Service members and families learn essential stress-handling techniques
CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan -- There are many stressors that affect service members all over the world. Whether home for the holidays or away from family, dealing with stressors can be a large obstacle in the path of U.S. service members.
“Here in Okinawa, our families experience multiple separations in a year,” said Laura Hoover, a readiness and deployment support trainer, Marine Corps Family Team Building. “It’s not that we experience those longer, six-month deployments. Our service members here, on the (Marine Expeditionary Unit), for example, go off for two to three months and come back for a few months. Then they go for two to three months again, and many of our families don’t realize that that is just as difficult, if not more difficult, than a standard six month deployment.”
The “It’s All About You” workshop is one of the many Marine Corps Family Team Building military support programs offered on Marine Corps installations around the world. The program teaches healthy and practical stress-handling techniques to service members who are deployed or stationed overseas, as well as their families, to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle physically and emotionally.
The workshop is held quarterly and accommodates seven to 10 attendees. It consists of numerous activities including yoga, aromatherapy and acupressure massage. Through these exercises, the MCFTB aims to create a safe and friendly environment for participants to share experiences and find constructive channels for stress relief.
“I’ve been married to my Marine for 15 years, and I certainly want our service members and their families to feel that the Marine Corps is supporting them in all of their stressors and that they recognize that there are things that we can do to make it productive, happy and manageable,” said Hoover. “There are aspects and stressors about our lifestyle that no one else experiences. The class addresses that.”
The workshop helps implement practical and healthy stress-management techniques that can be used in everyday life, according to Hoover.
“Most people are willing to spend lots and lots of money on candles and things they see in a store,” said Hoover. “They’ve never thought maybe
they could create things themselves and it’s actually more inexpensive and you get more of what you personally like if you can do it yourself.”
Participants in the class are each given materials to practice the methods taught in the class. Each receives Epsom salt and sea salt and essential oils to make their own aromatherapy bath salts, and the small group setting allows the yoga instructor to coach and provide direct assistance through the different poses, movements and breathing techniques that are taught, said Hoover.
The workshop provides an intimate environment to meet new people who are away from family and learn how to apply new strategies to cope with stress, said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Heidi Corbett, a material management manager with 18th Civil Engineer Squadron Materiel Acquisition at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan.
“It’s given me a lot of tools to put in my toolbox,” said Corbett. “It’s given me techniques that I can take back to somebody else in my shop — maybe a friend that can’t get here. It’s so quick and practical.”
This class allows people to look at their lives from the outside and see how they can improve on their stress-handling techniques, according to Hiroko H. East, who has been a military spouse for 12 years.
“I never really thought about what my life consists of or what part of my life I spend all my time on,” said East. “I never realized I spent very little time on myself. Even for the active duty members and spouses, especially, it has great benefits such as relaxation and therapy. All people should take this class — Air Force side and Marine side — everyone can benefit.”
It is important for service members and families to understand the importance of making sure their needs are met and they are taken care of physically and emotionally, said Hoover.
“With all that goes on in Okinawa, there are lots of cultural things to see, lots of experiences to have, and the most important thing, especially during the holidays, when we are separated from our families, is remembering to take care of yourself,” said Hoover. “By taking care of yourself, you’re better able to take care of your families.”