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Posted: April 20, 2018 2:18 p.m.
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Mindfulness to combat stress

Sgt. Elizabeth White/

Pfc. Linaeja White, a healthcare specialist with Special Troops Battalion, 3rd ID RSSB, scrunches up her face during a Mindfulness Monday class at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, April 2. During this class, the Soldiers conducted progressive muscle relaxation, drawing attention to the tensing muscles then releasing them. An aspect of mindfulness is directing attention to an experience as it unfolds, whether it’s through guided meditation or muscle relaxation as they did that day.

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BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Far from home, without the established resources an Army garrison provides, Soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade look for other means to combat stress in a deployed environment.

Capt. Victoria Cashio, the behavioral health officer for the 3rd Inf. Div. RSSB, conducts weekly Mindfulness Monday classes to help Soldiers manage stress and increase overall physical, emotional and mental health.

“With stress management, we’re just teaching Soldiers different coping techniques and skills on things like progressive muscle relaxation, guided meditation and the concept of mindfulness,” said Cashio.

Mindfulness uses meditative practices to direct someone’s attention to their experience as it unfolds and to be present in the moment. Using these techniques helps to improve thought processes, feelings and performance. 

“We’re teaching Soldiers how to be present in the moment through various activities,” Cashio said. “From something as simple as taking a walk outside and noticing the things you see, down to a more formal practice of mindfulness, which is meditation.”

Each week, Cashio walks Soldiers through the mindfulness class and then goes into free meditation, utilizing what they’ve learned in the class. 

“For a lot of people, like me, this is our first deployment and we’re not used to working seven days a week,” said Pfc. Linaeja White, a healthcare specialist with Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Inf. Div. RSSB. “Mindfulness Monday is a helpful way to take a midday break so that Soldiers don’t get overwhelmed.”

Not only do these Soldiers work every single day, they also live under constant threat. Couple this with the distance from family and resources, it is no wonder that a lot of Soldiers feel overwhelmed. 

White believes that Soldiers get stressed from working long hours and weeks, with little chance for breaks.

“You don’t realize how tense you are,” she said. “And during the class you can just let it go.”

Along with tobacco cessation and sleep hygiene classes, stress management is central part of behavioral health resources on Bagram Airfield provided by the RSSB.

“Here, in a deployed environment, we don’t have other resources such as Army Community Service, so we’re trying to do more of the preventative mission,” said Cashio. “We’re allowing Soldiers to take time away from their work day to relax, rejuvenate and take that little break to hopefully help with productivity and decrease burnout and stress.”

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