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Stress can cause health, productivity issues for Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mariah Haddenham
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Airmen here are encouraged to manage their stress in order to avoid the emotional and physical effects of stress that can cause both work and health problems over a prolonged period of time.

Luis Garcia, 36th Medical Operations Squadron clinical social worker, said the effects of stress are more evident to co-workers and peers than the stressed individual, who usually won't notice the symptoms until they become severe.

"Many Airmen are in denial about their stress levels," Garcia said. "Airmen are much more likely to pay attention to the physical reactions of stress than the emotional because they mistake these signs as a mere illness they need to take care of to get back to work."

Some emotional symptoms of stress include feeling sad, restless, agitated, or sudden difficulty concentrating. Physical reactions to stress can include weight gain or loss, headaches, insomnia, exhaustion, and frequent illness.

To help people learn to combat stress, the 36th Medical Group offers "Life in Balance," a group course designed to develop stress management techniques and healthy thinking habits.
"The course also teaches the importance of decompressing from a hectic day, and taking time to do the things that you love," said Lori Naputi, 36th MDOS Family Advocacy Program education services facilitator. "However, some people don't like group settings, and for them I would recommend talking to their primary care provider about speaking to a behavioral health consultant."

Behavioral health consultants and clinical social workers, like Garcia, also focus on building healthy stress management habits, but in a one-on-one environment.

"I focus on things like diaphragmatic breathing exercises and stress decompression," Garcia said. "People forget to take pauses throughout their day just to take a deep breath. The nervous system needs these breaks in order to let your body relax. The absence of these breaks can lead to a weakening of the immune system and leave the door open for opportunistic diseases to attack the body."

Taking control of stress is both beneficial to the Airman's health, readiness, and work productivity.

"Happy, healthy Airmen are productive Airmen," said Naputi. "Once they learn how to apply stress-management skills to their daily life, they have acquired a skill that will help them for a lifetime. They will be able to handle any obstacle, from deployments to issues at home; they will be able to effectively overcome them."

Those interested in signing up for the Life in Balance course may call family advocacy at 366-5167, and those interested in one-on-one treatment may contact their primary care provider at 366-9355 for more information.

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