The resilient wingman - Part three

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Maj) Mark McDaniel
  • 301 FW Chaplain
(Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of Chaplain commentaries on managing stress.)

Over the past couple of months we have explored various aspects of stress especially as it relates to combat operations, multiple deployments and general increased operational tempo. The question then remains, how can I insulate myself, or build resiliency against such stresses so that I can maintain operational functionality?

One way of looking at this is with the acronym RESILIENT. Over the next several months we'll look deeper into resilience. This time around we will focus on the first letter in this acronym.

"R" stands for rest or relaxation. Proper and adequate rest and relaxation is critical to combating stress. And a lot of what our bodies do in reaction to stress starts in the brain. When a person endures prolonged periods of stress, their bodies dump chemicals into the brain which subconsciously transition us from "normal living" mode to "alarm red" conditions. After an extended period of stress these chemicals begin to degrade the emotional center of the brain called the hippocampus.

Once this happens, the fight-or-flight center of the brain, called the "limbic center," takes over and pushes the body into a vicious cycle of worry and anxiety.

How does proper rest and relaxation counter this? Adequate sleep and rest allows the body to recoup from the stressful situation and begin the healing process which reverts control of the brain back to the hippocampus.

Many returning veterans from OIF/OEF are having sleep-related issues. If you operate with less than five hours of sleep a night, you are creating the vicious cycle evidenced by worry and anxiety. Many of the individuals that I have counseled in recent years tell me that they have not slept in a number of days. Instrumental to recovery is plentiful rest. Instrumental to being able to absorb traumatic or combat related stress is a robust sleep regimen.
If you don't have six to eight hours each night to dedicate to sleep, consider prayer and meditation. These options also have been found to help alleviate the effects of stress.

In the Bible, God commands that people keep the Sabbath as a day of rest. He certainly didn't need rest Himself, so it was His way of setting an example for us to follow, and we're made with that need.
In other words, the human body has a normal and routine need for rest. We are not designed to endure prolonged periods of stress without experiencing physical, emotional and spiritual consequences. Those consequences are our body's way of telling us to take a break. So, the bottom line is - get's some rest!
Public Affairs (817) 782-5000