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NEWS | Jan. 28, 2014

Finding balance in the deployed, home station environments

By Special Agent Melody Mitchell Headquarters Air Force Office of Special Investigations

Many talk about finding balance the professional and person, yet for so many of us, especially while deployed, our work blends into our life.

Finding balance to me means ensuring my energy stays level and I'm able to easily manage all the roles in my life. In the deployed environment, life can be complicated in that while there are less roles for us to play, the lack of having family and friends around can increase our stress level.

At home, and especially away, we need to be vigilant in finding balance in our lives. It is sometimes easier to know when you are out of balance than when in balance. Some common indicators are grumpiness, getting snappy or zoning out.

One thing that really helped me balance were the "Five Rules" a friend showed me. I don't always follow them exactly, but I try to build my daily habits on these principles. I've learned the hard way that if I find myself out of balance, it is likely because I am not following the rules:

Get an adequate amount of sleep: There are so many benefits to getting the right amount of sleep. It rejuvenates your body and most importantly your mind. It helps you handle any of life's issues with ease and clarity.

Eat nourishing food: The most challenging to do in a deployed environment with a limited menu and plenty of junk food available. When friends ask me for care package ideas I always ask for healthy snacks and my husband sends me freeze-dried fruit. With all the free water around, most definitely ensure you are drinking plenty of water.

Get some form of exercise each day: This one could be the easiest in the deployed environment, but there are many distractions. Build it in your schedule. Work will be there but maintain that commitment to you. Working out with a partner or in a group is also very useful. When we are building a habit, it is easier for us to break a commitment with ourselves, but with a commitment to someone else, you are more likely to show up.

Read something positive and inspirational each day: Our mind is a muscle and if we don't challenge it, it atrophies just like our biceps if we don't work out. There is also something calming about reading and learning. It will help clear your mind with filling it with something positive each day. It can be a short time, start with 10 minutes a day, and perhaps expand to 20. There are so many options out there, you can read the book of your faith, or anything else that makes you smile or learn something new, but Twitter feeds don't count.

Do something fun, nurturing, relaxing each day: Remember the quote: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?" I'm sure it does the same for Jane too. What makes you smile? Take care of yourself and form bonds with your co-workers. Out there they are your family and friends. No, you did not choose to deploy with them, but we are in a tight space and must figure out how to get along, so you might as well also enjoy a laugh. Talk to others on station and participate in fun activities like: volleyball games, learning the game "corn hole," poker, movie nights, dancing, group workouts and playing dominoes with co-workers.

Following the "Five Rules" encourages stability and positive mental and physical well-being. It will keep you sane in an environment of stressors and away from loved ones. When I feel out of balance I look at these rules and try to get back into following them. With balance, taking the time to invest in myself, life is better, easier, and I am far more productive. Ensuring balance also opens up other options such as becoming creative and finding and following your passions.

Implement the practices while deployed in order to blend them into your home life when you return. Even when you return, or if you are not deployed, look out for your signals that indicate imbalance and re-center yourself on these healthy rules and habits.