A healthy lifestyle is integral to achieving my career goals
Vaccinations, physical fitness tests, weight and body fat measurements – with everything the military mandates for service members to help ensure force readiness, it's easy to forget that these health and wellness requirements also benefit service members as individuals. Men, especially, may take the attitude of not doing anything beyond checking the boxes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's annual National Health Interview Survey, men ages 18 to 65 are more likely than women to use tobacco products and drink alcohol to excess. We're also less likely than women to seek advice from health care professionals.
I'll admit I haven't always been as focused as I could be on health and wellness. In the past few months, though, I've been paying closer attention. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is integral to achieving my career goals.
I enlisted in the Navy in my mid-20s and was assigned to surgical technician training and then training to become a urology technician. My experiences have led to the desire to become an officer in the Navy Medical Corps. I'm doing everything I can to get ready to apply to the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program, or EMDP2.
Once I started digging into the program and seeing what the requirements were, it reminded me of what it means to be a sailor, and that I can't let physical fitness fall to the wayside. The program actually considers the physical fitness of candidates as part of the application process.
I also need a bachelor's degree to apply. For six months, I commuted three times a week from Oceanside to San Diego to attend classes at National University. Each commute meant sitting in traffic in my car for about two hours, and sitting in class for four and a half hours. Instead of making excuses about why I couldn't schedule a workout at the gym, I made a concerted effort to squeeze in exercise whenever and where ever I could. During breaks, for example, I'd find a quiet corner somewhere in the building and do pushups or squats. This is where I adopted the philosophy of, “If you think about working out, then do it right there and then.”
My wife is a great cook who prepares healthful meals in large batches. So there's always something good for me to grab instead of fast food or vending machine snacks. But at some point, I realized I was eating right, but I was still eating too much. So I scheduled an appointment with a nutritionist. It was really eye-opening to see the size of daily recommended allotments for proteins, fruits and vegetables. I've looked into other resources the military offers for nutrition and fitness.
Emotional health is also important. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, only about half of all people who need psychological help actually receive it. Further, men may be less likely to reach out. There's a stereotype that we aren't expected to share our feelings and should keep our problems to ourselves. As I've gotten older, I've learned that if something's bothering me, I need to speak up instead of keeping everything bottled up. One of my leaders once said, "If you ever need a day, just ask. Sometimes, you need a day." That definitely resonated with me. When I'm in a more senior leadership position, I'll take that stance as well. I haven't had to take a day yet but knowing it's available can do wonders. I appreciate that, along with the mental health resources available for military families.
I have about six more months of classes before completing my bachelor's degree. The remaining coursework can be done online, so I won't have to deal with the physical and mental stress of a long commute. Still, I'll be busy, and I may find it challenging to keep sight of health and wellness on top of everything else I'm doing. But I've already learned the most important lesson of all: Fulfilling goals can't happen without a healthy mind, body, and spirit.
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