Stress affects everyone, especially those who are serving our country and their families. However, people vary in how they respond to stress; responses to stress are called stress reactions. Stress reactions are normal, expected and predictable. They are usually temporary and mild, and are easy to identify. For most people, the stress reaction ends when the stressful event has ended. However, unmanaged stress from prolonged or repetitive stress reactions may lead to more serious problems, similar to an injury that is left untreated.
Psychological health is more than just mental health – it is your mental, physical, social and spiritual well-being. Understanding how you, your shipmates and your family are doing is a key aspect of good psychological health. The Navy's definition of stress is "the process by which we respond to challenges to the body or mind." How people respond to the things that cause them stress is a stress reaction. Since not everyone is affected by the same stressors, it is important for Sailors to continually monitor their peers and family for signs of stress.
Stress is inevitable, and in operational and combat settings it is expected. It is important to note stress is not all bad; sometimes working through stressful issues makes you stronger and more resilient, and learning how to be resilient is an important life skill. However, too much stress can seriously degrade performance and mission success. If there is too much stress for too long, it can injure the brain and change how it functions, such as its ability to focus, regulate emotions, and memory. This is why it is not uncommon to hear family members and friends remark the Sailor "is not the same person as they were before deployment."
Reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. The Navy has developed an Operational Stress Control (OSC) guide to help Sailors and their families identify how their stress and psychological health can be identified and when to seek assistance.
The Stress Continuum Model (SCM) is an OSC tool. It is a color coded chart with four zones representing different levels of stress. The four zones are the Green "Ready" Zone, the Yellow "Reacting" Zone, the Orange "Injured" Zone, and the Red "Ill" Zone. Consider the zones in terms of a traffic light, where green is good to go, and red means stop. Yellow and orange are progressive warning lights, between go and stop.
The Navy encourages Sailors, families and command leaders to take care of themselves psychologically, physically and emotionally; to look out for one another; and take action when they see themselves or others reacting negatively to stress. It takes a holistic approach to building resilience by using practical tools to identify signs of stress and suggest appropriate actions so people can rebound when they encounter adversity.