Stress can be a big part of military life, no matter which branch you’re in. While we might wish our jobs or lives were less stressful, research shows that some stress at work can actually boost our performance and productivity. However, too much stress can impair mission readiness.
National Guard and Reserve members face unique challenges beyond mission demands, including balancing civilian job responsibilities and family life. Whether you’re a National Guard member mobilized for a state emergency or a reservist called to active duty, you know life can change at a moment’s notice. Connecting with support and practicing self-care can help you stay ready for missions in and out of uniform.
Signs of Stress
It’s important to find balance during challenging times. Staying connected to your support network and practicing self-care can help. However, if these challenges are starting to impact your mental or physical health, you may experience:
- 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., personal hygiene)
- Being easily bothered or having trouble controlling your anger
- Feeling overwhelmed by small tasks
- Feelings of fear, nervousness or anxiety
When you’re with your unit and focused on a mission, you likely feel a sense of connection and purpose. However, when you face challenges outside of uniform, remember that you’re not alone, either. That’s why it is important to keep in touch with members of your unit and leadership outside of military duties. As fellow service members, they may have faced similar challenges and can share how they’ve coped. Staying connected with family and friends when you’re away from home is also important. Email, social media or texting apps can help you keep in contact when calls aren’t convenient.
There are also resources you can connect with when you need support for job or deployment-related challenges:
- The Joint National Guard Employment Support Program helps you find meaningful career opportunities through its specialist network. The program also works with employers to help them support you and your family throughout the training or mobilization cycle.
- The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP) helps prepare you and your family for the deployment cycle. It equips you with resources to ensure a smooth transition pre- and post-deployment. The YRRP also takes some of the strain out of managing health care, financial, legal, education and employment benefits.
Practice Self-Care Tips to Stay Mission Ready
In the face of change and transitions, boosting your self-care routines can keep you mission ready.
- Prioritize sleep. Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Limit screen time, alcohol and caffeine before bed.
- Fuel your body properly. Try eating balanced meals and exercising regularly. Avoid drug use and self-medicating to cope with stress.
- Practice mindfulness. Add a mindfulness activity into your daily routine. Try yoga, meditation, deep breathing or journaling.
- Set daily goals. Organize your day by creating a list of your top three to five priorities or tasks. To prevent feeling overwhelmed, schedule them in your calendar or on a mobile app.
If you find the above signs of stress are starting to negatively impact your daily life and you’re struggling to cope, reach out for support. Call the Psychological Health Resource Center at 866-966-1020. You can speak with a trained health resource consultant for help accessing care in the U.S. If you are deployed or stationed OCONUS, use the Real Warriors Live Chat. It is accessible from any web-enabled device, anytime, anywhere.
Are you or someone you know in crisis? Call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (8255), press 1.
Lane, M. E., Hourani, L. L., Bray, R. M., & Williams, J. (2012). Prevalence of perceived stress and mental health indicators among reserve-component and active-duty military personnel. American journal of public health, 102(6), 1213–1220.
Gino, Francesca. (2016). Are You Too Stressed to Be Productive? Or Not Stressed Enough? Harvard Business Review.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), National Institutes of Health. (n.d.) 5 Things You Should Know About Stress.
Returning Home After Disaster Relief Work: A Post-Deployment Guide for Emergency and Disaster Response Workers. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/emergencypreparedness/resilience_resources/support_documents/postdeploy/er_disaster_workers_nmh05-0219.html
Saeri, A. K., Cruwys, T., Barlow, F. K., Stronge, S., & Sibley, C. G. (2018). Social connectedness improves public mental health: Investigating bidirectional relationships in the New Zealand attitudes and values survey. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 52(4), 365–374. https://doi.org/10.1177/0004867417723990