Everyone experiences stress at times. But when you’re part of the military community, daily events can sometimes be difficult to manage when complicated by the stress of war and long periods of separation from family and friends. Undoubtedly, service members and their families face increased demands: physically, mentally and spiritually. So what can help get you through those challenging times, whether at home or deployed? It could be your spirituality.
“When we think of the overall health and well-being of service members, we normally think of physical fitness,” said Dr. Jeffrey Rhodes, DCoE senior management consultant for performance enhancement and retired Navy chaplain. “However, the armed forces have put emphasis on a more holistic view of what we think of when we’re talking about the health of service members, which includes the mind, body and spirit.”
Spiritual fitness, one of the eight domains of Total Force Fitness, can mean different things to different people. Most commonly, it deals with the human spirit —a set of beliefs and values that guide individuals, their relationships with others and gives life meaning. Some benefits to spiritual fitness include:
- Helps service members cope with deployments, combat-related stress or injury
- Helps when service members experience “moral injuries”
- Supports service members in finding meaning and purpose in life
- Fosters unit cohesion and appreciation for the diversity in the make-up of the unit
What may come to mind for most people when they think of spirituality is a relationship with God and/or specific religious practices. For some individuals however, spirituality plays out in a variety of ways, such as a strong connection to family or nature. Whether expressed through prayer, meditation or volunteering, spirituality can help you feel connected to something bigger than yourself. It can also play a unique role in helping service members recover from and be more resilient to stressors unique to military life.
Like physical fitness, spiritual fitness must be practiced and monitored for long-term success. The Real Warriors Campaign provides tips in Boosting Resilience Through Spirituality to help you become more spiritually fit:
- Look to your leader or chaplain
- Connect with others
- Practice mindfulness
- Do mind-body exercises
- Take spirituality with you
- Be good to others
- Exercise your belief in a higher power or whatever makes the connection for you spiritually
If you want to evaluate whether spirituality in your life either supports your ability to cope with stress, or alternatively is a source of it, visit PDF: AfterDeployment and take the spirituality assessment.
Additional resources for spiritual support include: