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Tips for National Guard and Reserve Members to Manage Stress

Service Member climbing over wall

Source: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Hill/Released

Stress can be a big part of military life, no matter what branch you support. But for National Guardsmen and reservists, the stressors you and your family face are unique. You cope with the challenges of both military and civilian life, and the transition between the two can be difficult and challenging at times.  

As part of your duties, you may be stationed away from home, often making it difficult to stay connected with your family and peers. During times of transition, it is important to recognize when you feel stressed and learn ways to cope.

Recognizing the Signs

It’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress, so that managing them can be easier. Be sure to stay alert to the signs and symptoms below and have your loved ones keep an eye out too:1

  • Trouble eating, sleeping or concentrating
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Feeling disconnected from family and friends
  • Being more sensitive than usual
  • Not taking care of yourself (e.g., hygiene)
  • Easily bothered or trouble controlling your anger
  • Often confused
  • Rash behavior
  • Feelings of fear, nervousness or anxiety
  • Extreme mood swings

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, use the strategies below to help yourself cope. The sooner you take action, the more likely you will manage your stress.

Managing Your Stress

A support network can help you manage your stress. Because you may not be near your unit or an installation, it may seem like no one else understands what you’re going through. Try to surround yourself with people who love and care for you—they can listen to your concerns and help  you identify and manage stressors.

There are also actions you can take to cope with stress. First and foremost, take time for yourself. This might involve deep breathing, meditating, listening to soothing music or practicing yoga. Taking the time to relax and focus on the present will help you reframe the situation and find the positive in your life.1, 2

Other tips for managing your stress include:1, 3, 4

  • Keep a journal
  • Practice positivity – give compliments, smile and laugh more often
  • Get regular exercise
  • Eat balanced meals on a regular basis
  • Get enough sleep
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol intake
  • Maintain normal routines
  • Make a to-do list and check off tasks as you complete them
  • Avoid drug use
  • Keep an open mind

Also remember to “expect the unexpected.”4 While keeping a routine schedule will be very helpful in managing your stress, try not to get too bogged down with the details. If something does not go as expected, take a step back to collect yourself and remember that plans may not always go the way you want them to, but that’s OK.

Reaching Out Makes a Real Difference

If you or someone you know needs additional tools or resources for coping with stress:

  • Log on to Real Warriors Live Chat
  • Contact the Psychological Health Resource Center at 866-966-1020. Trained health resource consultants are available 24/7 to offer free assistance for National Guardsmen and reservists experiencing stress.
  • Contact the Military Crisis Line for 24/7 confidential support at 1-800-273-8255 or chat live

Additional Resources:

Sources:

1Emotional Wellness” Psychological Health Program, National Guard Bureau. Last accessed June 23, 2014.

29 Tips for Managing Stress for Service Members” Military OneSource. Last accessed Sept. 23, 2014.

3Stress Management” Naval Center for Combat & Operational Stress Control, Naval Medical Center San Diego. Last accessed June 20, 2014.

4Adjusting to Life After Disaster Relief Work,” National Guard and Reserve, Military OneSource. Last accessed June 23, 2014.

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