Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Ask the Doc: How Do I Fight the Long Deployment Blues?

Image of Military personnel looking at a computer. Click to open a larger version of the image. Navy Operations Specialist 3rd Class Gabriel Franco stands the surface warfare supervisor watch aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Barry, August 25 in the Philippine Sea. Barry is currently deployed in support of U.S. 7th Fleet (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Justin Stack)

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Social Fitness | Ask The Doc

Dear Doc: I've just returned from an unusually long deployment with my ship due to COVID. To make matters worse, most of our originally scheduled port visits were either cancelled or strictly for re-supplying (in other words, no "real" liberty). I'm normally an extremely social person, but with each passing day, I found myself becoming more and more shut-in and irritable. I was short with my friends and had little to no contact with family back home, who I would normally make it a point to talk to via e-mail or Facebook at least once a week. Nobody told me there were any problems with the work I was doing, but I'm worried that my mental sharpness and focus on the mission was impacted. I, personally, definitely didn't feel like I was doing my best work.

I'm not an overly religious person and I know being "spiritual" or "spiritually fit" doesn't necessarily mean keeping yourself religiously engaged. But what can I do to make sure this doesn't happen the next time I go out to sea (faith-based options or otherwise)?

--Long Deployment Blues

Illustration of a male face with the words "Ask the Doc"

Dear LDB: Deployments can be hard, especially with added stressors like knowing there's a virus out there that is preventing an otherwise enjoyable experience from being any fun at all. I understand that sitting pierside likely wasn't your idea of "Joining the Navy and seeing the world."

I talked to a fellow sailor, Navy Chaplain Lt. Chad Haan at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia, and here's what he shared with me about staying mentally sharp and connected during deployment:


Long Deployment Blues, I've definitely been on deployments like you're describing. Here are a few ideas and things to keep in mind:

The Upward Spiral

Most of us service members have heard of the downward spiral: that cyclone of cascading bad decisions and bad behavior. Lesser known, however, is the upward spiral, which consists of positive thinking, positive talk, and positive actions. What we think about, we talk about. What we talk about is what we intend to do (though we might not always follow through). "Just Do It" has been a certain sports brand's slogan for 33 years because if you "Just Do It," the positive thoughts and talk will follow. The upward spiral takes more effort initially but carries a lot of energy once you get going.

Up Your "Me Time" Game:

If you want to get better at any sport, you have to play and practice with people who are better than you. The same principle is true for your "me time" game, which can be divided into several aspects of physical and mental fitness.

1. Physical Health "Me Time": Social comradery usually plays a big part in our motivation to work out. Find a few people who are committed regulars in the gym and work out with them. Spend time with them outside the gym and get a schedule going. While you are building up your body and enjoying all the health benefits that go along with that, you will also be building relationships which are just as important.

2. Spiritual Health "Me Time": Talk to your ship's chaplain to find out if there is a like-minded group of religious or spiritual people that you can plug in with. It is the chaplain's job to support your freedom of religion and also support the spiritual readiness of non-religious personnel. I, personally, encourage you to explore your faith. Studies have shown a direct correlation between spiritual involvement and job performance as well as job satisfaction.

3. Emotional Health "Me Time": Talking works! The therapeutic value of talking and being heard is very high and this is another area where your chaplain is probably a good option. Although caring is our job, it does not have to be a chaplain. If you're on an aircraft carrier you should have a Deployed Resiliency Counselor, psych. doc., and chaplains. These are the folks on the ship who can give you the best counsel.

4. Professional "Me Time": Choose a mentor or cultivate a friendship with someone that has significantly more years of life experience, not just years of military experience. Don't divorce your career goals from your personal goals but also don't accept the easiest possible mentor as a guide – such as someone who is only a few years ahead of you in your rating pipeline.

Like drafting in racing, the lead cars cut the wind resistance and help pull the slower car at the back of the group. Don't think of "me time" as being selfish. You have to take care of your personal health in order to do your job well and take care of your shipmates.

Deployed Communications

While there is a lot that could be said about communicating with our loved ones while deployed, in my experience, families have unrealistic expectations about communications.

First, not that much changes aboard a ship on a day-to-day basis: "Dear Loved One, It's Tuesday (again). I ate tacos (again). Plus, there are many things you may not be able to tell your family anyway depending on your line of work. If you email or talk too often, you may quickly run out of things to say, not look forward to talking or writing, and it may seem like communication has become a chore. Set these expectations before you deploy and be clear about when and if these expectations should change during deployment.

Second, plan to read the same books or see the same movies from time to time so that you have some shared experiences you can talk about instead of talking about all the "normal" things of life. Make a plan that includes things you can do together even when you are physically apart.

These suggestions should have you well on your way to a better deployment the next go-round. Remember, it's like everything else in life: You will get out of it what you put into it. If you put some intentional effort into having a good deployment, you probably will.


LDB, I don't think I could have said it better myself! That's exactly why we have experts like Chaplain Haan on hand to answer questions from people like you out there in the fleet and field.

Hopefully, you can put the Lt.'s advice to good use the next time you head out on deployment. In the meantime, recharge your batteries and enjoy your time at home. You deserve it. Thank you for all that you do for the Navy and your country.

And as always, now and especially the next time you deploy…take care of yourself out there!

You also may be interested in...

Mental Health Awareness Month highlights resources available for those in need

Article Around MHS
5/27/2022
Military personnel with counselor

As May concludes Mental Health Awareness Month, it serves as a reminder that taking care of your Mental Health year-round is vital to maintaining personal health, and mission readiness. 

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness

Managing Burnout

Video
5/19/2022
Managing Burnout

Burnout is really a state of extreme exhaustion caused by chronic overwhelming stress. Lt. Col. Catherine Callendar, Air Force Deputy Director of Psychological Health, gives some advice on coping with burnout. Learn more at health.mil/mentalhealth.

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Toolkit | Psychological Fitness

Together for Mental Health: May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Article
5/13/2022
Every May is Mental Health Month. If you know someone in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line: 800-273-8255. (Photo: MHS Communications)

Health is wealth, especially when dealing with mental well-being. Growing up, kids are taught if they are hurt physically in any area, to seek help. The same should go for anyone’s mental health.

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Toolkit | Psychological Fitness

Fort Riley Summit Tackles Mental Healthcare Shortage

Article Around MHS
5/6/2022
Soldier speaks at podium

Dozen of civilian partners within the local TRICARE network recently collaborated with Fort Riley leadership for an all-day, first-time ever Mental Health Summit April 28. 

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness

MHS Minute | April 2022

Video
5/3/2022
MHS Minute | April 2022

The MHS Minute highlights some of the outstanding work taking place across the Military Health System, including major milestones, events, notable activities, and much more. Help us get the word out about all of the unique, meaningful, and fascinating work taking place across the MHS by watching and sharing the video, which you can download from DVIDs: https://go.usa.gov/xuy7M. This month’s topic is mental health awareness. Check out the entire playlist: https://go.usa.gov/xtAAq

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Toolkit | Psychological Fitness

Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Current Events

Article
4/29/2022
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Rocio Romo, public affairs specialist at Space Launch Delta 30, spends quality time with her son at Cocheo Park on Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. We celebrate Month of the Military Child in April to celebrate military children whose parents serve the United States. (Photo: U.S. Space Force Airman 1st Class Kadielle Shaw)

Parents can help reassure children who are troubled by news events they see on TV and social media.

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids | Children's Health | Psychological Fitness

Helping Your Child to Cope with Grief and Losses Related to COVID-19

Article
4/28/2022
Shirley Lanham Elementary School students perform Taiko drumming during a Month of the Military Child celebration aboard the Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, April 6, 2022. (Photo: Petty Officer 2nd Class Ange-Olivier Clement, Naval Air Facility Atsugi)

Many military children have lost loved ones to COVID-19. How parents can help with the grief.

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids | Children's Health | Psychological Fitness | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus

How to Help Military Children Reconnect After Two Years of the Pandemic

Article
4/25/2022
Airman 1st Class Rocio Romo, Space Launch Delta 30 public affairs specialist, and her son pose for a photo at Cocheo Park on Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, March 25, 2022. During the month of April, we celebrate Month of the Military Child to highlight the sacrifices military children make on the home front while their parents serve the United States. (Photo: Airman Kadielle Shaw, Space Launch Delta 30 Public Affairs)

How parents can help children stressed by more than two years of COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids | Children's Health | Psychological Fitness | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus

Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Resources Provide Help: You Are Not Alone

Article
4/22/2022
Military personnel posing for a picture

Life is full of ups and downs. But sometimes life events—financial strain, relationships, isolation, emotional or sexual abuse, stress, and misuse or abuse of alcohol or drugs—can lead to depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide for some. It’s important to remember that you are not alone.

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Toolkit | Suicide Prevention | Suicide Prevention | Psychological Fitness

Policy Update: Significant Improvements to Mental and Behavioral Health Policies

Article Around MHS
4/4/2022
A U.S. Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter flies over the sunset off the northern coast of Haiti in Nov. 2021

New updates to Coast Guard policy loosen restrictions and impacts on service members undergoing mental and behavioral health treatment for conditions including (but not limited to) anxiety and depressive disorders.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness

Anger

Video
2/11/2022
Anger

A brief introduction on anger. How Anger can impact your life and the people around you.

Recommended Content:

Anger | Psychological Fitness

A Healthy Mind and Body: The Psychological Aspects Weight Loss

Article
1/27/2022
Marines with 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, participate in a regimental run to celebrate St. Barbara’s Day at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 13.

It’s essential to dispel the belief that weight loss is a reflection of willpower or discipline – basically, that you can’t lose weight because you don’t want to or you’re not trying hard enough.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Weight Management for Lasting Health

Breathe2Relax App

Fact Sheet
1/19/2022

Initially designed for the military community but beneficial for use by anyone, the relaxation app trains you on the “belly breathing” technique that has proven benefits for your overall mental health. Use the app’s breathing exercises to learn and practice the breathing technique on your own or as part of a stress management program supervised by your health care provider.

Recommended Content:

Solution Delivery Division | Psychological Fitness

Virtual Hope Box App

Fact Sheet
1/19/2022

The Virtual Hope Box is a smartphone application designed for patients and their behavioral health providers as an accessory to treatment. The VHB contains simple tools to help patients with coping, relaxation, distraction and positive thinking.

Recommended Content:

Solution Delivery Division | Psychological Fitness

Six Immediate Health Benefits You Will See If You Lose a Little Weight

Article
1/14/2022
A soldier assigned to the 256th Combat Support Hospital, Twinsburg, Ohio, drinks water from a gallon-sized jug during Combat Support Training Exercise 18-03 at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, March 26, 2018. The 256th CSH implemented a goal setting competition, dubbed Dandy Camp, to teach and encourage soldiers to monitor their total carbohydrate intake during the field exercise. The overall goal of Dandy Camp is to educate soldiers about healthy eating choices and encourage soldiers to set and meet goals for themselves.

Losing even a little weight now can have a major impact on your health and quality of life. This long list of benefits might help motivate you to adjust your habits to achieve a happier, healthier lifestyle.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Women's Health | Heart Health | Nutritional Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Sleep
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 7

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.