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  • Just Breathe

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    Soldiers practice yoga as part of a two-week leaders' comprehensive fitness course. (U.S. Army photo by Angelika Lantz, 21st TSC Public Affairs)

    Take a moment to focus on just breathing—inhale and exhale evenly and slowly. Sometimes we don’t notice our breathing because we’re constantly on the go. We don’t think about how slowing down enough to concentrate on our breathing for just a few minutes a day, can help us relax and improve our body’s response to anxiety and stress. Real Warriors Campaign’s latest article, “Breathing, Meditation, Relaxation Techniques,” explains how daily breathing and meditation exercises can build resilience and ease anxiety, depression or reintegration stress.

    Breathing Exercises for Beginners

    Alternate nostril breathing is a good exercise to start with because it brings balance to both sides of the brain and controls the body’s reaction to stress:

    • Sit in a comfortable position
    • Close off your right nostril by placing the thumb of your right hand on your right nostril
    • Inhale through your left nostril
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  • Frontline Psych with Doc Bender: Good Nutrition Matters, Let Me Tell You Why

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    Army Spc. Logan Burnett picks out eggplant during a recent shopping trip in an effort to follow nutrition advice from his dietitians. (U.S. Army photo by Patricia Deal, CRDAMC Public Affairs)

    Dr. James Bender is a former Army psychologist who deployed to Iraq as the brigade psychologist for the 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Hood, Texas. During his deployment, he traveled through Southern Iraq, from Basra to Baghdad. He writes a monthly post for the DCoE Blog on psychological health concerns related to deployment and being in the military.

    Hello. Athletes looking for a performance edge, soldiers wanting to get through combat leadership training, people coping with mental health concerns, and those wanting an energy boost, can all benefit from the same thing: good nutrition.

    Nutrition is important for everyone, not just people trying to lose weight. There’s a well-established link between nutrition and mental health. Neurotransmitters, chemicals inside the brain that are crucial for brain functioning, are derived from food. Also, there’s a relationship between nutrition and several psychological conditions like insomnia, depression and anxiety. This does not necessarily mean that poor nutrition causes these problems; it does mean the two are related. For example, while most obese people are not depressed, obesity is associated with higher levels of depression. Therefore, eating well is often a useful adjunct to mental health treatment.

  • Deployment is Done, Now What? Easing Reintegration for Guard and Reserve Members

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    Reserve soldiers return home from Afghanistan and Iraq as they arrive at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. (U.S. Air Force photo by Carlos Cintron)

    Among the thousands of service members returning from the battlefield and adjusting to life back at home, there’s one group who will have unique challenges: reserve component members.

    “A lot of times Guard and Reserve service members come back without the support or geographic proximity of installations that are available to active-duty service members, and they’re going right back to their communities,” said Dr. Frank Gonzales, program lead for, a resource from the National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2). “They’ve been exposed to things that the general population often can’t imagine, and they’re trying to integrate into a civilian world that doesn’t have a clue what they went through,” said Gonzalez., a website that provides tips, workshops and assessments on common post-deployment concerns, and the Real Warriors Campaign offer support for reserve component members as they cope with reintegration into family life and civilian work, possible post-combat psychological health concerns, and challenges with being disconnected from military services.

  • Recovering Warriors, Spouses Share Stories of Healing at MHS Conference

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    Marine Sgt. Marshall Kennedy, with his wife Chelsie, received his second Purple Heart Medal for wounds suffered in combat at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in June 2011. (Photo courtesy of GuardOnline)

    At the Military Health System Conference, two recovering service members and their wives sat across from an audience of military health professionals. Typically, the dialogue between the two would be dominated by the latter, as they explain a treatment plan; what to expect during recovery; and how to cope. Yet this time, it was the wounded warriors and their spouses providing important information and openly sharing their personal experiences.

    During the “Experiences of Wounded, Ill or Injured Warriors” panel, I listened to Marine Sgt. Marshall Kennedy, his wife Chelsie, Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1st Class Zachary Waskel, and his wife Jamie, share what it was like to sustain an injury during combat and receive treatment, and the spouses’ challenges during that difficult time.

    “The flight to [Joint Base] Andrews was the hardest part,” said Kennedy, an amputee who was injured in Afghanistan last year when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). “It was a MAC [Military Airlift Command] flight. There were families on the plane with wounded guys strapped to beds.”

  • Heart Candy: Lessons on Relationships

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    Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps

    Remember those small, hard candy hearts that professed feelings of love and affection? They had inscriptions such as, “Be Mine,” “U R 2 Cool,” “Love” and “No Chance.” Whoops. That’s one you didn’t want; you probably threw it back in the bag and started over. In real-life relationships, we try hard not to start over. Fortunately, there are many ways we can avoid getting to the point of “no chance” if we take the time to make adjustments in how we relate to one another.

    Military couples experience extra challenges in their relationships, from deployments to reunions to finding that sweet spot again after an absence where harmony triumphs over discord. Add-in relationship complications from a spouse’s post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury and the need to communicate productively takes on another dimension.

  • Tips to Help Kick Start Your Emotions

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    Army Sgt. Danielle Breitbard and her father, Barry, share a moment during the pre-deployment Yellow Ribbon event in Knoxville, Tenn. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda Boersma)

    For most people, tapping into emotions and expressing them doesn’t involve much struggle. But individuals coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression may find such a task very hard to do. Feeling emotionally numb or disconnected from those close to you or life in general, is a common symptom of both psychological health conditions. If you’re feeling emotional numbness, there are actions you can take to improve your emotional well-being and your psychological health too.

    This blog post comes from Dr. Alex Patterson, clinical psychologist with National Center for Telehealth and Technology, a DCoE center. Patterson writes for the blog, and in his post, “Jumper Cables,” provides tips to help a person jumpstart themselves emotionally.

    Jumper Cables

    “Why can’t I feel anymore? I just want to feel something strongly, either good or bad … happy or sad.” —Veteran with PTSD

    When people think of depression they often think of sadness. When people think of PTSD they often think of anxiety or anger. In other words, people tend to associate these behavioral health issues with strong, negative emotions. What about emotional numbness? Did you know that emotional numbness is another painful symptom common in both depression and PTSD? Emotional numbness means we want to feel our emotions, but can’t.