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Commentary | June 9, 2006

Time for a summer stress check-up

By Col. Deborah Bostock 1st Medical Operations Support Squadron

This is a message from your friendly family doctor. 

The thermometer hit 90 degrees this week. It’s time for the “Summer Checkup.” 

On-going deployments, staffing shortages, budget cuts? What about the lawn that needs mowing? The kids want to go to the ball game. Your spouse wants a “real” date. Are you feeling weary already? 

Now is the time to take a moment and assess how you are going to rejuvenate this summer. Whether you realize it or not, you are stressed. Stress is not necessarily a bad thing. It gets our energy flowing, the adrenaline can drive us through a crisis or a deadline. But, over time, stress takes its toll. Your mind and body need a release valve. 

Without a stress reliever, our bodies start to rebel. What is your body telling you? Are headaches plaguing you? Back pain interrupting your duty and your play? Maybe it’s insomnia. Any or all of these problems can be an indicator for stress. 

The reality is that everyone in 2006 is stressed. We need to learn to manage this reality.
Get some sleep 

Start with a good night’s sleep. Most adults need eight to nine hours of sleep, yet most Americans get seven hours or less. This “sleep debt” adds up over time, reducing our body’s ability to cope with on-going stressors. 

Keep a regular schedule of sleep. Attempt to go to bed and awaken each day at the same time, even on weekends. Avoid lengthy naps. If you have trouble falling asleep, look for things that might be inhibiting your ability to get a restful night’s sleep. Don’t exercise right before bed. Avoid anxiety-provoking activities, including list making and the late night news. Take a warm bath. Then, sleep well! 

Take leave 

Do not bank all your leave days for the future. Supervisors check on those who are in a use or lose status. Leave serves a valuable purpose of providing you a break from your daily duties allowing for rejuvenation. Go have fun, rest, relax or travel. If possible, do not check your e-mails. Turn off your cell phones (Commanders take note!) Then, you come back feeling refreshed, and ready to be productive and energized. You will have improved your own personal readiness posture. 

Get fit 

Maintaining your fitness is also a great way to reduce your stress. Find an activity that you enjoy and DO IT! Even a brisk evening walk with your kids and spouse can help get your body moving. Group activities and games are another way to enjoy time with family and friends as well as put some exercise into your life. 

Have faith 

Finding strength through your faith is also a great stress reliever. Whatever your faith background, many studies have shown that personal involvement in faith activities reduce stress and promote longevity. 

Avoid alcohol 

Alcohol in excess adds to your stress. Whether in the form of legal, relational or physical problems, alcohol makes things worse. It impairs your judgment. You take risks that you wouldn’t otherwise consider. If you think that you are using alcohol to manage your stress, consider speaking to the professionals in Life Skills. They are there for you. 

Relationships 

Make time to connect with your family and friends. Make a date with your spouse, without the kids. Call your mom or your friend from school. Kindle the connections with those that you care about. Take the kids to the ball game or Busch Gardens. They won’t wait on you forever, and the lost moments of their childhood can never be reclaimed. 

Remember the old saying, “No one ever laid on their deathbed and wished for more meetings or paperwork.” 

Now a few cautions: Use sunscreen. Wear your seatbelts. Don’t drink and drive. Be safe. Now go out and enjoy the 101 days of summer. Work hard and play hard but do it all safely. Your family doctor will thank you.