Reduce stress with the five F's

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Aaron Reed
  • 412th Operations Support Squadron commander
Because of their creativity and decision-making capability, people are the most valuable resources to accomplish our Air Force mission. However, people are susceptible to a constant barrage of stressors in both their personal and work lives. Without lifestyle priorities, we will not be resilient to stress nor operate at the optimum performance required to meet our ever-growing mission demands. Whether at my commander's calls or when meeting with new employees, I describe how the "Prioritized 5F's: Faith, Family/Friends, Fitness, and Finances" can help us balance the respective dimensions of wellness: spiritual, social, physical, and emotional, to enable us the best possible "Force" for our Air Force.

Faith is our spiritual vision that enables us to overcome obstacles that threaten to impede our goals that are aligned with our worldview, or value system. Our Founding Fathers' strong faith carried them through the struggles of a Revolutionary War and independent states to form a new united country based on the values that we have rights endowed by our Creator. I encourage you to write out a one-page personal declaration that clearly articulates yours and your family's values and goals so that you can focus positively on these instead of the obstacles that will inevitably try to block your way. Then give this declaration to a supportive pastor, parent, or friend so they can help strengthen your faith by clearly reminding you, if necessary, of other times you have made it through challenging circumstances.

Family and Friends provide a social support network to celebrate accomplishments and to soften the blow of disappointments. Because we want our family and friends to be with us after we retire from military or civil service, we must take deliberate steps to build these important relationships. First, we must guard our tongues - which can lift the downtrodden or burst any bubble of hope. Second, we should communicate love in the way our family members are wired to receive love. Gary Chapman's books about the ―Five Love Languages‖ can reveal some amazing truths that will dramatically improve your communication skills. Third, link up with other families and friends to reach out and serve in your community. Helping others puts our own problems in perspective. Carving out time to spend with family and friends helps rejuvenate us and solidifies our commitment to our written goals. In fact, some of the most enjoyable time with family and friends can be spent exercising together.

Fitness is a physical investment that returns endurance to both the body and the mind. As most of us know, a well-rounded fitness program includes cardio, anaerobic, and nutrition regimens. Civilians and military alike should take advantage of the benefits of our fitness culture. After all, we all want to be healthy not only now, but when we retire so we can enjoy our family and friends. The biggest challenge to fitness is developing the habit, so talk to the pros at the Health and Wellness Center either to establish your goals or to vary your existing routine to keep things interesting. Can't you feel that stress just melting away?

Finances, properly managed, can help bring peace to the emotional dimension of life. You've heard it before, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Stick to a budget plan that provides for your basic needs and leaves room to invest for the future through the Thrift Saving Plan and individual retirement accounts. Remember, we don't have to keep up with the proverbial Jones family, who more than likely is drowning in debt. Take time to meet with the budget counselor at the Airman and Family Readiness Center to develop a plan that doesn't leverage your peace of mind.

Our Force, the Air Force, requires resilient warriors to fly, fight, and win or serve those warriors who do. As civilian or military servants we must uphold the warrior ethos, which demands we first maintain integrity to our personal values that are already compatible with our Air Force values. Resilient warriors understand that service before self does not mean that we are to neglect our faith, family/friends, fitness, or finances, but that we are to care for these things so that when duty calls us away from our family, we and our families are battle-ready. Let's take serious the value to strive for excellence in all we do. For when we take care of the "5F's," we are much better postured to succeed with excellence in our work environment.

Now even though we strive to hit a home run in all the "5F" categories during each day, we realize that we will from time to time be out of balance in swinging for these priorities. Hopefully you noticed that for each "F," I've encouraged linking up with a wingman or professional organization to provide mutual support. Then by the time you are a supervisor, you will have plenty of real-world experience in how to mentor those entrusted to your care to improve their "5F" grade-point average.
After all, the goal is to get straight A's in the "5F's."