Life is hard. Keep yourself S.A.F.E.R

By Haydn Parsons February 21, 2020

A familiar story.

I am conversing with a healthy, well-educated twenty-something year young soldier. I hear the stories of the challenges overcome through their time at Kapooka and while on IET’s. I hear of their dreams of being a career soldier. However, there is an issue. After 18 months of soldiering, they are feeling despondent.

I believe -  Life is hard. Own it. Here is an opportunity for personal growth.

Serving your country is a great honour. It requires commitment, courage, and - at times - living with discomfort. The military requires the soldier to be resilient. Despite living in an era where we have unprecedented information at our fingertips, it is easy to become overwhelmed with information and the complexity of work and life demands.

Resilience is a popular, well-worn term today. It is developed through accumulation of incremental exposure to stress. Like a muscle, resilience grows over time with exercise.

So what is the issue with this soldier (and many others like them)?

I believe there are two things:

There is a lack of guidance.

There appears to be an inadequate plan for self-care.

The importance of guidance.

Take a moment to reflect upon our time in the military. Who has been the biggest influence on your life, on your career? I personally recall a handful of Army Chaplains with a plethora of experience investing time into me as a naïave Reserve Chaplain back in 2008. These experienced men and women took time to mentor and guide me to be the person I am today. They helped me hone my professional skills, equip me with knowledge, and reflect upon the positive attitude and attributes required for effective chaplaincy.

We are all people of influence. This is why you are reading this article! You, my colleague in the profession of arms, value learning as a part of becoming the best leader you can be. Let us share our skill, knowledge and attributes accordingly, so as to positively influence our peers and subordinates.

A plan to build resilience.

Mission success is dependent on the team. And the team is made of individuals. Therefore, individuals require a strategy to build resilience and wellbeing. The acronym S.A.F.E.R, is a simple and holistic five-point strategy (or checklist) for developing individual resilience. These principles can be applied to you personally as well as a strategy for your Ship / Squadron / Unit.



This acronym stands for:

Spirituality: Finding connection with the sacred, either through Religious or non-religious practices.

Activity: Movement of your body through your chosen exercise or recreational lifestyle.

Friendships: Having a supportive, relational network that offers belonging.

Eating nutritiously: Fuelling your body with a healthy and nutritious diet.

Redevelopment: Developing yourself through lifelong learning.

In conclusion, as a leader you have the opportunity to guide and influence others in the skills, knowledge and attitude required for a successful soldiering in the profession of arms. And this involves developing your own resilience first, through keeping yourself S.A.F.E.R.

Good soldiering.

For more information on S.A.F.E.R. contact Haydn through his contact page.



Haydn Parsons

Haydn has twelve years Army Chaplaincy experience. Haydn’s life experience and education includes having completed a trade as a fitter and machinist; a Bachelor of Theology; spiritual direction formation; and a Master of Arts. He published three books, ‘Beneath a Sea of Masks – A Book of Poetry’; ‘Keeping yourself SAFER – developing habitual resilience and wellbeing practices in the community,’ and ‘The Resilient Fighting Force – developing habitual resilience and wellbeing practices in the military.’ Haydn lives in Brisbane, with his wife and two sons.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.


Good article. I agree that resilience is something that needs a more planned out approach and the safer acronym seems legit to me. It would be great for a resource to exist online where people could go to explore how to foster each of the letters. Perhaps through an ADELE PME page?

Add new comment

Cove App


Fast access to The Cove anywhere, anytime. Additional feature of receiving notifications for new content.

Reflective Journal


Record your reflections in a structured way to improve your performance.