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Open Ranks: Handling stress in the service

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christopher Burris
  • 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron
Whether it's your first deployment or your tenth, stress is always an issue military members and their families have to overcome.

After raising your right hand and taking the oath, you volunteered to accept a new way of life. No one promised it would be easy; in fact, there is a reason that only 1 percent of Americans currently serve in the Armed Forces.

To tell you the truth, most can't handle the pressure or stress. We endure more than most and are asked to leave at a moment's notice to travel wherever the mission dictates.

Money, relationships, promotion, family, supervisors; these are all things that could raise our stress levels. We try to make sure we keep a good handle on all of them - but sometimes it's seems like it's too much, and we have to step back, take a deep breath, and assess the situation to find a solution to what's bothering us.

How do you do it?

Maybe it's a nice jog or maybe it's a quiet drive? Whatever it may be, you know it works and that's what is important. We must be able to effectively manage our stressors in order for us to perform at our maximum potential.

For our young Airmen who have not had the pleasure of attending ALS yet, we are taught about different types of stress: eustress and distress. These differ from one another in that one is positive and one is negative.

I know what you're thinking, how can stress be positive? Take adrenaline for example. For your body to produce more adrenaline, something out of the ordinary has to happen. If you are walking from your dorm and a snake slithers past you, more than likely your heart will beat fast, you'll be extremely focused, and you'll be excited. This is not outside of our coping realm, however; it's still considered a stressor.

Distress however, is just the opposite. Distress decreases our performance, feels unpleasant, and can lead to mental and physical ailments. It is important to us as supervisors and wingmen to understand these different types of stress so that we may be able to lend assistance to a fellow brother or sister at arms should the need arise.

I encourage all of you to sit down with your Airman for at least a couple of minutes a day and sincerely ask them how they are. For those who aren't supervisors, I challenge you to find someone you don't normally talk to or hang out with and do the same.

At the end of the day, we are all here together working towards one common goal. Our mission will succeed, our people will make it work, and there is no doubt about that. What we need to focus on is how to ensure our Airmen are taken care of both physically and mentally.

Some of you might say that "Oh, well he doesn't know me" or "He doesn't know what I've been through." You're absolutely right, I don't. Each one of us has led different and exciting lives that have made us who we are today.

What I do know is it hasn't been easy no matter where you have come from or what you have experienced. That's what makes each one of us unique and I for one wouldn't change it.

When it's all said and done, we'll be back home with our families doing what we enjoy. We might be watching our kids play t-ball, or our dogs fetch a ball we had thrown for them. Whatever the case may be, in order for us to be happy we must learn how to combat stress.

Deployments are just temporary, they come and go. What matters most are the ones back home. We have an obligation to them as well. We cannot come back to them after our tours here with discontent, malice, or resentment in our hearts. It just won't work. We must learn to process our stressors so we can enjoy the time that really matters.