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NEWS | Sept. 3, 2013

Dimensions of wellness: Mental fitness

By Airman 1st Class Victoria H. Taylor 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affiars

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is a part of a series about the different aspects of wellness. The four pillars that exercise our social, mental, physical and spiritual wellness define us. Whether it be an unconscious thought, attitude or belief, each step made can move us toward a more positive and responsible existence.
Mental fitness is significant to the well-being of every Service member. Having a strong mindset helps build resiliency, allowing Service members to manage stress arising from the unique challenges inherent in the military lifestyle.

"Mental resiliency is the ability to bounce back from everyday stressors," said Dr. Terrence Tierney, Ph.D., 633rd Medical Operations Squadron Behavioral Health clinical psychologist. "It is vital to have flexibility in the military lifestyle because of all the diverse challenges life throws our way."

For Master Sgt. Ryan McCauley, 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron first sergeant, having a healthy frame of mind is vital to be efficient in day-to-day routines.

"Having a positive attitude is essential," said McCauley. "A person who is mentally fit has a solid situational awareness, can adjust to diverse situations and has the ability to be decisive when necessary."

When faced with a mentally-straining problem, it is important to approach life in a positive, optimistic way, said McCauley. Demonstrating self-control, stamina and good character supports mental fitness.

"In my experience, a mental crisis is usually a symptom that stems from a greater issue," said McCauley. "Generally, [someone who is struggling with a mental fitness challenge] spends all of their energy focusing on what is tangible. If they just step back and start to take in all the external factors that surround them, they quickly discover what they are focusing on is not bad at all, and that there is an enormous network of support to help them."

Tierney explains being mentally unfit can also lead to struggles with suicidal thoughts.

"The risk of suicide with someone who is mentally unstable is increased due to a difficulty in dealing with life events," said Tierney. "Not being able to recognize those feelings amplifies the sense of hopelessness and helplessness."

According to Tierney, talking to others can provide different perspectives to a situation.

"Outside sources can help to see the light in problematic situations," said Tierney. "I've found that, with a lot of patients, talking it out makes them realize that it sounds a lot different than when the thought was just in their head."

Although emotions play a large part in mental fitness, having a healthy mindset is more than just having emotional balance. Some may find it hard to obtain a healthy state of mind, but once it is obtained, it needs to be exercised.

"There are many different activities you can do to keep your mind intellectually fit," said Crystal Aldrich-Jenkins, Langley Education Center counselor. "Reading books, puzzles and even listening to music all help stimulate your mind, but it must be something that you want to do."

Aldrich-Jenkins explained there are three different learning styles: visual, auditory and tactile. The Education Center offers a "What's your learning style?" test to teach Service members how to approach and absorb new information.

"You can boost your learning potential by knowing which is your primary style," she said. "You will know more about yourself and be better equipped to take on different tasks."

Service members do not have to be alone to stimulate their minds. McCauley said having a conversation with a friend or family member is a great way to keep mentally fit.

"Humans are social by nature, so when we isolate ourselves we starve ourselves from one of our basic needs," said McCauley. "Logging off the computer, leaving the phone on the counter and finding someone whom you can trust to share your thoughts and feelings with is critical."

Fitness is a core component of the life and career of a Service member, and having a healthy mindset helps drive the military way of thinking. Social, mental, physical and spiritual wellness are all concepts, which lead to a mission-ready force.

EDITOR'S NOTE: There are many resources to learn about practicing good mental fitness on JBLE. For more information, contact:

Fort Eustis Behavioral Health: 314-7558
Fort Eustis Education Center: 878-2083
Langley Behavioral Health: 764-6840
Langley Education Center: 764-2962
If Soldiers wish to learn more about comprehensive fitness, visit:
If Airmen wish to learn more about comprehensive fitness, visit:
To take the "What's your learning style?" test, visit: