Recent studies have documented the challenges faced by returning service members and have established the effectiveness of integrative techniques such as mindfulness meditation and yoga in helping restore psychological and physical wellness.
Armor Down desires to function as a repository for scientifically accredited resiliency and transition techniques. Since few of these practices are associated with military training, Armor Down re-contextualizes them to make them more acceptable to service members.
How Armor Down Works
"Stay Alert, Stay Alive" and "Mission Comes First"
Most likely these mottos or something similar are fresh in every veteran's mind. All forms of military training are built from these fundamentals. Beginning with basic training, all service members are taught that hyper-alertness to detail and reflexively putting the mission first can mean the difference between life and death.
Downrange these fundamentals are force multipliers for the military. But back home, as veterans attempt to transition back to civilian life, these ingrained behaviors can contribute to chronic stress and other disorders. Although military training is of great value in many ways, it does not always serve a person well outside the military environment.
"Tame the Mind / Train the Mind"
Armor Down created this motto to stand in contrast to combat-training slogans. By means of mindfulness techniques, Armor Down aims to tame the hypervigilant mind and retrain it to process events and sensations in a much calmer, more even-tempered way.
Armor Down's program takes a two-step approach:
• Demobilizing Through Mindfulness: A mind always set on "threat" can get stuck analyzing past events in order to anticipate future threats. Armor Down seeks to help the service member tame the hypervigilant mind with mindfulness. To demystify this term, mindfulness is simply non-judgmental present-tense awareness. The basic practice consists of focusing your mind on what's happening in the present moment instead of thinking about the past or the future. You try to notice without judgment or reaction. Armor Down trains service members to focus on their five senses because the direct experience of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell always occur in the present moment. Over time, this simple practice can dramatically alter the way the mind reacts to previously upsetting or threatening situations.
• Reconnecting to the Body: Putting the mission first means placing a lower priority on the body's needs—ignoring the body's signals and in some cases virtually disconnecting from it. It is akin to the no-pain, no-gain philosophy that pervades the civilian physical fitness world. Armor Down's approach retrains service members to notice and interact with bodily sensations instead of ignoring them. A central technique Armor Down uses is to teach service members how to feel the alignment of their spine. As with mindfulness practice, the mind must be trained to recognize the spine. Techniques employed include yoga, fitness training, breathing exercises, meditation, and qi gong. In addition to building body awareness, these practices can improve strength, postural alignment, flexibility, and balance.