Skip to main content

Military Health System

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

Image of Military personnel looking at a computer. 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...

Yoga Shield: Building Mental and Physical Resiliency

Article Around MHS
7/27/2022
Military personnel doing yoga

More than 30 Airmen assigned to the Ohio National Guard’s 178th Wing and the Iowa National Guard’s 132nd Wing began a week-long, 60-hour yoga training program July 18 at the 178th Wing in Springfield, Ohio.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Psychological Fitness

AFIMSC Chaplain Shares His "True North" Calling

Article
7/26/2022
An Air Force Airman inspects a target used during a shooting competition at Davis-Monthan Air Base, Arizona, in 2021. The True North program is a resilience program that embeds providers and spiritual leaders within squadrons and groups. Davis-Monthan implemented True North in October 2020. (Photo: Air Force Airman 1st Cl. William Turnbull)

Finding your True North – your authentic self, your purpose, your beliefs – can be a struggle for many today.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Spiritual Fitness | Mental Health is Health Care

Talking to Your Family and Friends About Your Depression

Publication
7/18/2022

Talking with your friends and family about your depression symptoms is not easy. Use this worksheet to help plan the discussion. 1. Decide who to talk to. List the family and friends that you will tell. Bold or underline the person you will tell first.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Health Center of Excellence | Psychological Fitness | Depression

Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

Infographic
7/18/2022
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline offers 24/7, confidential support.

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention Toolkit | Suicide Prevention Toolkit | Psychological Fitness | Mental Health: Seeking Care with TRICARE

US and Multinational Participants Visit Georgian Rehabilitation Center and Meet Ukrainian Families

Article Around MHS
7/15/2022
Military personnel accepting award

Multinational participants visit the Georgian Rehabilitation Center to not only observe Georgian rehabilitation processes and systems, but also to deepen alliances with Georgian civilian medical counterparts and witness the positive impact on Ukrainian families.

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Building Partner Capacity and Interoperability | Psychological Fitness | Social Fitness

Patient Self-Management for Depression

Publication
7/14/2022

You can do several things to help yourself feel better, even when you’re not at your best. Start by selecting one of the activities from this list. Remember to take it slowly and add new things as you begin to feel better. (Make copies of this worksheet, and review it weekly with your mental health provider or a trusted family member or friend to track your progress.)

Recommended Content:

Psychological Health Center of Excellence | Psychological Fitness | Depression

JBLM Army spouse combats PTSD with physical fitness

Article Around MHS
7/13/2022
Military personnel in physical training session

Stress and anxiety are a normal part of life, but anxiety disorders like PTSD, which affect 40 million adults, are the most common psychiatric illnesses in the U.S.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Wagging tails and smiling faces: Therapy dogs bring comfort to Medical Center staff

Article Around MHS
7/6/2022
Military personnel with support dog

Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune staff are receiving comfort and support from four-legged friends. For the past several months, Beasley the Basset Hound, has been making her rounds in her Red Cross volunteer vest, providing treats for humans in the form of pets and cuddles.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Psychological Fitness

Provider Soldiers Learn Mental Health First Aid

Article Around MHS
6/30/2022
Military personnel in classroom

Soldiers assigned to the 3rd Division Sustainment Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division and members of the unit Soldier and Family Readiness Group, participated in the Mental Health First Aid training in Hinesville, Georgia

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Health Readiness & Combat Support

BJACH Discusses Men’s Health – Part 2: Capt. Scott Saucer

Article Around MHS
6/22/2022
Army Captain Scott Saucer

June is Men’s Health Month.

Recommended Content:

Men's Health | Social Fitness | Psychological Fitness

Retired 1st TSC Soldier encourages others to seek help for their mental health

Article Around MHS
6/14/2022
Military personnel posing for a picture

People can develop PTSD after surviving a traumatic event. It is a mental health condition, which can occur after experiencing severe trauma or a life-threatening incident, like military combat and being deployed to a war zone.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness

PTSD Awareness Month - PTSD Awareness

Infographic
6/1/2022
PTSD Awareness Month - PTSD Awareness

Unfortunately, experiencing trauma is not uncommon. If you’ve experienced trauma and notice symptoms of #PTSD, don’t hesitate to ask your primary care provider about possible treatment. #TreatmentWorks #PTSDAwarenessMonth www.health.mil/ptsd

Recommended Content:

June | Total Force Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD Awareness Month - Treatment Works

Infographic
6/1/2022
PTSD Awareness Month - Treatment Works

Experiencing #PTSD can make one feel hopeless. Fortunately, there are strategies and treatments that WORK to relieve PTSD symptoms. Don’t wait, seek help today. #PTSDAwarenessMonth www.health.mil/ptsd

Recommended Content:

June | Total Force Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD Awareness Month

Infographic
6/1/2022
PTSD Awareness Month

June is #PTSDAwarenessMonth Just because you cannot see a wound doesn’t mean it isn’t there. If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, seek help immediately. www.health.mil/ptsd

Recommended Content:

June | Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

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
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 16 - 30 Page 2 of 8
Refine your search
Last Updated: December 03, 2021
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery