Medical Monday: Managing Stress Through Prevention and Coping

Illustration by United States Air Force Master Sgt. William Vance

Stress affects everyone and in the military, stress is a practically a part of the job.  Whether it’s large workloads, family trouble, financial pressure, job-related anxiety, or any other number of things, stress happens. The key is not so much in learning to live without stresses, but in learning how to deal with them in a productive and healthy manner.

DCoE Director Navy Capt. Paul Hammer kicked off the May webinar by addressing the importance of preventive strategies in managing stress.

The featured presenters echoed these sentiments in their own compelling remarks, highlighting the need to build resilience among service members facing increasingly stressful workloads and family challenges at home.

Presenters Navy Capt. Lori A. Laraway, Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Charles Benson and Air Force Col. Christopher Robinson each provided unique insights into managing operational stress and in-theater care and strategies for stress management.

 

Laraway, coordinator for the Navy Operational Stress Control Program, has managed mobile support teams to provide early intervention care to troops dealing with operational and combat stress.

Laraway emphasized the importance of providing information about coping with stress to troops before they deploy, so that they’re better prepared to care for themselves. As for leaders, Laraway pressed the need for them to receive training on reintegration issues to better support service members following deployments.

Benson, an Operational Stress Control and Readiness program psychiatrist with the 1st Marine Division, began with a look at a map of Afghanistan to illustrate how each experience differs based on location. As activity varies throughout the country, so does an individual’s perspective and reaction to combat stress.

In continuing with the theme of early intervention, Benson touched on two key strategies: have psychological health staff reach out to meet troops where they are and provide preventive outreach ahead of medical evacuations.

Troops are more likely to seek care and talk openly if they’re familiar with the staff, leaders and chaplains they can turn to, he emphasized. And when it comes to traumatic combat injuries, it is crucial to talk with troops before they leave to reframe the issue in their minds. Further, injured troops may feel guilty or not want to leave and need to be told that they didn’t do anything wrong; they need to be told they are heroes, said Benson.

Robinson, DCoE deputy director for psychological health, recently returned from Afghanistan where he served as the Combat Stress Detachment commander for Regional Command-East. Robinson emphasized that everyone is affected by combat, with some of the more common issues service members face including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep problems and chronic pain.

He also reiterated the impact of family problems on stress levels, noting that, while instant access technologies can be good, they can also lead to more arguing in troubled relationships.

You can listen to audio and download presentations from this webinar from the DCoE website. Interested in finding out what we’ll be discussing this month? Check out the monthly webinar schedule.

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