Maintaining physical fitness is critical to support mission readiness. In this article, learn why psychological fitness is also important for mission readiness and find tips that may help you manage your psychological health to reach peak performance.
Why Is Psychological Fitness Important?
Psychological fitness involves building your mental, emotional and behavioral skills in order to effectively cope with the unique challenges of military service. Strengthen your psychological fitness [PDF 1.5MB] by focusing on five skillsets:
- Coping effectively with stress
- Applying and practicing ethical decision making
- Engaging in healthy social interactions with others
- Cultivating helpful beliefs and positive attitudes
- Identifying and understanding the value of self and others
It takes a fit mind as well as a fit body to cope with daily military life as well as the stressors and realities of deployment and transitions. Strengthening your response to stress and maintaining general psychological fitness can help be a source of strength for you and your fellow service members.
Tips to Improve Psychological Fitness
Service members train in many ways to achieve psychological fitness. The following tips may help you manage your stress and increase readiness.
- Exercise often. Research shows exercise can improve psychological health. Potential benefits include improved sleep, increased energy and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Talk about what’s bothering you. It may help to have someone to talk to when things get tough to prevent concerns, worry, or stress, from building up inside. Try talking to a fellow service member, chaplain, unit leaders and/or a trained health care professional.
- Be social. Talk to the people around you and develop relationships with people in your unit [PDF 628KB]. If you deploy, keep in touch with family and friends back home too.
- Stay positive. While stressful situations may be unavoidable, positive thinking may help you stay mission ready in difficult times. Try to set realistic expectations or look for ways to positively reframe challenges.
- Manage stress. Actively coping with stress as it arises may boost performance and strengthen your psychological health. Try journal writing [PDF 1.6MB], breathing exercises or other stress-management techniques to help maintain mission readiness.
What Line Leaders Can Do
Line leaders are an important influence when it comes to encouraging psychological fitness. They can create a positive environment within their command that promotes trust and encourages seeking care. For tips on establishing a supportive unit culture, check out the Real Warriors Campaign’s “5 Ways Military Leaders Can Address Stigma” fact sheet [PDF 855MB].
Military leadership plays a vital role in unit performance and mission success. If you notice a service member having a hard time, reach out and consider connecting them with care options. Try these tips for starting a conversation [PDF 2.6MB] when you have a concern about a fellow service member. By promoting psychological fitness in their units, line leaders help strengthen the force as a whole.
Human Performance Resources by CHAMP. (2018, February 26). Total Force Fitness: Your Roadmap to Peak Performance.
Meredith, L.S., Sherbourne, C. D., Gaillot, S. J., Hansell, L., Ritschard, H. V., Parker, A. M., & Wrenn, G. (2011). Promoting Psychological Resilience in the U.S. Military RAND Corporation.
Military Health System. (2020, January 7). Joint Chiefs Say Mind, Body, Spirit All Part of Total Force Fitness.
Messina, Lauren A. (2018, October 22). A Broader Perspective of Health: Total Force Fitness and Treating Depression. Psychological Health Center of Excellence.
National Center for PTSD, Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Coping with Traumatic Stress Reactions.