9 Tips for Managing Stress for Service Members

A little stress isn't always bad: it can be an effective motivator, and the adrenaline that stress creates can help improve both mental and physical performance. But too much stress can negatively affect your performance on duty, your relationships, and your physical and mental health. Fortunately, there are many ways to control and reduce stress. Learn and apply these stress-management techniques to help limit your stress, stay more relaxed and positive, and maintain a high level of performance both on duty and at home.

Take good care of yourself. Get enough sleep and exercise, eat healthfully, and be sure to drink water throughout the day.

Have a positive outlook. In addition to caring for yourself physically, try to maintain a positive, "can do" attitude to keep your stress level under control. Focus your energy on things that make you feel good to keep you from dwelling on negative thoughts.

Laugh often. Laughter is a great way to stay positive and upbeat. Watch a funny movie, share jokes with friends, and look for the humor in everyday life. Remember that you can take your military duty seriously without always taking yourself seriously.

Learn how to relax. When you feel stressed, take a few deep breaths and envision yourself in a peaceful place. You can also take a walk, listen to soothing music, or read a good book.

Make time for activities you enjoy. If you don't make time, you may never "find" the time to relax and enjoy your favorite hobbies. If you have to, block off or schedule "me time" just as you would a doctor's appointment.

Learn to recognize when you're stressed. Excessive stress can cause symptoms from neck or back pain and headaches to upset stomach, trouble sleeping, and fatigue. When you notice these symptoms, too much stress may be to blame.

Focus on the things you can control. When you do feel anxious or stressed, ask yourself, "Is there anything I can do to change this situation?" If the answer is no, try to let it go.

Get organized at home. Clutter creates stress. File old paperwork and clean out your garage, kids' rooms, etc., to sell or donate clothes, toys, knickknacks, books and other items you no longer need or use.

Simplify your life. As a service member, you're trained to be strong and stand firm. Practice this in your personal life as well and learn to say "no" to obligations and activities that will overload your schedule.

If your efforts to control your stress don't seem to be working, you might find it helpful to talk to a professional. You can get confidential, non-medical counseling from Military OneSource at no cost. More information is available at Military OneSource online or via telephone at 800-342-9647. Military and family life counselors are also available through your installation family support center.


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