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Self-care Awareness: Not just for September

1st Lt. Melissa George, chaplain with the 911th Airlift Wing, leads a meditation exercise at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, Sept. 12, 2020.

1st Lt. Melissa George, chaplain with the 911th Airlift Wing, leads a meditation exercise at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, Sept. 12, 2020. George hosted the exercise to bring awareness to Suicide Prevention Month and said she hopes to continue to provide this meditation exercise every month. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Grace Thomson)

Justyne Strohmeyer, wing historian with the 911th Airlift Wing, demonstrates the warrior pose at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, Sept. 17, 2020.

Justyne Strohmeyer, wing historian with the 911th Airlift Wing, demonstrates the warrior pose at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, Sept. 17, 2020. Strohmeyer said that she does yoga in her spare time as a way to practice self-care. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Grace Thomson)

Tech. Sgt. Ben Rush, 911th Force Support Squadron services specialist, takes a photo of a  C-17 Globemaster III at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, Sept. 17, 2020.

Tech. Sgt. Ben Rush, 911th Force Support Squadron services specialist, takes a photo of a C-17 Globemaster III at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, Sept. 17, 2020. Rush uses his hobby of photography as part of his self-care routine. (U.S. Air Force photo by Joshua J. Seybert)

Tech. Sgt. Allissa Landgraff, NCO in charge of media operations with the 911th Airlift Wing, and Noel Cesar, student at the New York Film Academy, walk their dog Athena at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, Sept. 14, 2020.

Tech. Sgt. Allissa Landgraff, NCO in charge of media operations with the 911th Airlift Wing, and Noel Cesar, student at the New York Film Academy, walk their dog Athena at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, Sept. 14, 2020. Landgraff and Cesar said that walking the dog is a good way to relieve stress and practice self-care. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Grace Thomson)

Tech. Sgt. Steven Collins, safety craftsman with the 911th Airlift Wing, poses for a photo at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, Sept. 14, 2020.

Tech. Sgt. Steven Collins, safety craftsman with the 911th Airlift Wing, poses for a photo at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, Sept. 14, 2020. Collins said that he drinks coffee in the morning as part of his self-care routine. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Grace Thomson)

PITTSBURGH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AIR RESERVE STATION, Pa. --

“The hardest thing in this world is to live in it,” said Buffy Summers at the end of season five of the television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

 

Of course, she is right. The world throws curveballs, upends plans, and offers challenges every day, but that doesn’t mean that we should give up.

 

This is one of the reasons why self-care and resiliency are so important in everyday life. Taking care of yourself and making sure that you have the energy and resiliency to bounce back during and after crisis is essential.

 

“Nobody takes care of themselves,” said Richard Elsbury, violence prevention integrator with the 911th Airlift Wing. “We always worry about taking care of others. We don't care about ourselves.”

 

Even though September is Self-Care Awareness Month, self-care is more than a once-a-year issue. Taking the time to learn how to better care for yourself on a daily basis is essential to your ability to bounce back from tragedy.

 

Resiliency and self-care have become some of the top priorities within the military, and the 911th AW has worked hard to get the Master Resiliency Training Program off the ground.

 

A Master Resiliency Trainer is someone trained to teach on resiliency, mental health, better communication, goal setting and much more. Their goal is to help their squadron, group, wing, or individual Airmen to better bounce back from adversity using the skills learned in the classes.

 

In 2016, there were no Master Resiliency Trainers at the 911th AW, said Elsbury. He worked within the 911th to get the MRT program started and has helped other bases with their own programs as well.

 

Here, it started with Elsbury and Michael D. Zimmerman, director of physiological health with the 911th AW, becoming the first two people on base to finish their master resiliency training.

 

Now, there are a total of eight MRTs qualified to teach classes and the Master Resiliency Program is still looking for more, said Elsbury.

 

People interested in becoming an MRT would start by talking with Elsbury and becoming an assistant to a current MRT. Sometimes, commanders approach Airmen within their command who they believe would be good in the program. This is how Master Sgt. Donald Brisco, flight chief with the 911th Security Forces Squadron, started his MRT journey.

 

“[My commander] had asked me about it,” said Brisco about the MRT training. “He said, ‘You show a genuine interest in the well-being of the folks and your fellow Airmen.’ So I said, ‘Yes, I'd absolutely be interested in it.’”

 

In 2018, Brisco became one of the first military members on base to finish the training and since then has taught bi-monthly resiliency classes within the 911th SFS. This has changed with the COVID-19 pandemic which hit the U.S. in spring of 2020. Despite challenges caused by virtual UTAs and social distancing, Brisco and the squadron command team have still reached out to Airmen in their unit over the phone.

 

“We reached out individually to every single person in our unit weekly and ensured that they were doing okay, made sure that they were being resilient in their home life, asked if they needed help,” said Brisco. “Did they need any anything to stay positive? We took the time just to reiterate that we were here for them in every aspect.”

 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, self-care would be essential to someone’s daily routine and the resiliency training that was given across the base provided a foundation on which to build.

 

The resiliency training may be something that people feel they do not need, but it might come in handy later in life, not just during a pandemic. There are stories that stick with the trainers even years after, stories about people who have benefited from the training they provide.

 

Tech Sgt. David Moser, aerospace maintenance liaison with the 911th Maintenance Squadron, has a story about someone calling him and asking for help because their sibling, who is also a military member, attempted suicide and they didn’t know what to do.

 

“We walked through it for about 45 minutes,” said Moser. “[The situation] was some distance away, they took everything that I gave them and got in touch with said person who was trying to take their take their life.”

 

Two days after that conversation Moser heard back and was relieved to hear good news.

 

According to Moser, the person reaching out said that “[The sibling] listened to the words that you gave me to say and he's not afraid of losing his career. He's not afraid of what disciplinary actions may or may not come from his leadership. The only thing he cares about is getting himself better so he can be a better father and a better husband.”

 

These big stories stick with people, but it’s also the small things that are done every day which make all the difference. Finding the time to take care of yourself is important for all aspects of your health, be it mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual.

 

“Some people say I'm so busy I don't have time for this stuff,” said Elsbury. “You do have time, you're just not using it properly. So, just find the time that you have in the day and start devoting some time to yourself. I suggest in an eight hour period you do at least 30 minutes of something for yourself.”

 

That can seem like a lofty goal, but self-care means setting aside that time yourself and making it a priority.

 

“Nothing can make you care,” said Moser. “You have to do the hard work yourself, that's what self-care is, to me. It's a lot of hard work, but it's very worth it.”

 

The importance of self-care is highlighted by the fact that there is a whole month dedicated to its awareness. But because self-care means different things to different people, every situation is unique.

 

“Self-care is understanding what areas of yourself that need to improve,” said Elsbury.

 

According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, the definition of self-care is “health care provided by oneself often without the consultation of a medical professional.”

 

“I think resiliency is encompassed in self-care,” said Brisco. He believes that self-care is being able to get up and keep moving forward even after adversity, that resiliency and self-care are tied together and you have to have one to have the other.

 

On base, there are several resources for self-care and resiliency which are always available. Not only does the 911th AW have several MRTs to speak with, but it employs social workers and mental health professionals who are also able to offer advice and more resources. All you have to do is ask.

 

“It takes great courage to ask for help,” said Elsbury. “A lot of people don't have enough courage to say hey, I can't handle this, I need help. But you've got to have that courage.”

 

One of the major misconceptions about self-care is that people only need to worry about it when they need to work on themselves, but that is far from the truth. According to Brisco and Elsbury, self-care is something people should be practicing every day, not just when they feel low or sad.

 

“It's important for everybody and in everything that you do. If you don't have that self-awareness, if you don't have that resiliency, you're going to get hit in the mouth every single day,” said Brisco, referencing a video about boxing he listens to every day. “’Are you going to be able to get back up?’ is the question.”

 

Starting a self-care routine can be difficult, ideas are hard to come by and stick to. Below are some ideas from around the 911th AW to help get you started if you need just a push in the right direction.

 

  • Meditation
  • Reading
  • Sewing
  • Running
  • Working out
  • Nature walks
  • Video games
  • Hiking
  • Bike ride
  • Finding time to decompress
  • Take a coffee break
  • Play sports
  • Work on cars
  • Yoga
  • Cook
  • Walk dog
  • Splurge on self
  • Listen to music
  • Relax in atmosphere
  • Play with kids
 

There are so many ways to practice self-care; anything that is done on a regular basis in order to take care of yourself is self-care.

 

“Take care of yourself,” said Elsbury. “Take care of the people around you, but most importantly, just take time for yourself.”