Maintain Balance: Strengthen your rubber band

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Michael Peeler
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing
Managing life in the Air Force is all about balance. As we get pulled one way or another, we are forced to balance the good with the bad, the exciting with the boring, and the fun with the monotonous. Our balance is kept in check by a number of things, to include family, friends, and basewide programs. One's ability to bounce back from a difficult time depends on those balancing forces and the strength of their resilience, or their rubber band.

Resilience is like our own personal rubber band. A strong one tends to maintain its shape, helps hold us together, and provides a critical balance to our lives. Children are often seen as very resilient, having a fresh, stretchable rubber band.

As we grow, and get set in our ways, some of our rubber bands tend to get stiff, having less elasticity, or maybe they just feel worn out. Each of our rubber bands is unique: tough in some areas, and weak in others. Some of us easily handle the stressors of deployment, financial hardship or physical fitness, while others struggle.

Regardless of our personal rubber band's robustness, there are constant forces at work trying to push and pull it out of its round, stable state. They get stretched out sometimes by a permanent change of station, deployment, promotion, and work. Occasionally these stressors stretch us to our limits in a weak part of our rubber band and we feel ready to surrender in order to prevent the band from snapping.

Accepting that each of us has weaknesses in our resilience, and that we can't always "do it alone," is the first step in rebalancing our lives and strengthening our rubber bands.

Fortunately, there a lot of resources ready to help push that rubber band back into shape. These resources come in the form of family, chaplains, fitness, social groups, as well as formal Air Force programs. When called upon, these resources can act as an opposing force to whatever stressor is stretching that rubber band thin at the time.

Whether we turn to our family, our wingmen, or a base program, we can always find something to help us reshape an out-of-round resilience rubber band. The key is being willing to call upon those forces and allowing them to work for you. Outside of the family, commanders and first sergeants serve as our most valuable sources of information. They can put us into contact with any number of resources, some of which you may have never heard of. Another option is Military One Source, with access to hundreds of resources including training, counseling, and social outlets.

While reshaping our own personal rubber bands in time of trouble is critically important to maintaining balance, we have an obligation to not just stop there. Once we get our own lives back in check, we have two other very important steps to take. The first of these is to strengthen our ability to recover in that vulnerable zone. If a recent physical fitness test hit you at a weak spot in your rubber band, then you have an obligation to strengthen your own personal resilience in this area to keep it from happening again. Make fitness your own personal priority, and challenge yourself to excel in this area the next time.

It is in those weaker parts of our rubber bands that we should spend time strengthening. Additionally, making your rubber band stronger in one section has the added effect of making it stronger in other areas as well.

The second important step to take after rebalancing is to be a good wingman for someone else. Certainly if you have struggled with some aspect of your resilience, someone around you is likely going through the same challenge. Find a way to communicate what resources you brought to bear, and how you used those resources to counter the forces that were acting upon your rubber band. Doing so will not only help those around you, but also has the added effect of strengthening your own personal resilience.

Dedicating our lives to the service of our country is no small task. The stressors placed upon us are real, and balancing those stressors is vital. Every force that acts to stretch our personal resilience rubber band can be countered by an even stronger opposing force. The key is calling upon the vast resources available and having the personal courage to let them work for you. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.