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Kevlar for the Mind: Seven tips for reducing stress in your life

Nov. 27, 2013 - 08:46PM   |  
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Military life is stressful. When not deployed, troops are either preparing to head downrange or recovering back home. And when deployment is not a concern, countless hours are spent engaged in field training exercises, executing training schedules and numerous administrative tasks.

In light of all that, finding ways to effectively manage stress is critical.

And it doesn’t have to be complicated. Often, the most successful techniques are those based on common sense rather than some abstract psychological theory.

Here are seven simple but effective methods for combating the day-to-day stress associated with military life. If possible, do each one for a week. For those that seem to help, add them to your regular routine.

■ Take a trip to the past. Spend a few minutes thinking about positive memories from your childhood. This can spark a cascade of “feel good” emotions. If you don’t have a lot of happy childhood memories, think about positive ones from your adulthood.

■ Learn a joke. Stress has little chance of survival when it bumps up against laughter. If you have a hard time coming up with a new joke, try www.ajokeaday.com. You can get a “clean” joke delivered to your inbox each day.

■ Tell a joke. Don’t waste all of those good jokes on yourself. Share them with family, friends and co-workers. But remember to keep it clean — getting in trouble for telling an inappropriate joke in the office will bring you a new type of stress.

■ Turn off the television. If the television is on but you’re not really watching it, turn it off. Too much noise leads to stress, and life has enough background noise as it is. Plus, turning off the boob tube when you’re not using it saves energy and money.

■ Ease up ... a little bit. Service members set high standards for themselves and for others. Although meeting standards is important, every now and then, let some of the “small” stuff in your life go. For example, does the battle with your child over cleaning his room really have to be staged today?

■ Go to lunch. If you’re like most people, you’re so busy that you forget to take a few minutes to eat. Even for the busiest person, time is generally available for at least a 15-minute lunch break. Take it!

■ Leave 15 minutes early. If you always seem to be late, start leaving a little bit earlier. Nothing raises stress levels like getting chewed out for being late to formation, a meeting or dinner at home.

Bret A. Moore is a clinical psychologist who served in Iraq. Email kevlarforthemind@militarytimes.com. Names and identifying details will be kept confidential. This column is for informational purposes only. Readers should see a mental health professional or physician for mental health problems.

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