Commentary by TXARNG Counselors Renee Senn, LCSW and Tracy K. Ward, LPC
"I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained
and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills."
Excerpt from Soldier's Creed
After the holidays most of us find ourselves with some additional weight and tighter clothes... two "signs" that our physical body needs a little tune-up and a little extra attention. An important aspect of being a service member is to maintain a level of physical fitness and a readiness to serve. Knowing you have Army physical standards and a PT test increases your awareness of your body and physical fitness level.
The Soldier's Creed emphasizes that soldiers maintain not only their physical toughness to serve but also their mental toughness as well. How do soldiers measure their mental toughness or know when it needs some attention?
A mental fitness tune up is needed when you BEGIN to:
- lose sight of Army values
- pull away from family and friends
- smile less
- laugh less
- drink more alcohol
- smoke or increase smoking
- use illegal substances
- have more arguments with those you love
- no longer engage in activities you enjoy
- skip family events
- sleep more or sleep less
- have mean thoughts toward yourself or others
- hold grudges
- feel an increase in sadness, anxiety, boredom or anger
- no longer engage in spiritual practices like attending worship services, praying, etc.
When you notice your physical body is beginning to be out of shape it is wise to make changes early. For example, making changes when the waist band is too tight, versus waiting to react when all your clothes no longer fit. The quicker you recognize the signs, create an action plan and make changes, the smoother and easier the process. This is also true for your mental toughness. Pay attention to the early signs. Notice when you BEGIN to lose sight of your Army values. Knowing your personal signs, creating a plan of action, and engaging in the plan will create quick changes to your mental fitness and decrease the chance of a crisis.
It is important to create a plan of action with lists of people, places and activities that mentally strengthen you and uphold Army values. Choose people who will tell you the truth, listen with compassion, advise you, and will help you get back on track. Choose from a combination of your friends, family members, Battle Buddies, a chaplain, a therapist or anyone who you trust and believe will have your best interests at heart. This does not include mischievous friends. Mischievous friends may be fun to be with but can lead to trouble and they may not honor Army values.
A plan should also include places and activities that replenish, strengthen and build resilience. Participate in activities that make you smile, laugh, move, talk, and engage with good people. All of these activities may strengthen mental fitness. This plan does not include long hours of video games, stressful movies and social media (each of which is shown to increase stress and anxiety).
Just as you must exercise at least 3x a week to keep up your physical fitness, you will need to make an effort to use your mental fitness plan 3x a week. That means having personal contact with good people, engaging in activities that you enjoy and going to places that increase your level of relaxation. Continuing to do this weekly will help your mental fitness and will reward you with a level of mental toughness that will serve you well in and out of battle.
Tracy K. Ward, Renee Senn and Courtney Lynch are counselors located at Camp Mabry and have made a commitment to honor and accept the physical and mental standards of the Army. At this moment they aren't willing to post their physical fitness status so watch for quarterly updates on their progress. If you need help creating a mental fitness plan or have helpful advice regarding their physical fitness progress, please contact them in Bldg 34 or at 512-782-6791.