Webinar Focuses on Stress-Management for Veterans

By Kalee Sexton

The Veterans Sub-Committee invited Joshua Barry, an Air National Guard veteran and licensed social worker at Little Rock Air Force Base, to facilitate the webinar, titled “Do More with Less and Not Stress.”

“We live; therefore, stress happens,” he said. “Our response to it is what matters.”

Barry talked about his own experience dealing with stress, and how he didn’t recognize it at first. In 2010, he was serving as a chaplain’s assistant for his Air National Guard unit and was sent on a special assignment to the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where he was involved in the repatriation and burial of 179 fallen service members. He also met with families and other survivors to help them work through their grief.

About three months into the assignment, he began to experience regular bouts of dizziness, along with muscle tension, fatigue and difficulty sleeping. He brushed the symptoms off for a while but decided to see his doctor when he returned home from Dover.

“My doctor knew what it was right away and prescribed stress and anxiety medication. After that, life got better,” he said.

Recognizing the signs of stress, and how it affects the body is the first step to alleviating it, Barry said.

There are several healthy coping techniques for dealing with stress, including psychotherapy, praying, meditation and journaling. However, people also turn to unhealthy techniques, like overeating, alcohol and drugs. Considered “red” coping mechanisms, they can have long-term negative effects.

Barry then went through a problem-solving worksheet with participants that can help break problems down and put them in perspective. In the exercise, participants identified a problem, set problem-solving goals, described obstacles to achieving those goals and generated alternative solutions. The worksheet is a tool people can use to make a plan rather than crack under stress.

Barry ended the webinar by encouraging participants to create healthy habits to reduce stress. Having a routine, setting realistic goals and staying in touch with social supports are all ways to keep stress levels down.