It is clear that soldiers that operate under special operations units have to be the best of the best. For purposes of this blog post, there will be a focus on Navy SEALs. On a physical level, these soldiers must be able to withstand physical challenges that would be impossible for most common people, but on a psychological level, these troops must also be exceptional.
Mental toughness is one of the phrases that is often thrown around when referring to Navy SEALs, and the truth is that they in fact react differently to circumstances. For instance, Veterans Affairs carried out a study that evaluated the reaction of Navy SEALs to stress. One of the effects of stress on people is anxiety prior to the actual event that is causing the stress, such as, an exam. The results of the study demonstrated how these elite soldiers managed stress differently than a regular person or soldier would. The brain areas that would raise levels of anxiety did not operate as they would for a regular soldier. This allows Navy SEALs to keep their emotions in check even under the worst scenarios of combat for sharper decision-making and therefore more effectiveness as a soldier.
Nevertheless, another way in which soldiers may acquire this trait is through experience. When a soldier has undergone these stressful situations of combat, the soldier becomes accustomed and the anxiety prior to the event is better controlled. Experience compounded on top of a Navy SEALs training would ultimately deliver the best results for stress management, therefore, resulting in a better soldier in the process.
For context, on the other side of the spectrum, soldiers that experience PTSD would react in the opposite way. High-stress levels would cloud the subject’s judgment and jeopardize his decision-making even before experiencing the potential situation as the anxiety experienced would be enough to decrease the effectiveness of said soldier under circumstances of combat. That being said, Navy SEALs are not immune to PTSD, depicting the urgency of diagnosing soldiers across all branches for the soldiers’ health and effectiveness of the armed forces.
Stress is only one of the several psychological factors at play when facing combat. However, stress management is one of the ways in which Navy SEALs surpass regular soldiers on the battlefield.