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Stress Management During Deployment

In the military, stress happens – and that’s not always a bad thing. We normally think of stress as something negative, but stress is actually anything that causes physical or emotional tension.

Sometimes tension can be positive. It can help us respond quickly to threats, learn new skills and master life challenges. This kind of positive stress may be uncomfortable (nervous stomach, sweaty palms or rapid heartbeat) but it helps us deal with change and build resilience.

Sometimes though, tension can be overwhelming and can lead to negative stress. Negative stress can decrease your performance, safety and well-being. During deployment, it is especially important to know the signs of negative stress and be ready with good stress management tools.

Deployment Support for Spouses

If you or your children are feeling negative stress due to your spouse’s deployment, access stress management information and resources on Military OneSource and Plan My Deployment.

Know the symptoms

Don’t ignore the signs of negative stress. It can impact not only your personal performance and safety but also the safety of those around you. These are a few of the symptoms:

  • Problems sleeping
  • Unusual irritability or angry outbursts
  • Unusual anxiety or panic attacks
  • Difficulty completing tasks or making decisions
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Signs of depression, such as apathy or loss of interest in things once enjoyed
  • Any unusual changes in behavior, personality or thinking

Ten tips for effective stress management

  1. Keep up a routine of regular meals, sleep and exercise.
  2. Watch your health. Drink plenty of water. Eat nutritious meals. Exercise and get enough sleep.
  3. Give yourself a break. Rest after stressful events. Learn about stress management essentials.
  4. Download the free Chill Drills app. This collection of audio mindfulness exercises was developed for the military community to help manage stress.
  5. Talk to others who’ve been there. You’ll see you’re not alone. Check out these short articles from the Military Health System: Service Members Share What Works for Them to Relieve Stress and Stress Relief Is an Important Element to Mental Health.
  6. Work to build trust with your unit, at home and within your community.
  7. Have a laugh. Humor can be a powerful stress reliever and can help you keep things in perspective.
  8. Address your spiritual needs. Many find strength and calm in prayer. Discuss your concerns with a chaplain.
  9. Ask for help with problems back home, or ask someone on the home front to take care of stressful issues that may arise while you are deployed.
  10. Try to see problems as challenges instead of obstacles. Take small steps to work toward resolution.

How to find help for stress

Stress is a physical reaction not a sign of weakness. If you or someone nearby is having trouble with stress, get professional support as soon as possible to speed recovery. Here are some resources for stress relief. They’re confidential, won’t affect your security clearance and are not reported to the command:

  • Contact Military OneSource. We offer confidential sessions with licensed professionals at no cost to military members and their families — and we have helped many service members work through issues, including stress management. Health and wellness coaching is also available to help you manage stress by developing better diet, exercise and sleep habits. Find out more about Military OneSource’s confidential, non-medical counseling. Or call us 24/7/365 at 800-342-9647.
  • Military and family life counselors are also available through your installation’s Military and Family Support Center.
  • Combat stress control teams are mental health professionals who support service members on site during deployment.
  • Your unit’s chaplain can provide counseling, guidance and referral on many issues during deployment.

For medical help with stress:

You may be eligible for a referral for medical counseling services in your community through a military treatment facility or TRICARE.

  • Therapy services may be available at your nearest military treatment facility or a local network provider.
  • Your primary care manager can refer you to appropriate counseling, or you may contact your regional TRICARE office.

Remember, we all experience negative stress, but it doesn’t have to run your life. Reach out, take steps, take control.

If you are in crisis, or you know someone who is, there are immediate resources available to support you or your loved ones. Contact the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat by texting 838255.

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