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. 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...

Social fitness can impact overall health and readiness

Article
1/28/2021
Five Cyclists riding on the road

Social fitness, one of the total Force Fitness framework’s eight domains, is an important element to holistic health.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Social Fitness

Countering seasonal depression during the COVID-19 pandemic

Article
1/5/2021
Man with his head in his hands, sitting in front of a Christmas tree

SAD, or sometimes called seasonal depression, is a subtype of a major depressive disorder.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Psychological Fitness | | Depression | Suicide Prevention

Seeking help from friends and family vital for mental health

Article
12/23/2020
Image of three people on a zoom call

Reaching out for help with your mental health is not a sign of weakness, according to Tim Hoyt.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Suicide Prevention

Warrior Care Month puts a spotlight on the inTransition Program

Article
11/25/2020
Two women in an office, talking

inTransition supports service members and veterans who want to get connected to mental health care in their area.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care | Warrior Care | | Warrior Care | Psychological Fitness

Mental Health: What you can expect at a therapy appointment

Article
10/28/2020
Image of Richardson talking

You don’t have to wait until you’re in crisis to see a mental health professional.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | | Total Force Fitness

‘I am Navy Medicine’ – helping another in need - Hospitalman Grace Pridmore of NMRTC Bremerton

Article
10/7/2020
Corpsman conviction of care, compassion and competence…Hospitalman Grace Pridmore, from Kellyville, Okla., assigned to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Bremerton Detachment Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS), was acknowledged for her selfless effort by Capt. Shannon J. Johnson, NMRTC Bremerton commanding officer, for identifying another Sailor at risk and taking quick action to help get the Sailor to the appropriate level of care, very possibly saving a life (official Navy photo by Douglas H Stutz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton public affairs officer).

It takes more than just awareness to respond to someone showing signs of distress.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | | Psychological Fitness | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Easy steps to understanding & thwarting depression during COVID-19

Article
9/30/2020
Five people sitting on yoga mats outside in the grass

Learning self-care strategies can help you take charge of your life and improve your mental and physical health.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | | Depression | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Psychological Fitness

Real Warriors provides suicide prevention tools for all beneficiaries

Article
9/29/2020
Sunset light creates silhouette of two military personnel

Real Warriors supports the DHA’s Psychological Health Center of Excellence in its mission to break the stigma associated with psychological health concerns.

Recommended Content:

| Suicide Prevention | Psychological Fitness

Army Sgt. Maj. implores others to seek help for suicide ideation

Article
9/28/2020
McGrath in uniform with his family

The support [McGrath] received was opposite from what he thought it would be.

Recommended Content:

| Suicide Prevention | Psychological Fitness

6025.01

Policy

Primary Care Behavioral Health (PCBH) Standards

Mental Health Professionals

Congressional Testimony
11/26/2019

S. 3129, SAC Report for FY 2019, 115-290, Pg. 211

Recommended Content:

| Psychological Fitness

Mental Health Assessments for Members of the Armed Forces

Congressional Testimony
1/11/2019

HR 3979, NDAA Report for FY 2015, Sec. 701

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness

What to Expect at Your First Appointment

Video
9/20/2018
What to Expect at Your First Appointment

You’ve reached out for help, you’ve found the right provider, now Kristin Gwin from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center shares what to expect at your first appointment.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Suicide Prevention | Mental Health is Health Care

Kristin Gwin, Walter Reed Social Worker Talks About Getting Help

Video
9/12/2018
Kristin Gwin, Walter Reed Social Worker Talks About Getting Help

Kristin Gwin, a Social Worker at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center understands that getting help can be an intimidating process. She offers advice on how to get started by letting a professional know you want help.

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention | Psychological Fitness | Mental Health is Health Care

Breathing techniques

Photo
2/26/2016
Breathing techniques

Airmen and Soldiers practice breathing and relaxation during their off duty time in a deployed location. Stress can take its toll on your mental and physical health, including your heart health, but there are breathing techniques to buffer yourself from it. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Psychological Fitness
<< < ... 6 7 8 > >> 
Showing results 91 - 105 Page 7 of 8
Refine your search
Last Updated: December 03, 2021

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.