FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- Mankind continuously strives for something better, as evidenced by the variety of self-help manuals on the market today.

Experts profess to know how to manage our lives better. They advise better eating habits, provide new ways to achieve more exercise, lower our cholesterol levels, and increase our productivity.

There are even self-help books on how to maintain a stress-free life.

But is it realistic--or even beneficial--to strive for a life free of stress?

In comparing life to mechanical architecture, we find that most structures are designed with stress in mind. For example, the more stress put on a weight-bearing bridge, the stronger it actually becomes.

So, while attempting to eliminate stress from one's life may not be realistic or even healthy, we can expect improvement in coping with life's stressors if we apply Performance Triad principles.

The Army's comprehensive plan to strengthen our readiness and increase resilience is called the Performance Triad. The triad promotes engaging in activity, improving nutrition, and getting quality sleep.


Applying any of three pillars of the Performance Triad can result in stress management, but quality sleep is especially important to mental fitness.

Achieving adequate sleep is an immediate intervention that can yield optimal mental function.

Recent studies have shown that military personnel who do not achieve adequate sleep are at higher risk for being overly aggressive and showing poor judgment, which is obviously not conducive to maximal functioning.

A person needs 6-8 hours of sleep every night in order to be optimally functional, according to a recent study led by Dr. Vincent Mysliwiec, MD, of Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington.

For many people, a major source of stress is the inability to concentrate on tasks, especially for those engaged in college classes and continuing education for their jobs.

Adequate sleep actually helps us to learn by preparing our brain for initial formation of memories, according to a recent article published by The National Institute of Health.

Adequate sleep obtained after learning is essential to help save and cement the new information into healthy memories to be used later, according to the article. It further states that people who engage in "all-nighters" to study for tests, etc., actually harm their ability to recall information and learn new material.

The lack of sleep has been shown to affect the part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is instrumental in forming new memories.

So, obtaining adequate sleep not only helps us function well physically, but it also contributes to our mental health wellness.

The bottom line is that following Performance Triad guidance can lead to a better quality of life.

Life is busy and demanding. Since stress cannot be avoided, we might as well become optimally fit to handle life's stress.

We care about your total health and wellbeing here at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital--that's why we do what we do.

If you're having difficulties with sleep, make an appointment with your PCM today by calling (866) 299-4234, by using TRICARE Online's "Calendar View," or by using "Secure Messaging" at

For more healthy tips to achieve stress fitness, visit

(Editor's note: Maj. Richard Sonnier is a psychiatric nurse practitioner at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital)