Take A Slow, Deep Breath…

Stress. It’s the six -letter word we’re all talking about. Military members, veterans and their families deal with it, just like the rest of us. In addition, they have the stresses that come with deployments, dealing with combat trauma, and transitioning to life back home.

Barb Benjdi is a Red Cross volunteer in the Services to the Armed Forces department who has presented workshops designed to help the military, veterans and their families cope with these situations. She now has a new took in her toolkit: Mind-Body Workshops.

During these workshops, what is known about the mind-body connection is applied in a military context. Military units can request that a Mind-Body Workshop be offered at their facility. The workshops are open to service members, veterans, spouses, and their children.

Mind-Body Workshops are not counseling or group therapy, according to Barb. This can be helpful for people who don’t want to share because what they’ve experienced seems to them to be too private or too emotional.

“[The workshop] helps them build awareness of physical and emotional reactions and allows for calmer and more reasonable responses…And they are given the tools [to deal with these reactions],” Barb said.

She said the Mind-Body Workshops are evidence-based. Stress responses and a return to a calm state are based in the various parts of the central nervous system and can be managed by the human mind. Using mind-body exercises such as those taught in the workshops can “rewire the brain,” she said.

Learning to breathe correctly is basic to reducing stress. During the first module of two modules, Barb said, a lot of the focus is on breathing. For example, participants learn to breathe from their abdomens rather than from their chests, because “if they don’t breathe correctly, they’re not going to relax.” Some of the exercises focus on holding the breath longer, taking deeper breaths, or visualizing colors while breathing.

And, she adds,” you can do the exercises anywhere.” If you’re annoyed by a slow driver, you can use a breathing exercise to calm yourself down. Learning to manage everyday stresses can prevent chronic stress.

During the second module, participants learn to use activities such as journaling, drawing, guided imagery, and biofeedback. The breathing exercises learned in the first module are also used during the second one. Participants will leave with exercises and practices that they can apply according to their own preferences.

With the addition of Mind-Body Workshops, the Red Cross continues more than 100 years of supporting members of the military, veterans and their families. To find out more about Services to the Armed Forces, visit American Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces.

You might also want to support military members, veterans and their families as a Red Cross volunteer. You can learn about this and other volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross at Volunteer with the Red Cross!


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