Stress And Military Service
Military service is inherently stressful. Service members are expected to deal with life threatening and potentially traumatizing situations. Combat exposure has been linked to a range of negative health consequences – both mental and physical. Combat aside, deployment itself exposes them to harsh living conditions.
Moreover, counterinsurgency blurs distinctions between enemy combatants and civilians, and demands agonizing spontaneous decisions based on ambiguous information.
Finally, conservative rules of engagement (ROE) often limit their options in dangerous circumstances; for example, more than 60 percent of soldiers in Iraq reported facing dangerous situations where the ROE prevented them from responding.
Mindfulness Training in US Army
A group of Marines preparing for deployment to Iraq were given mindfulness training – learning to deliberately stay in the moment without judgment or emotion – for eight weeks. They learned skills they could use to manage stress, regulate symptoms in their body and mind after a stressful experience, increase their psychological resilience, and improve their performance—making it particularly relevant to their lives.
It was found that the training improved their working memory and how well they regulated their emotions, and the more time the Marines spent practicing the mindfulness exercises, the more their mood, problem-solving abilities, and emotional control improved.