The four “Ps” of boot camp stress management

DSC_5987Note: Lt. Eamon McGraw is a member of the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps and currently serves as the Protestant chaplain aboard Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, N.J. He served with the U.S. Marine Crops prior to his assignment at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May. The Coast Guard has called upon the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps for support and guidance since 1917, and there have been U.S. Navy Chaplains at every major Coast Guard enlisted accession point since 1942.

By Lt. Eamon McGraw, U.S. Navy Chaplain

Coast Guard boot camp is hard. The question is not if you will endure stress, but instead how well will you handle it. Here are four quick things to help you get ready for the stress of boot camp.

Get ready! Prepare yourself in every way you can. Train your body. Work out, eat well, and develop discipline in your sleep patterns. Your physical condition will go a long way in reducing your stress level. In addition, you should also prepare your mind for the challenges ahead. Read everything you can about what to expect, watch the USCG videos which are put out to help you prepare, and study and learn information you will be required to know (for example, memorize important terms, the eleven general orders, military time, the phonetic alphabet, etc). A small amount of effort in advance will prevent many stressful difficulties later.

Stay positive! Boot camp is hard, but it is worth the effort. Remember the reasons you want to join the world’s finest Coast Guard. If this were easy, it would not be worth doing.

Don’t forget that stress serves a purpose: it will make you stronger, faster, and prepare you for the unexpected. You will learn how to concentrate despite chaos, how to work as a team, and gain confidence that you can handle anything. You will be transformed into a Coast Guardsman.

Keep in mind that boot camp is a process. You will be held to a standard which you will often fail to achieve. Those who are responsible for training you will be demanding because they expect great things from you. Make it your goal to do your best at each task, but also to learn from each failure and improve each day. You don’t graduate day one because it takes eight weeks of work to transform you from a civilian into a Coast Guardsman.

Boot camp is only a few short weeks. At first graduation will seem a million years away, but at the end you will think the time flew by. The difficulties are temporary. You can not only endure your weeks at boot camp, but you can work hard and thrive while you are here.

Keep in mind that each challenge is not a chance to fail or to get in trouble, but instead is an opportunity to succeed. You will have many opportunities to show that you deserve to wear the uniform. Look forward to every chance to proudly and confidently show that you are earning the title Coast Guardsman.

Trust your leadership. Focus on each task as it comes.

Prayer or mediation:
Belief matters. You will always have demands on your time, but make the practice of your faith a priority. Take advantage of the few minutes set aside for daily prayer and the weekly divine hours. You will find, as have many recruits before you, that you will actually do better managing your time and your stress by putting your faith first. Faith, character, and purpose are the foundation upon which all else is built. Make the care of your soul a priority and you will never be overcome by any challenge.

The thoughts and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Training Center Cape May, the U.S. Coast Guard or the federal government and are the sole opinion of the author.

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