“The greatest wealth is health”
Health beyond the physical test
Through modern research, the American society is realizing that health goes beyond the normal military physical test. There is a new term, Whole Health. Whole Health includes many elements such as:
- Mental health
- Nutrition and physical wellness
- Spiritual and social connection
- Sleep and recovery
One aspect of Whole Health is mental health. Although all elements of whole health are important, this one may be the hardest to talk about. Nobody likes to admit needing a little mental health tweaking especially Active Duty and Veterans. From the first day of bootcamp we are taught, “No pain, no gain.”
According to the VA.gov Whole Health article located at www.va.gov, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind while starting your journey of “mental awareness.”
- Adopt a beginner’s mind – Be curious and open to mindful awareness practice. Try not to let your assumptions or previous experiences color your present practice. As assumptions pop into your mind, note that it is an assumption. Then curiously explore the mindful practice with an open mind. This will help you stay grounded in each moment.
- Be flexible –There are thousands of websites, exercises, and videos related to mindful awareness. This can include meditation, mindful eating, breathing exercises. Trial everything until you find a ritual that fits to your own needs. Keep in mind that this will be different for everyone.
- Allow enough time – The key to a successful journey to a healthier mind is allowing enough time for yourself to explore and expand…and to be consistent. Start with scheduling 5 minutes a day and slowly move up as you feel comfortable. If you are the “need a schedule” type then even set it for Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays so you don’t get overwhelmed.
- Be patient – Your mind will wander as you begin this practice, but this is completely normal and will get better as you continue practicing. When you realize your mind as wandered just breathe in and out and refocus.
Here are some additional resources to being your mindful awareness/mental health journey:
- Whole Health Home (va.gov)
- All it takes is 10 mindful minutes | Andy Puddicombe - YouTube
- Mental Reset in 5 Minutes - Guided Mindfulness Meditation - Calm Anxiety and Stress - YouTube
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, there are several ways to get help. You can always go to your nearest emergency room, call 911, or call the Home (veteranscrisisline.net) at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 (or text 838255).
Nutrition and Physical Wellness
Giving your body the right fuel through food and drink can be the difference between a great quality life or…well…a life filled with low energy and mood swings. Good nutrition includes EVERYTHING that you consume throughout the days. In our own terms, “How you feel today is what you ate yesterday.”
A well-balanced diet isn’t just taking a multi-vitamin once a day, but HAS to include well-balanced diet that consists of fruit, vegetables, proteins suitable for your body, and health fats. Don’t forget that hydration!
Starting or re-starting a healthy nutrition plan can be overwhelming, so in true Fleet Sheets fashion, we have done your homework for you. Here are some helpful, and free, resources and tips to get started.
Now, of course, physical movement is just as important just as nutrition. But, they go hand-in-hand. You can’t move your body well if you don’t fuel it. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to get out of shape, so if you need to restart, here are some ideas:
- Start with 3 days a week and 20 minutes each session
- Find your favorite activity which can be walking, biking, swimming, or even dancing
- Journaling to watch your progress (this can even include pictures)
- Join a free online activity forum
- There are many online to include Facebook and Bodybulding.com
Stay with it for at least 21 days as research shows that it is how long it takes to build a habit. When and if you feel 3 days a week is enough you can increase it to 5 days a week. Make sure to not overdo it or you can cause burnout and end up back at the starting point. Andddd...don't forget to make it fun! Working out doesn't have to be a bummer.
Spiritual and Social Connection
The spiritual element of whole health is not just about going to church. Spirituality is your own unique experience of whatever is greater than yourself and gives you peace as well as strength. It is important to explore what that means for you on your own terms. Here are some ideas of what spiritual health can mean (va.gov):
- Helping and serving others through community service or organizations
- Meeting challenges versus giving up
- Healing past traumas
- Practicing forgiveness
- Practicing gratitude
- Finding meaning
As Active Duty and Veterans there are often times that we can suffer from guilt, morale injury, shame, separation, meaninglessness (especially when transitioning into the civilian world). There are ways to reconnect with your spiritual anchors and here are a few ways:
- Find a group of people or hobby
- Try new (or revisit) practices
- Service Dogs for America’s Heroes - Hero Dogs, Inc. (hero-dogs.org)
- Service Dogs for Veterans Charity in NY - America's VetDogs
- K9s For Warriors - Service Dogs for Disabled Veterans
- Always A Warrior Foundation
Sleep and Recover
It seems like it’s almost a badge of honor to talk about how little sleep Americans are getting. Active Duty…well…there usually isn’t a choice and by the time we move into Veteran status it’s a habit. Adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep. Yes…7! According to American Sleep Association (www.sleepassociation.org), there are many long-term effects to a lack of sleep to include:
- Mood swings
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- Weight gain (your body needs energy somehow!)
- Shortened life length
- Lower immune system strength
So, where do you even start? First, you need to figure out how much sleep you are getting and then the quality of sleep. Most of the fitness watches nowadays have the sleep monitor option for a decent price. Although, it may not be a professional doctor…these handy gadgets are a great start. Wear your sleep monitor for a week and watch how much sleep you are getting to include the quality. Once you have an idea of where you are starting, it’s time to move on to how to improve your sleep. Here are some tips:
- Set a sleep schedule that is realistic
- Develop a pre-sleep routine that could include habits like:
- Drinking tea
- Taking a warm shower or bath
- Listening to easy music like jazz or classical
- Supplements (there are many natural supplements that can help with sleep)
- Try working out in the morning or increase your activity throughout the day so you are tired by bedtime
- Ditch the afternoon caffeine (yeah, I said it)
- Move your sugar intake to earlier in the day
- Try listening to “white noise” or “sleep music” for the first 30 minutes you hit the rack
Are you out to sea and having a hard time sleeping? At Fleet Sheets, we know all about that!
Check out relatable blogs such as:
- Sleeping on a Boat: Importance of Sleep for Health & Well Being at Sea
- How To Pick The Best Navy Rack Sheets - Fleet Sheets
- What To Look For When Buying Rack Sheets - Fleet Sheets
Just as with mindful awareness, it might take awhile to nail down your routine that works. Make sure to journal either with a notepad by your bed or using your phone.
Lastly, let’s talk about recovery.
Recovery has a few different parts to it such as relaxing and supplements.
Let’s start with supplements first. With today’s modern American diet, it is so tough to get the critical minerals and vitamins our bodies need to rebuild and it can cause chaos in our lives. Here are 8 Common Signs of Vitamin Deficiency, Plus How to Address Them (healthline.com) Deficiencies in Vitamin C, B, D, potassium, and folic acid to name just a few. If you notice that you are chronically tired or moody, it might be time to visit your doctor to get some lab work done.
The other element to recovery is relaxing. This is also another part of the American culture that seems to be taboo. How often do we hear our friends (or see on social media) about how busy they are with driving kids around, picking up a second and third job. Well guess what? IT’S NOT HEALTHY. This may also be a lifechanging habit, but start somewhere. It can be as easy as nominating Sunday evening as “relaxing and watching Netflix - Watch TV Shows Online, Watch Movies Online.” To make it more related to whole health, you could even turn it into a family and friend event and offer health snacks.
The bottom-line is that you only get one body in this lifetime. It’s time to take charge and responsibility.