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(Enlarge) Col. Edward C. Rothstein, Garrison Commander

What is your stress level?

I'm asking because everyone responds differently to stress.

For example, you have four minutes to leave for the airport and you cannot find your wallet. Most people would describe this as a stressful situation. Or, your electric bill arrived in the mail today and it was $140 higher than you expected.

At Fort Meade, operational tempo and deployments are stressors we deal with daily.

Stress can be defined as anything that disrupts the balance in your life. It is anything that threatens us, prods us, scares us, worries us or thrills us. According to behavior and medical experts, stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to positive or negative situations in your life.

Stress itself is not abnormal or bad. What's important is how you deal with stress.

When you have a tough time adjusting to a stressful change and you find it difficult to go about your daily routine, you may develop an adjustment disorder. An adjustment disorder is a type of stress-related mental illness that can affect your feelings, thoughts and behavior.

Stress gets a bad rap all the time. How many times have you heard that stress makes you fat, ruins your skin or is bad for your heart?

Stress can also be good for you - provided you learn to use it properly and understand that you are in control. Stress can be a motivational tool that helps us get things done, burn more calories and discover hidden reserves of energy we never knew we had.

Stress becomes a problem when we have too much of it, and we simply don't know what to do about it or how to manage it.

Stress also has been associated with suicidal behavior. There are often warning signs that accentuate someone is under too much stress: dramatic mood changes, feelings of hopelessness and despair, increase in use of alcohol or other drugs, or risk-taking behavior.

The symptoms of stress can be as simple as being sad, worrying, or having difficulty concentrating on normal activities. These symptoms take on a more heightened level of concern when the signs include verbal threats to hurt someone and thoughts of suicide. It is when these life-threatening thoughts are outside our normal behavior pattern that the services of a mental health professional may be required.

I want you to know that there are a variety of behavior health resources available for active duty, Reserve, civilian employees and family members.

Active-duty military personnel are encouraged to seek clinical services of the Army Substance Abuse Program, which works in close liaison with Behavioral Health Care Service and other support programs to address a variety of personal and substance abuse issues.

Confidential counseling is available to civilian personnel through the Civilian Counseling Services program. The CCS also provides counseling, mediation and referral services to family members, Department of Army civilians and retirees.

Last week Fort Meade kicked off its annual 101 Critical Days of Summer. Our goal is to reduce or eliminate tragic loss of life and injury and to help everyone realize that safety is personal for service members, civilian workers and family members during summertime.

Managing stress and making sure you are (mentally) headed in the right direction is just one of the areas I want to remind everyone not to lose focus on as we think about safety this summer.

Speaking of stress and summertime, let's also be mindful of heat stress and other summer-related safety issues. We just experienced our first heat wave of the summer this past weekend.

Heat stress occurs when the body cannot cool itself enough to maintain a healthy temperature. Overexertion in hot weather can increase your risk of heat stress.

Let's all take whatever steps are necessary to find balance and manage stress in our lives. Let's be sure we are making the right decision to keep as safe as possible this summer.

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