NORFOLK (NNS) -- October is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States, and the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) has been hosting stress management workshops twice a week throughout the entire month to educate Sailors.
The overall goal of the workshops is to promote knowledge of mental health, teach Sailors the difference between stress and anxiety and provide the tools for managing stress.
Abraham Lincoln’s Deployed Resiliency Counselor John Bellis and chaplains from the crew’s religious ministries department (CRMD) are leading the workshops, providing techniques and methods for dealing with stress.
“Stress and anxiety are often thought to be the same thing, but this is far from true,” said Chief Hospital Corpsman Jennifer Mahan, who has been coordinating these workshops since she came to Abraham Lincoln in 2016. “Stress is temporary and can be traced to an external source, whereas anxiety is internal and leaves Sailors feeling overwhelmed and hopeless.”
According to Mahan, stress does not need to be negative. It can be a motivator for Sailors, a challenge for them to overcome and improve as a result.
Bellis teaches the first part of the workshop, focusing on short-term solutions and the emotional aspects of stress management. His methods include finding small victories even in the most negative days. These can be situations such as overcoming difficult circumstances and making a difference in someone’s day.
“It’s fine to set your emotions aside to focus on the mission at hand, but you shouldn’t live life on autopilot,” said Bellis. “Take the time to realize your emotions, such as feeling thankful, helpful, worried, upset, accepting, focused and connected with others.”
Bellis provides professional, non-medical appointments and can be found in his office at 2-82-2-Q on the forward mess decks and can be reached via email at email@example.com.
“Everyone, especially military members, will face stress sometime in life,” said Cmdr. Michael Baker, Abraham Lincoln’s lead chaplain. “We must be resilient. Prepare to face stress and learn how to manage it.”
The second portion of the workshop is taught by the chaplains and is focused on the balancing of three aspects of life: physicality, mentality and spirituality.
“While being angry due to stress is fine, what isn’t fine is taking it out on someone else,” said Baker. “Burn the anger out through healthy means. Go for a run, lift heavy objects, but don’t throw a punch at someone. Also, beware of stress eating. Having a bowl of ice cream when you have a bad day isn’t bad, but be careful not to do it daily.”
Baker said Sailors need to step away from a situation and come back with a clear mind and objective point of view.
“It’s easier said than done, but a fresh pair of eyes can reveal things you can’t always see in the buzz of it all,” said Baker. “You may see the fault may not be on you, it could be from something totally out of your hands. At that point, you just have to let it go and not dwell on it.”
Finally, Baker spoke on spirituality. Spirituality refers to what gives meaning and purpose in life to humans such as philosophy, religion or a way of living.
“Whatever you believe in, your spiritual fitness is typically healthier if you practice your faith,” said Baker. “Pray, meditate or reconnect with the universe and nature. Realign yourself so you can cope with what’s happening and continue to enjoy life.”
Both Mahan and Baker speak on the importance leadership has on junior Sailors and the impact senior personnel can have.
“This is many Sailors’ first real job, their first instance of challenge and opposition,” said Mahan. “We’ve had years to adapt and overcome stress, but try to remember what it was like to be a fresh Sailor and empathize with them. A little compassion goes a long way.”
“Pass on the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired through your own life experiences so they can learn to take care of themselves on their own,” said Baker. “Also remember to continue taking care of yourselves, so your own stress won’t rub off on your junior personnel.”
Baker and the rest of the CRMD team can be called at J-Dial 6767 or emailed at CHAPS@cvn72.navy.mil.
From the newest Sailor to the Commanding Officer, stress plays a factor in every crew member’s life aboard Abraham Lincoln, but it’s that pressure that forges us into better United States Sailors.
For more news from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn72/.