Women Veterans Health Care
Mindfulness means purposefully paying attention to the present moment; It is noticing what is happening right now, without judgment. We often think we're being present or mindful, but sometimes we spend more time judging our past or worrying about the future. Thoughts may arise such as, "I shouldn't have done that" or "What will I do next?" Getting stuck in these thoughts may add to day-to-day stress and lead to poor health.
Being mindful may mean pausing, taking a breath, and tuning in to the signs and signals that your body and mind are sending. For example, you may feel a headache coming on at work and choose to walk away from your computer to take a break. When we are present in this way, we can make decisions that support our whole health by noticing how we feel and taking steps to feel better.
Practicing mindfulness may look different from individual to individual. It often includes activities such as guided meditations that allow you to dedicate time to pause and observe your present thoughts and surroundings. Or, it may be as simple as paying more attention to what you are already doing. You might notice the warmth of your cup of coffee, a sense of calm after petting your dog, or the sound of a water fountain.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is one form of self-care that has many health benefits. It can help you cope with unpleasant thoughts and emotions. A consistent mindful practice could also lead to:
- Fewer distracting or repetitive thought
- Less stress and pain
- Better ability to focus
- Increased relationship satisfaction
The Importance of Self-Care
Women Veterans have many roles and often put others first. It is important to think about what your mind and body need to recharge to be your best self. VA providers can help you develop a personalized whole health plan that assesses your physical health as well as the things that impact your overall well-being. A big focus of this plan is evaluating eight areas in your life that contribute to your overall health. These areas include:
- Moving the body
- Surroundings (physical and emotional)
- Personal development (personal and work life)
- Food and drink
- Sleep and mechanisms to recharge
- Power of the Mind (relaxing and healing)
The more time you spend developing these eight areas, including mindful awareness, the greater your chance of improving all aspects of your life, and especially self-care. Your VA health care provider can provide you with a place to start so that you develop a self-care routine that is aligned with your values, needs, and health goals.
What resources does VA provide for Mindfulness or Self-Care
Mobile Apps and web-based resources:
- Check out VA's National Center for PTSD's mobile apps to practice self-care at your convenience. Apps include:
- VA Mindfulness Coach App. This app can teach you strategies to ground yourself in the present moment to reduce stress and cope with unpleasant thoughts and emotions.
- COVID Coach App. Created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this app is intended for everyone to support self-care and overall mental health.
- Check out VA's Whole Health Library for quick and easy tools you can use to improve your self-care routine
Videos — Sit back, relax, and watch informational videos on mindfulness:
- What is Mindfulness
- Why Mindfulness for VA
- Four Ways to Cultivate Mindfulness
- Beginning a Mindfulness Practice
- Mindfulness and Compassion
How do I access services for Mindfulness or Self-Care at VA?
Mindfulness is often integrated into various VA programs and services that have a health and wellness or self-care component. If you have questions or can't find what you're looking for, you can call, text, or chat online with the Women Veterans Call Center (WVCC) at 855-829-6636 to get help and find available resources and services in your area. Trained women representatives can also help you with issues such as:
- Enrolling in VA health care if you have not already
- Setting up a medical appointment in your area
- Answering questions about eligibility (including questions about disability ratings) and other VA benefits like employment, education, and home loans
WVCC representatives are available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET, and Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET.
If you don't already use VA health care, you can also use the following online tools:
- Find out if you are eligible for VA health care.
- Enroll in VA health care if you haven't already.
- Find your local VA to learn about what services may be available and to make an appointment.
Where can I find more information and resources?
Sample Mindful Practice
Try the brief mindful practice below and notice how you feel after the practice.
- Find a comfortable seated posture with both feet flat on the ground.
- Gently close your eyes, noticing the feelings in your body, the activity of the mind, and whatever emotions are present.
- Invite a sense of ease into the body.
- Gently turn your attention to your breath, perhaps noticing how the chest rises and falls with each breath. Your mind will wander. When you notice, softly bring the attention back to the breath.
- Give yourself the space to be just as you are. The goal is to pay attention without judging your thoughts.
- Start with just 3-5 minutes and increase the time as it feels right.
Additional Mindfulness and Self-Care Resources
- Additional Tips for Mindful Awareness Practice in Daily Living
- 30 Days of Self-Care with COVID Coach App
- *Kabat-Zinn, Jon, Guided Mindfulness Meditation (3-part series), Sounds True.
- Kabat-Zinn, Jon, 2010, Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief: Guided Practices for Reclaiming Your Body and Your Life, Sounds True.
- Nhat Hanh, Thich, 2009, Living Without Stress or Fear: Essential Teachings on the True Source of Happiness, Sounds True.
- *Breathe2Relax app from the Department of Defense
- *UCLA Health Guided Meditations in 15 languages
* By clicking on these links, you will leave the Department of Veterans Affairs Web site. VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked Web site.