Below is a guest post from our friends at SelfCaring.info. It is specifically written for Army Soldiers and those getting ready to take the ACFT. Try a few of these techniques before the Fitness test and see how your scores improve.
Everyone encounters stress in their life. It’s natural to all people, but when it gets to be too much, it can make life a lot more difficult. Research has shown that managing stress is a critically important skill. It’s associated with military men and women being able to fulfill their job responsibilities to a high degree. Whether you’re in the military, off-duty or preparing for the Combat Fitness Test, here are a few ways you can manage stress and make your life easier.
1. Focus on breathing
One article from Harvard Medical School mentions that breathing techniques can be particularly useful for relaxation in high stress situations. Practice breathing in different situations. You can practice it during your downtime, before bed, during lunch, or in other times where you have time to spare. Then when you’ve practiced it a little, try practicing it when exercising or in higher- stress situations. It can make life a lot easier.
2. Mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness-based practices including meditation have been shown in studies to be effective at decreasing symptoms of anxiety and physical markers of stress. Meditation can start off with breathing techniques, but then you can take it a step further. There are many apps and options to help guide you through meditation and make it more effective. Take a small amount of time to practice it at first, like five minutes. Then you can progress from there.
3. Sleeping enough
Not coping with stress appropriately can result in your nervous system triggering the release of adrenaline and cortisol. These are hormones, which can raise your heart rate and prevent you from getting sleep. However, sleeping enough can help you cope with stress more effectively. Make a goal to get to bed by a certain time and hold yourself to that goal. If you struggle with sleeping, start off with just a little extra sleep and see how you function. Then begin to add more hours to your sleep.
4. Healthy in, healthy out
A healthy diet can control some of the symptoms of stress, such as elevated blood sugar levels and inflammation. Put more natural and whole foods into your diet such as whole grain bread and pasta, or fresh vegetables and fruits. You can even get frozen fruits and vegetables in order to preserve them for a longer period.
5. Schedule relaxation time
Taking some occasional personal time to do something relaxing is not only a good way to help with heart-related problems such as hypertension, but can also help with mood-related disorders such as anxiety and depression. A relaxation routine can help you prepare for bed, which will help you get higher quality sleep. In the evening, do activities that relax you. This can include reading a book, taking a warm shower or bath or meditating.
6. Don’t overwork yourself
Overworking is almost a chronic issue in the military. For many people in the military, the culture of extreme diligence and work doesn’t change when they transition into civilian life. If this is a problem for you, try to cut back on work just a little bit. Remind yourself that some tasks can wait until tomorrow and that you will be OK. Schedule breaks for yourself and go for a walk. Do your work in increments so you know when to be productive and when you can relax.
Stress in the military can be different from stress in everyday life. These coping mechanisms can work for both situations. Don’t overwork yourself and remember to take breaks and relax. Eat healthy and don’t stay up so late that your sleep schedule is off. You can manage your stress as long as you take care of yourself and enjoy life.
Brad Krause graduated from college in 2010 and went straight to the corporate world at the headquarters of a popular retail company. But what started as a dream job soured quickly. After four years of working 15-hour days and neglecting his health, he decided enough was enough. Through aiding a friend during a tough time, Brad discovered his real calling-helping people implement self-care practices that improve their overall wellbeing. He created SelfCaring.info to share his own knowledge and the many great resources he finds on his self-care journey.