Recognizing stress and knowing how to manage it can be challenging, but several on-base health services are available to help shed light on the cause, effects and management of stress to support a healthy state of being.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, stress is defined as our body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event.
The 88th Medical Center Mental Health Clinic Director of Psychological Health and Clinical Health Psychology Maj. Michael Ann Glotfelter works with on-base medical clinics, as well as other helping agencies across the installation, to provide outreach to Airmen while addressing life challenges.
“Through training, treating and teaching, we are supporting and strengthening the well-being of the installation to ensure the war fighters are mission ready, that families are strong and that all Airmen on the installation have the support needed for optimal behavioral health,” said Glotfelter.
In addition to the health clinic, Civilian Health Promotion Services provides free health resources, education classes and awareness campaigns to help counteract the effects of stressors.
Sarah Baker, CHPS coordinator, says it’s sometimes difficult to define stress due to the many different causes, types and responses that can make it subjective.
“Some definitions of stress give only a negative effect, although in some cases, stress can be helpful and good when it motivates people to accomplish more,” said Baker.
Glotfelter says there is a growing body of research pointing to and highlighting the positive effects of stress. Some of the positive effects included faster processing speed, improved memory, enhanced recovery and immunity, increased mental toughness and stronger social bonds.
“We need to rethink stress rather than avoid it. Consider what is important about a situation that is creating stress and focus on that. The key is to not let the level of stress become debilitating. Instead, rethinking stress and connecting with the meaning and we can use stress to enhance performance!”
However, most professionals agree on the importance of knowing how to deal with major and minor stressful events so a person can act on relieving it quickly.
Stressors can stem from a variety of stimuli, such as work, school, finances, traumatic events, change or a perception that a situation is out of control.
“Stress becomes negative when it negatively impacts our performance,” said Glotfelter. “Often times, our ability to handle stress can be negatively impacted by a culmination of things that deplete our energy.”
Although stress can be short lived or even go unnoticed, it can affect your body, mood and behavior in different ways. A person may experience difficulty concentrating, low mood, increased or decreased sleep, changes in appetite, decreased immunity and increase in aches and pains. The longer the stress lasts, the worse it can be for both your mind and body.
“There is significant research to support the physical negative effects of long-term, unmanaged stress,” said Glotfelter. Socially, with increased stress we may feel more irritable with others as well desire to avoid socializing.”
According to Baker, stress management focuses on the thoughts, behaviors and actions that help each individual control his or her stress and be able to use it to live a happier, healthier life.
The CHPS office provides stress management resources to all military, Department of Defense civilian personnel and contractors who have access to the base. Health screening services, including a cardiac risk profile that measures cholesterol and blood sugar levels, are only available to current federal civilian employees.
During the month of April, CHPS will offer classes that give practical tips to improving health and stress management behaviors.
The CHPS course, Gratitude, is designed to highlight the benefits of practicing gratitude, its connection to well-being and impacts on relationships, health and work. Another course, Stress Less: Strategies to Manage Stress and Avoid Burnout, helps to define and identify stress, understand how it affects health and discuss tips on building a stress management toolbox.
“Our office provides all of these services in order to help sustain a safe, healthy, fit and ready work force,” said Baker.
The Mental Health Clinic offers weekly, skill-based relaxation class along with various relationship enhancement classes through Family Advocacy, such as Parenting with Love and Logic and Relationship Intelligence for Couples.
The weekly Pain Self-Management, which is just starting, focuses on improving quality of life despite pain. These classes are open to anyone with base access. Additionally, specific-need programming is offered throughout the year to requesting units.
“Realizing that not one size fits all, we tailor classes and education that we bring to units, taking into account the mission, the culture of the unit and the breakdown of the unit,” said Glotfelter.
All stress management classes offered are program focused on learning techniques on how to handle stress or how to use stress to your advantage.
“These are prevention-based classes, and they are meant for everyone to improve performance and well-being,” said Glotfelter.
For more information on CHPS programs, visit www.AFMCWellness.com or contact the Mental Health clinic at 257-6877 or at https://www.resilience.af.mil/.
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