Surviving Stress as a Service Member

MCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --

Serving in the military as a reservist can be one of the most rewarding, fulfilling experiences of one’s life; it can also be one of the most stressful.

“Being a reservist is a unique scenario compared to active duty or civilian life,” said Raymo. “Not only do you have to put up with the stresses the average civilian faces, if tasked to deploy you have to put down everything, leave your family and take on the stresses of being in uniform on top of all that.”

Stress comes in all shapes and sizes, and from a variety of sources. Reservists often face having to put their lives and relationships on hold to serve their country, which can be a major contributor to feeling stressed.

Not every single feeling of stress is negative, however. Few individuals remember there are actually two types of stress: stress and eustress.

“There’s stress, which is feeling overwhelmed or having the weight of the world on your shoulders,” said Jeremiah Raymo, 931st Air Refueling Wing director of psychological health. “Then there’s eustress, which is what gets you out of bed in the morning, and people need that to be productive.”

On the other hand, negative stress bogs down Airmen, slows productivity and impacts the mission.

“Negative stress can have a biological impact too. Have you ever seen someone who’s overworked, under paid and always stressed? They usually look a few years older,” said Raymo. “If you’re so stressed you can’t keep your mind on the mission, you go from being an asset to a liability.”

There are several ways to keep stress at bay. The best ways to manage negative stress, Raymo said, are a healthy diet, exercise and communication with a support network.

“It’s important to build camaraderie at the lowest level so you can take care of each other. You can’t notice a coworker or subordinate’s loss of interest, irritability or lack of focus if you don’t talk to them.” said Raymo. “If stress is left unnoticed and untreated, it could become a genuine mental health concern like anxiety, depression or severe withdrawal.”

While communication with the rest of the unit can be difficult for some, social media and military resources make it easier for service members to reach out for support or learn to better manage their stress.

“The Airman and Family Readiness Center acts as a hub of resources for Citizen Airmen to reach out to,” said Tech. Sgt. Tamara Thomas, Air Force Reserve 931st Force Support Squadron NCO in charge of the A&FRC. “We assess every individual situation and provide referrals for specific resources that best fits what someone’s facing.”

Airmen and their families have access to a wide array of classes such as budgeting, parenting, and anger management that counter several common sources of negative stress. They can also be directed to Military OneSource, Family Advocacy or several other agencies depending on their situation.

“Whenever we refer someone, we make sure to bring the agency up to speed too and get their recommendation,” Thomas said. “We’re here to help with a warm transition, not just pass them off.”

For those working in a high-stress environment, taking care of one another is paramount.

“The most important thing is to get your head into the moment, whether through breathing exercises, meditation, talking it out, or anything else,” said Raymo. “Don’t think you have to do it all alone. Support systems exist for a reason.”

For more information, contact Jeremiah Raymo at DSN 743-2009 or commercial at (316)759-2009 or the 931 FSS Airman and Family Readiness center at DSN 743-2589 or commercial at (316) 759-2589.