NAU professors developing app for military personnel

Military members face a variety of stressors, but they can learn how to reduce stress thanks to an app two Northern Arizona University professors are developing.

NAU professors Dr. Ann Huffman, industrial-organizational psychologist, and Dr. Heidi Wayment, social and health psychologist, received a $1.4 million Department of Defense grant for their research to improve the psychological health and resilience of military personnel.

Dr. Huffman and Dr. Wayment are developing an app that will help military members address and reduce stress they face.

It is a 2.5-year study, so Dr. Huffman and Dr. Wayment expect the app will be available about two years after it goes through development, testing and piloting.

They will also test the app in control groups designed with military units to observe its effectiveness.

The app is intended to help military members cope with stressors that non-military members face, and that are unique to their line of work.

“The military has put into place many different types of programs to try to help them with the job stress,” Dr. Huffman said. “So, we’re taking a different approach and I almost want to say a more simplified approach in terms of how a soldier can deal with stress and how they cope with stress on a day-to-day basis.”

It will take a simplified approach to sending reminders that will help them engage with their physical and social environment in an effort to reduce stress.

“Something that is not surprising to probably most anyone is that the military experiences a lot of normal stressors that we all experience on the job. Which could be long hours or maybe an irritable boss or a job that they don’t enjoy,” Dr. Huffman explained. “But, they also experience stressors that are unique to the military such as deployment and separation.”

The app will provide exercises and reminders that help the users achieve what’s called a ‘quiet ego.’

“Research that I’ve done over the last ten years on what I call a ‘quiet ego’ is really not an absent ego, it’s an ego that’s quiet,” Dr. Wayment explained. “It’s an ego that understands the importance of self and defending and protecting the self, but at the same time understands that we’re part of something larger than the self. And that other people and our roles with other people are also equally important. And so, we are taking that idea and creating some information on an app and some exercises.”

Although the app is designed for military members, it can also benefit anyone who deals with stressful situations.

“It’s just that today, employees- not just those in the military- they’re dealing with so many demands and so many stressors and trying to balance their work and their life,” Dr. Huffman said. “I think that this grant, this app could make a big difference in terms of not just the military right now, but also in the future in terms of just dealing with workplace stress in general.”

Sierra Ciaramella

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