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MIGHTY CULTURE

This newly discovered planet gives Tatooine a run for its money

Planet: LTT 1445 A b

The discovery: This overheated planet, about 1.4 times as big around as Earth, has a sky that one-ups Star Wars’ Tatooine – three stars instead of two. It is one of 12 recent discoveries just added to NASA’s Exoplanet Archive, and was found by a Harvard Center for Astrophysics team using data from the TESS space telescope.

Date: July 26, 2019


Key facts: Likely a rocky planet, LTT 1445 A b takes only five days to go once around its star – a “year” on this world, which is about 22 light-years away from Earth. Its scorchingly close orbit helps explain why its surface basks in temperatures on the order of 320 degrees Fahrenheit (160 Celsius) – comparable to a preheated oven.

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A newly discovered exoplanet, LTT 1445 A b, orbits its parent star tightly; that star, in turn, orbits two others, making a three-star system. The arrangement is not unlike that of our nearest exoplanet neighbor, Proxima b, also with three stars in its sky, as shown in this artist’s rendering.

(ESO/M. Kornmesser)

Details: While the planet itself remains in what is probably a stable orbit around its star, that star also orbits, at greater distance, two sibling stars that are locked in close orbit around each other. This isn’t the first three-star system to be found with at least one planet. Our nearest stellar neighbor, in fact, is Proxima Centauri, orbiting the more distant pair, Alpha Centauri A and B. Proxima is only 4.25 light-years away from Earth. In orbit around it is Proxima b, a small, probably rocky world that takes an estimated 11 days to circle its star.

Fun facts: All three stars in the LTT 1445 system are red dwarfs, cooler and far longer-burning than larger yellow stars like our Sun. The planet also is the second-closest discovered so far that “transits” its star – that is, the orbit of LTT 1445 A b is tilted at the correct angle to, from our vantage point, pass across the face of its star. The “transit” observing method allows space telescopes like TESS to detect planets orbiting other stars by the shadows they cast – the tiny dip in starlight as the planet makes its crossing.

The very nearest transiting planetary system so far discovered is HD 219134 bc, about 21 light-years away.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The weird psychology behind why fights help people bond

Let’s not sugarcoat it — fights suck, and they do not inherently help people bond. But couples can become closer after a fight if they dedicate time to finding their way out of an argument productively. “Fighting does not help people bond. Solving problems with mutually satisfactory solutions helps people bond,” marriage and family therapist Tina Tessina told Fatherly. Psychologist Linda Papadopoulos elaborates on the theme of productive fighting: “For more dominant couples, conflict is often an immediate release of tension, which enables both parties to get their feelings off their chests and feel like they are being heard,” she says.

“Often once the heat of the moment has passed, they feel closer to one another as a result.”


Studies have shown that fights can make friendships stronger by helping both parties understand one another’s triggers, and that arguments among colleagues can actually facilitate bonds in the workplace. But the bulk of the research focuses on conflict in romantic relationships. One survey of 1,000 adults found that couples who argue effectively were 10 times more likely to report being happy in their relationships than those who avoided arguing altogether. Another study of 92 women found that those who reported the highest levels of relationship stress still experienced strong feelings of intimacy, as long as they spent time with their significant others. Taken together, the literature suggests that fights do not make or break a relationship — but that how a fight is handled, both during and after the spat — makes all the difference.

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(Photo from Flickr user Vic)

Fights are healthy when they address issues as soon they happen, or shortly thereafter, and involve parties ultimately taking responsibility for the problem and resolving to change their behaviors in the future. There are curveballs, of course. Arguments about money and sex are generally the hardest on marriages, and personality differences can make fighting effectively more of a dance than anything else. “Arguments between confrontational and passive people will tend to make the aggressor angrier and the more passive person anxious and upset,” Papadopoulos warns. “To combat this, both need to remain aware of how their actions appear to their other half and watch their body language and tone.”

It’s important to note that relationship fights fall on a spectrum, and a heated yet productive conversation about shared finances is far different than a knock down, drag out scene from The Godfather. In extreme cases, fights can constitute abuse, which is never a healthy part of a relationship. And even shy of abuse, studies suggest that vigorously arguing in front of your children can hinder their ability to bond with others.

Tessina recommends couples be especially careful about recurring arguments, which are less likely to be opportunities to learn and grow as a couple, and more likely a sign that healthy communication has broken down. “When this happens, problems are recurrent, endless, and they can be exaggerated into relationship disasters,” Tessina warns. Ultimately, everyone involved suffers. “If you have to fight before you get to solving the problem, you’re wasting time and damaging the good will between you.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These 6 VA careers are perfect for transitioning veterans

From diagnosing and treating patients in high-pressure situations to working with complex medical technology, former military healthcare workers are uniquely equipped to care for others. While these skills make an incredible asset to the civilian medical field, at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it takes on even more meaning. VA has careers, tied to specialized skill sets, where former military healthcare workers can heal and care for fellow veterans.

People trained in the healthcare field are in high demand all across the country. But VA understands veterans perhaps better than any other employer. It’s why VA goes beyond offering premium-paid health insurance and robust retirement plans. Veterans employed by VA enjoy education support through veteran-focused scholarships, professional development opportunities and special accommodations to make the workplace fully accessible.

These six VA healthcare jobs are perfect for former military members.


1. Intermediate Care Technician

After active duty, it may be difficult to find a civilian healthcare position that allows you to apply military training without additional licenses and credentials. But through VA’s ICT program, former military medics and corpsmen can work as healthcare providers at VA medical centers (VAMCs) and continue their medical training, skills and career.

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Intermediate Care Technician Paul Singleton, a former Army medic who now works in the JJP Bronx VA emergency room, is known for his ability to put his patients at ease.

Although emergency room positions are highest in demand, ICTs are also needed in mental health, geriatrics, primary care and surgical services.

2. Health Technician

Professionals working as Health Technicians at VA provide diagnostic support duties and medical assistance to VAMCs and specialty clinics. In an emergency setting, many of the duties performed by this role mirror that of a paramedic and align closely with the experiences of military corpsmen.

3. Nursing Assistant

Nurses play a crucial role at VA. They work across disciplines and treatment settings with a medical team to provide integrated care for veterans under their watch. Day in and day out, they make a difference in the lives of veterans and their families through their patience, empathy, and care.

Nurses can start a post-military career at VA as a Nursing Assistant and take advantage of the special education support programs VA offers to earn the degrees and certifications necessary to become a Licensed Practical Nurse or a Registered Nurse.

4. Physician Assistant

Physician assistants provide primary care and preventative care as part of a medical team that includes nurses, physicians and surgeons. A physician assistant examines patients, offers diagnoses of conditions and provides treatment for veterans at VA under the supervision of a physician.

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Dr. Angel Colón-Molero, Orlando VA Medical Center Deputy Chief of Staff, discusses procedures with VA Physician Assistants Aji Kurian and Mario Cordova at the VA’s Lake Baldwin campus.

5. Physician

With access to cutting-edge technology and pioneering research opportunities, physicians at VA lead the charge in veteran care. Their work includes primary care services and specialty medicine. Physicians at VA are given great latitude to develop solutions that improve patient outcomes. Physicians have special insight into VA’s patients and can thrive in this environment.

6. Physical Therapist

At VA, physical therapists make a huge impact in veterans’ quality of life. They increase mobility, reduce pain and restore independence through physical rehabilitation, wellness plans and fitness programs. Physical therapists help veterans understand their injuries so they can enjoy mobility benefits, long-term health and a high quality of life.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Ministering to spiritual needs on the front lines of COVID-19

Over the past few months, our lives have radically changed in ways both large and small. From how we go about our weekly errands to how we socialize with our wider communities. Social distancing has quickly brought to the forefront just how intrinsic human interaction is to our mental and emotional well-being.

As is always the case in times of crises, we can find hope in the examples of resilience and adaptability shown by people across the country. To see how this crisis is bringing people together in solidarity, you need only look at the selflessness of our health care workers and essential-service employees.


Beyond the physical and emotional tolls, these uncertain times have naturally affected our spiritual and religious lives, as well. Our new reality of social distancing affects weekly services, prayer and support groups and even religious holy days.

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Spiritual Labyrinth at Nashville VA Medical Center.

Comprised of 775 men and women, VA Chaplaincy tends to the spiritual needs of Veterans and VA staff across the VA health care system. Their primary role is to provide advocacy and spiritual support for VA patients.

The photo above is of the South Texas VA chaplain staff in 2017.

Chaplaincy turns to communications platforms

VA Chaplaincy, like other aspects of VA, has been challenged to think-outside-the-box, be innovative and be creative in the manner of providing spiritual care.

Like many of us, VA’s chaplains have turned to various communications platforms to connect with the people they serve. Using video conferencing tools and VA Video Connect, chapel services, group meetings and other interactions have continued largely uninterrupted.

By broadcasting services, many chaplains have even noticed a rise in attendance. More people are attending virtually than could physically fit in the hospitals’ chapels.

Chaplains in the Central Texas Health Care System began sending out “daily devotionals.” These short messages of hope and encouragement are sent via email throughout their health care system.

“The responses have been so overwhelmingly positive,” said Chaplain Byron Singleton. Singleton is chief of chaplains for the Central Texas Health Care System. “Those daily emails are circulating to active duty U.S. military personnel around the globe.”

Oftentimes, our spiritual, emotional and mental well-being are far more personal, rather than based in a broader community. With social distancing in place, families can no longer visit their loved ones in hospitals. Chaplains routinely facilitate video calls with patients’ families, wearing the necessary PPE, of course.

Chaplains call every Veteran at high-risk for self-harm

In San Antonio, chaplains have gone out of their way to individually telephone every Veteran in their health care system who may be at high risk for self-harm. They check on Veterans and offer any assistance they might need. Chaplain Kerry Haynes, chief of Chaplain Services at San Antonio VA: “A simple phone call seems to lift their spirits and remind them they are not alone.”

This personal touch isn’t just for VA patients. Chaplains, who routinely support clinicians on their rounds, also have begun to hold daily meditations for VA staff at the beginning or end of their shifts. This provides a moment of calm in their busy days.

These are exceptional times. Now more than ever, we need to remember that compassion and empathy are indispensable. We’re all in this together, and together we will persevere.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Marine veteran Dan Duitsman, Camp Valor Outdoors

Previously in episode 152, Borne the Battle’s guest was Denise Loring from Camp Valor Outdoors. She gave a brief overview of the nonprofit, Camp Valor Outdoors – which included the competitive shooting program. Camp Valor Outdoors’ shooting team competes in professional matches all over the country.


CMP National Matches at Camp Perry Promo

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This week’s interview is Dan Duitsman. He is a Marine veteran and Camp Valor Outdoors’ Shooting Sports Program Director. His role is to get disabled veterans into competitive shooting – no matter the disability.

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Camp Valor Outdoors Shooting Team at the Civilian Marksmanship Program Nationals, Camp Perry, OH.

(Photo Courtesy of Camp Valor Outdoors Facebook Page)


While in the Marine Corps, Dan worked in security forces, counterintelligence and the infantry. Prior to his role at Camp Valor Outdoors, he was a weapons instructor with the U.S. State Department. In this episode he talked about his career, his transition, the recreational-therapeutic benefits of the shooting and how to get involved in Camp Valor Outdoors’ shooting program.

2019-11-20 Full Committee Hearing: Legislative Hearing on HR 3495 and a Draft Bill

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This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How and when to tell a job you might be PCSing

Are you PCSing soon? Or is a PCS in the works? While it can be hard to tell exactly when you might be leaving before hard orders are issued, in the military world, it’s pretty much a given that you will be leaving. If not anytime soon, then soon after that.


It’s just a part of the lifestyle.

Why it’s a Potential Setback

As a military spouse who works as a civilian (but tied to military schedules and locations in “normal” careers), PCSing can throw a wrench right into your plans. Before you can promote, before you can achieve seniority … or just as you get settled, it’s time to move. That means finding another job, and wondering if you’ll have your frequent moves held against you.

But how do you tell your current job you’re PCSing? And when?

Look at Your Work Relationship

This is a tricky situation; there are horror stories of spouses suddenly being laid off once orders arrived. Don’t fall victim to this scheme. Consider the type of relationship you have with your current company and let it guide you. Do you get along well? Is there a hostile corporate environment where the competition is high?

Technically, you do not owe anymore more than two weeks of notice before you leave. But in most scenarios, it’s courteous to let your employer know when you’ll be leaving town 1) so they can start looking for a replacement and 2) you can be a part of the training process. OR secret option 3) you can start working with them on a remote position setup.

If you have a good relationship with work and get orders well in advance, tell them. Talk about possibilities for staying on, and what the change might look like. However, if you’re genuinely worried about getting the boot, keep mum. Your work is not owed any personal information, especially when you fear that sharing will hurt your income.

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Staying on Remote

A growing option among military spouses is the ability to work for a single company remotely. With easier online access and accountability, telecommuting is not only viable as a long term career, it’s cost effective.

Bring up this move to your boss; go in with a plan so they aren’t worried about logistics. Talk about your hours, your workload, and how you’d love to stay on with them well into the future. Help your chances by including stats on remote work, platforms that can help keep everyone on track, and even savings that are in it for the company but not paying for an additional office seat.

Of course, the biggest perk to working as a remote employee is that your company gets to keep you. They don’t have to train a new worker or start over with brand nuances or expertise. Play up your specialties for a solid sell.

How To Drop the News

There doesn’t need to be anything formal about sharing military orders. A simple, “Hey we’re moving to Texas!” Or “Colorado will be seeing us soon.” Remember to drop in all the hard details, as well as the ones you don’t yet have. For instance, when you’re moving, how long you’ll be there, what it means for your availability, and any specific report times.

There can be light at the end of the tunnel by letting your current job know you’re moving, and when. Consider current working relationships and how that can plan into future moves for all involved, including the possibility of remote work.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 stress resources vets can use right now

As a veteran, you might experience difficult life events or challenges after leaving the military. We’re here to help no matter how big or small the problem may be. VA’s resources address the unique stressors and experiences that veterans face — and we’re just a click, call, text, or chat away.


Seven mental health resources veterans can use right now:

1. Just show up to any VA Medical Center.

Did you know that VA offers same day services in Primary Care and Mental Health at 172 VA Medical Centers across the country? VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has made Same-Day 24/7 access to emergency mental health care the top clinical priority for VA staff. “It’s important that all veterans, their family and friends know that help is easily available.” Now, all 172 VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) provide Same-Day Mental Health Care services. If a veteran is in crisis or has need for immediate mental health care, he or she will receive immediate attention from a health care professional. To find VA locations near you, explore the facility locator tool.

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(Photo by Tim Evanson)

​2. Make the Connection.

Make the Connection is an online resource designed to connect veterans, their family members, friends and other supporters with information and solutions to issues affecting their lives. On the website, visitors can watch hundreds of veterans share their stories of strength and recovery, read about a variety of life events and mental health topics, and locate nearby resources.

​3. Veterans Crisis Line.

The Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring VA responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, and text messaging service. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

4. Vet Centers​.

Vet Centers provide community-based counseling for a wide range of social and psychological services, including confidential readjustment counseling, outreach and referral to eligible veterans, active duty service members, including National Guard and Reserve components and their families. It offers individual, group, marriage and family counseling. And you can get a referral and connection to other VA or community benefits and services at no cost. Vet Center counselors and outreach staff, many of whom are veterans themselves, are experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief and transition after trauma.

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SFC William Petit hugs his children at a deployment ceremony for the HHD 210th Military Police Battalion, Michigan Army National Guard.

( MIARNG photo by Staff Sgt Helen Miller)

5. ​Coaching Into Care.

Coaching Into Care provides guidance to veterans’ family members and friends on encouraging a veteran they care about to reach out for mental health support. Free, confidential assistance is available by calling 1-888-823-7458, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, or by emailing CoachingIntoCare@va.gov.

6. ​Veteran Training online self-help portal.

The Veteran Training online self-help portal provides tools for overcoming everyday challenges. The portal has tools to help veterans work on problem-solving skills, manage anger, develop parenting skills, and more. All tools are free. Its use is entirely anonymous, and they are based on mental health practices that have proven successful with veterans and their families.

7. AboutFace.

AboutFace features stories of veterans who have experienced PTSD, their family members, and VA clinicians. There, you can learn about PTSD, explore treatment options, and get advice from others who have been there.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of April 12th

There was a study conducted recently by the CDC and the Delphi Behavioral Health Group that concluded that the U.S. Military beats out literally every other profession in days per year spent drinking. If you roughly equal out the days spent with the total number of troops, that puts us at 130 days on average, compared to the 91 day average for every other profession.

And, I mean, it makes absolute sense. No other profession has a culture around drinking like the military. It’s not “drunk like an interior designer” or “drunk like a software developer.” Toss a bunch of them into a barracks with nothing to do but drink after a long and stressful day, and you’ll see their numbers rise too.

So raise a glass, folks! I’m damn sure we’ve managed to keep that number one position since 1775 and won’t let go of it until the end of time!


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(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Check out the Air Force’s new podcast ‘Blue Grit’

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

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(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

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(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

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(Meme via United States Veteran’s Network)

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(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales, meme by Justin Swarb)

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(Meme via ASMDSS)

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(Meme via Private News Network)

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(Meme via Army as F*ck)

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(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

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(Meme by Pop Smoke)

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(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Check out the Air Force’s new podcast ‘Blue Grit’

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam

For a lot of years I’ve listened to my friends and the people I served with talk about their trips back to Vietnam. It was interesting to hear, but I was never prepared to spend the time or effort to do so myself. Most importantly, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go back.

Then I met Jason in 2015 and we began what has become an interesting and lasting friendship. One of my early questions to him was, “so you make rucksacks, shirts and pants – but what about the most important thing for rucking – the boots?” His answer was, “we’re in the process, how about you getting involved?” That set the hook and the rest is history. Jason established a strong team to design and oversee the making of the boots – Paul (who is the ultimate shoedog), Andy (the marketer and A-1 video guy), Jason himself (a rucker with SF credentials), and to my honor included me (an earlier generation SF guy).


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The factory that builds the boots is in Saigon, Vietnam and in February of 2017 Jason asked me if I would accompany the team on its first trip to Vietnam to visit the factory and “wherever else I wanted to go.” I wasn’t sure what to expect and after some thought I accepted his offer. I was very interested in seeing what had happened in Vietnam since my departure 45 years before.

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I’ve had a coping mechanism for all of the traumatic events in my past – I simply put them in a large wooden box with iron straps around it in my head, and I take them out at my leisure – to deal with as I see fit. Now I was going to have to face them head on. Luckily, the team I mentioned above was there every step as we moved to several locations I had been to previously, each one triggering memories of a time past. It all began at Tan Son Nhat Airport seeing the customs officials dressed in what I knew as North Vietnamese Army uniforms, an increase in heart rate and minor flashback; the official war museum, where victors always get to tell the story their way; the shoe factory in Long Thanh, where I attended the Recon Team Leaders Course and heard the first shots I had ever heard fired in combat; Ban Me Thuot, my original base camp and a beautiful location in the Central Highlands filled then and now with butterflies; Dalat, a stately resort city for both sides during the war where a helicopter I was in had to make an emergency landing; and lastly the Caravelle Hotel, where I stayed when I went to Saigon to be debriefed after some missions. It had a gorgeous rooftop bar where you could watch mortar attacks on the outskirts of the city while enjoying drinks – a bit surreal. It’s still there by the way.

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I was really glad that I hadn’t come alone and the team I was with were all true professionals in their own right – it was, and continues to be, a privilege to be associated with them.

As I mentioned, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip – but what developed was surprising – it helped me honor those who had fallen, closed a loop for me that had been open for years and gave me peace.

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One can never be sure about the outcome of anything in this world, but I have come to realize that education, by any means (formal or informal), will always stand you in good stead. So by sharing my humble story perhaps I can help bring a small piece of history into clearer focus.

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This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

As the pandemic continues to sweep the globe and follow us all into the holidays, everyone is struggling. December is filled with moments traditionally celebrated with big family gatherings – something that just isn’t safe right now, for anyone. Hard as it may be to swallow, it’s something military families have been dealing with for a lot longer than just the year 2020. 

I come from a large Italian family, one that had “family night” every Wednesday like clockwork growing up. Leaving them behind for the first move with my husband was hard. I remember the deep pit of loss, especially during the holidays I missed. The second move taking me from my home state of Florida to Alaska just about broke me. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the adventure is or how incredible the opportunities are, your heart still aches. It was 2008, long before Facebook Lives or Zoom were a thing. Instead, we bought expensive web cameras and celebrated Christmas Eve through a shaky internet connection. Although I would never stop missing them, we learned to adapt because we had to. I also learned how expensive long-distance phone calls were, oops.

family
Christmas Eve 1985 with my family, a yearly tradition I began to miss with regularity beginning in 2008

Watching Americans on social media complain about the restrictions and “cancel culture,” I can’t help but laugh and shake my head. As military families, we live in a world where anything can happen and you control none of it. My husband has worked numerous special days, been underway for Christmas and missed so many important moments. If I sat and dwelled in the despair of those times, I would never get out of bed. Seriously. This is the reality of the majority of military families throughout the world, we don’t have the luxury of complaining about it – we just do it. So, here are my lessons learned and words of advice for celebrating the holidays during a pandemic.

  1. Stop complaining

Did you know that when you complain, your body releases cortisol, which is a stress hormone? Yep, truth. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought enough stress to everyone’s lives, don’t add any more to yours. Instead of focusing on the negative, look towards the positive things. Traveling during the holidays sucks, for one – so now you don’t have to. Win!

2. Add new traditions 

Maybe your Aunt Karen makes the best Christmas dinner and you are really mad about missing it. Make it. Yeah, you heard me. This is your chance to not only really embrace your own traditions that are familiar in a different way, but you can also add new ones. Bake the dish that no one else would usually eat, make the crafts because you have time and decorate more. Embrace the good, not the bad. 

3. Adopt a family or shelter

I am not trying to make you feel like scrooge but for many the holidays are never good, even without a pandemic wreaking havoc. Rates of negative mental health symptoms during the holidays skyrocket and so do suicides. By finding a way to give back to those less fortunate than you it will not only take your mind off missing your family or “normal”  but it will bring a boost of feel-good hormones to your brain, known as the “helper’s high”. There are angel trees, Toys for Tots and endless shelters in your community that need you. Find one.

4. Embrace small moments of joy

Sometimes it’s really not about the big elaborate get together’s and parties. Take this time to focus on your own home or community and breathe in small moments of joy. Watching old holiday movies together, having more time to decorate outside or watching your kids smile while doing crafts. Video chat with your family, take the time to make phone calls to people you haven’t seen in a while and write letters. These are small things that can create not only good memories but also feed happiness and not negativity.

The FDA just approved the second vaccine for emergency distribution. This means there really is hope on the horizon, even though all of this isn’t over yet. I know that we are all feeling fatigued from COVID and quarantine, but we can get through this. Remember that even when there isn’t a pandemic, military families are almost always far from their loved ones. It’s a sacrifice that is made because freedom is worth it. It is my hope that you’ll all take the same approach with staying home for the holidays. The lives you will save are worth it too. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner — for many, a time of cheer.

But the holidays are also tough for many who know spending several days with their families brings chaos, judgment, and the reopening of old wounds — particularly now the political chasm between the generations seems wider than ever.

It’s always vital to look after your mental health, but Christmas get-togethers with family members you only see once a year and too much wine can bring about unpleasant moments that burn us out.


Niels Eék, a psychologist for the mental health platform Remente, told Insider there are some key coping mechanisms that can ease us through the holiday season with less stress and angst this year.

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(Photo by Paola Chaaya)

“A lot of the time, stressful situations can make us feel helpless and trapped,” he said. “Always trying to think about possible solutions will not only keep you calm and rational, but will also help you solve the problem at hand.”

‘Sometimes people can say hurtful things without noticing’

Firstly, he said arguments usually arise from miscommunication or rash responses, which often aren’t intentional.

“If you want to avoid a row, it’s often beneficial to take a step back and try to understand all of the viewpoints involved,” he said. “Examining the bigger picture is key. What is everyone trying to achieve?”

For example, if tensions are running high around the Christmas preparations, write all the tasks down and delegate them by priority. Or if a relative has said something you think is hurtful, try and work out what they meant without reading between the lines. In other words, be diplomatic, Eék said.

“Sometimes people can say hurtful things without noticing,” he said. “Instead of adding fuel to the fire, put it out by answering with a diplomatic response, such as ‘thank you for your opinion, I’ll think about it’ or ‘what did you mean by that, could you explain a bit further?'”

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(Photo by Toa Heftiba)

Listening is always your friend when it comes to communicating with someone who has different beliefs to you. It’s better to attempt a base level of respect before firing shots that aren’t going to get you anywhere.

Of course, if you’re not being granted the same respect in return, you’re well within your rights to excuse yourself and no longer interact with that person.

“Even if forgiveness is impossible, take a deep breath and try to stay calm,” Eék said. “After all, you’re unlikely to see them again for a long time, and it might be worth it for the sake of everyone else’s Christmas to just smile and power through it.”

Don’t spread yourself too thin this year

As we get older, we realize there is no real obligation to spend time with people who have hurt you. Unfortunately, for some people, that includes their families.

But whatever your situation, the excitement around Christmas can mean spreading yourself too thin. That’s why Eék said it’s important to say “no” around this time of year. Trying to cram everything in means you can lose out on resting, which can make everything else more frustrating and exhausting.

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(Photo by Drew Coffman)

It’s just as justified to make time for what’s important to you — whether that’s getting enough sleep, exercising, or reading a book — as it is to spend time with friends and family. So never apologize for taking some time to take care of yourself, and for making decisions about the events you actually want to attend.

“Knowing the motivations behind your decisions will help you figure out what you want to do this Christmas,” said Eék. “And who you want to spend your time with.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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Researchers believe internet memes are being used as modern-day leaflet propaganda

Armed forces across the planet and throughout history have used leaflets for any number of reasons, from psychological operations to warning civilians about an upcoming attack. For most of this time, this kind of messaging has come in the form of slips of paper dropped in enemy territory from the air for the widest possible dissemination.

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Japanese propaganda leaflet left for Allied troops in World War II (Naval Heritage and History Command)

But times are changing, and the technology of psychological operations, along with the way humans can communicate to mass audiences are changing with it. These days, the kinds of propaganda we use can be sent between audiences who aren’t even technically at war with each other.

One side of this communication may not even know they’re using propaganda. That’s where a new study from the University of Maryland says internet memes are being used as a psychological Trojan horse. Author Joshua Troy Nieubuurt says the meme is the latest in the evolution of leaflet propaganda. It’s easy to get a message across, easy to spread that message and plays into existing biases.

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Defense Technical Information Center

Memes are an easy way to share an idea, a fast way to convey a message and, in some cases, a way for the idea to propagate itself and spread in a viral way, whether the idea or message has any real basis in reality. 

They are also readily accepted by those with existing cognitive biases. Humans embrace information that already confirms their view of the world, a phenomenon known as confirmation bias. When someone sees a meme with a message that shares their views, they are more apt to share it. 

Check out the Air Force’s new podcast ‘Blue Grit’

People are also more likely to accept ideas shared by official sources and famous people, a phenomenon known as popularity bias. In general terms, everyone wants to be associated with a popular idea, and internet memes are no different. 

Nieubuurt argues that internet memes and their easy shareability are an ideal tool for disseminating ideas to a wide audience across various social media platforms. Since they can be created, used, disseminated and remixed by anyone with internet access, state actors will naturally have an interest in using memes as part of any psy-op plan. 

One of the foreign influence operations to use memes as a tool was the Russian interference campaign in the 2016 presidential election, according to the Internet Research Agency.

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But perhaps the best reason for using memes as a tool of propaganda is the relative anonymity of its creator. The more viral a meme gets, the further and further away it gets from its origin. So whether or not the information in the meme is true or if its source lacks credibility, it soon becomes so far removed from the creator, that the sources become almost irrelevant.

Basically… Regina George in Mean Girls

In these ways, memes can be used to create and reinforce the legitimacy of certain ideas or policies to the benefit or detriment of political or geopolitical friends and enemies. Whether it aids a political candidate or undermines the government’s coronavirus response, there is always an intended goal in mind for any psychological operations campaign. Memes are just a cheap, easy way to reach those goals.

So the next time you’re considering sharing that viral meme, consider that you might be aiding a foreign intelligence service – and wonder what their goal could be.

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