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10 Tips to Boost Resilience in Service Members

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Resilience is the ability to withstand, recover and grow in the face of stressors and changing demands. It’s a skill that can be learned and sharpened with practice. Building flexible strength is a hallmark of resilience and necessary for recovering peak performance after stressful events.

Service members face unique stressors, which, without the flexibility to recover and adjust, may challenge their fitness for duty and ability to manage home and family life post-deployment. Here are 10 tips experts at Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury shared that if practiced may help service members better adapt and manage stressful situations:

  • Communicate regularly and effectively. Express what you think, feel or believe in a way that will help you solve problems and receive the outcome you desire.
  • Maintain positive and personal connections. When you’re challenged or stressed, sometimes it’s easier to respond successfully with the support of family and friends.
  • Avoid seeing a crisis as unconquerable. Even if you can’t change a stressful situation, you can change your reaction to it.
  • Be accepting of change. Accepting the things you cannot change allows you to focus on the things you do have control over.
  • Move toward your goals. Focus on goals you can achieve in the near future instead of focusing solely on distant goals.
  • Take positive, decisive actions. Don’t view problems as permanent. Explore actions you can take that will give you more control over a situation.
  • Look for opportunities for self-discovery. We can often learn valuable life lessons as a result of a traumatic event.
  • Nurture a positive view of yourself. Develop confidence in your ability to solve problems and learn to trust your instincts.
  • Keep things in perspective. Focus on the broader context and keep a long-term outlook.
  • Look to a hopeful future. Visualize what you want your life to be, rather than fearful of what it could be.

Becoming resilient doesn’t happen overnight. But with practice, these tips can help you take positive steps toward improving your ability to handle and overcome life’s challenges.

If you’re curious to find out how well you currently use resilience skills to cope with stress, take this self-assessment from afterdeployment.org and get additional feedback on how you can strengthen your resilience.


Comments (7)

  • Dana 28 Nov

    The ten tips to boosting resilence is great. My main concern is our soldiers confidentiality with their doctors. When they need to speak they are penalized for what they are going through in their mind. I understand how that may sound odd. Unfortunately, I have spoken to many soldiers who are unable to seek help due to confidentiality. How can I help our soldiers?
  • Mary Steinberg 28 Nov

    You will find all these positive tips and more in the practice of Integrative Restoration (iRest®) Yoga Nidra mediation. It is being offered in an increasing number of military facilities around the country for active duty and veterans. Participants at the Evanston IL Vet Center have been benefiting from this practice for over 3 years.
  • DCoE Blog Editor 28 Nov

    @Mary, Thanks for sharing. Last year, we posted a blog post from an iRest Yoga Nidra meditation instructor; check it out here: http://www.dcoe.health.mil/blog/article.aspx?id=1&postid=304. The post discusses the benefits of mind-body practices to help people cope with stress, and improve their mental and physical health.
  • Dr. James Bender, DCoE clinical psychologist 28 Nov

    @Dana, Almost any time I talk to people about mental health, someone is concerned about how service members will be treated by command if they seek mental health treatment. I routinely dealt with that problem while on active duty. A lot of people with this concern don't know that the rules related to doctor-patient confidentiality in the military are similar to those in the civilian world. Command is not generally made aware of a service member's condition, either mental or physical. There are exceptions if someone is in immediate danger or if they are written a profile. But there are limits as to how much information can be revealed. I've treated patients who were high-ranking officers with top-secret clearances, and active-duty service members who were in special operations forces, and none of them lost their job because they received treatment from me. As another option, confidential help outside the military is available via free counseling through www.militaryonesource.com. Military chaplains also must maintain strict confidentiality. Anyone can call the 24/7 DCoE Outreach Center for additional resources at 866-966-1020. The phone call is free, anonymous and qualified health resource providers can point service members in the right direction. Thank you for your interest in helping our service members!
  • wendy pincus 28 Nov

    ALOHA HOPE WE CAN WORK 2GETHER SOON. THANKS 4INPUT!
  • Jerry Nelson 28 Nov

    The problem with referring Service Members to Military One Source is they only see people with V codes. They will not treat Axis I or anyone with a psychotropic prescription. I don't understand why DOD won't open up the parameters so MOS providers can see all Service Members with any condition, provided they are appropriately trained, ie PTSD.
  • Dr. James Bender, DCoE clinical psychologist 28 Nov

    @Jerry, Military OneSource is not designed to handle serious mental illness such as Bipolar, suicidal patients and psychotic disorders. That's because these disorders require a higher level of care and more monitoring than many of the Military OneSource providers can provide. Providing good care to people with serious mental illness often requires a multidisciplinary team (several mental health care providers working on different aspects of a patient's care) as well as the option to hospitalize someone if their condition deteriorates. There are a lot of logistic and liability issues at play, as well as the difficulty in coordinating care. A single therapist working out of an individual office likely does not have access to a neurology clinic to rule out brain injury, a sleep lab to diagnose apnea, and inpatient clinic if the patient deteriorates. A military treatment facility has access to all these resources and more.

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