lower anxiety and depression. It takes practice and you’re not “too stupid” to learn this powerful trick. Did I mention—try to avoid being a perfectionist? Don’t shackle yourself with the need for perfection. It creates unnecessary anxiety and sets us up for depression when we don’t meet the impossible standard of being “perfecto”.

*Manage your time wisely — Purchase a nice calendar and prioritize your daily goals, and preferably, take on one achievable project at a time. Reward yourself for your accomplishments, and know when to delegate. Knowing when to ask for help when you need it is a powerful skill, too.
Ideally, we learn to become the masters of our own emotional well-being, but there are times when unhealthy stress breaks down even the most resilient individuals potentially leading to physical illness, depression and sometimes self-harm. Know how to ask for help when you need it or when others notice behavior changes in you and offer help. Be your buddy’s Wingman and ask him or her if they need to talk to somebody or are considering hurting themselves or others. Often, they’ll welcome your concern.

The ACE acronym is a great way to remember to Aid, Comfort, and Escort your fellow service members, friends and family when you think they need help. If the need is an imminent threat to harming themselves or others, call 911 or escort them to the closest emergency room or hospital. If they become resistant or get frustrated with you, they’ll forgive you for your concern down the road.

If your own depression or anxiety is too difficult to tolerate, seek assistance before things get more complicated. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings of self-harm— you’re in the Red Zone. Get help now!

Finally, managing your own wellness is a process. Develop a personalized stress care plan. Make your life changes thoughtfully by making the easiest ones first. It’ll take some practice. Keep the changes that work and toss-out the ones that don’t. Be patient and ask others for help. Teach your children how to do the same. They’ll learn how to cope with stress by watching you.

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