The veteran group is complex. Individual differences can depend on various aspects, such as personal risk- and protective factors, military identity, training and experience.
However, deployment to a war zone leads to activation of many of the same physical and psychological reactions in serving soldiers. These stress reactions can affect life quality and lead to unhealthy coping strategies such as substance abuse, rumination, social withdrawal or avoidance. It is therefore possible to provide recommendations that can help make the transition from service to everyday life easier, that apply to the veteran group as a whole.
Getting started with activities of daily life
The routines of daily life provide structure and strengthen the sense of safety and normality. Find time for exercise, hobbies and other activities that you know will give you joy and energy.
Rebuild social connections with family and friends
Talk about your deployment experiences. Some details may not be appropriate to share with your loved ones. It can therefore be necessary to have a veteran network where these experiences can be discussed. Engage in social activities. Many find it difficult to be home while knowing that they will soon be deployed again and exposed to new dangers. Talk about this with colleagues and friends; try to be present in the here-and-now during the home periods between deployments.
Problem solving and creativity
While occupied solving problems or being creative, negative thought patterns are counteracted. Following intense challenges you may feel overwhelmed, resigned and helpless. Set goals that are clear and concrete; split problems into simple subtasks and solve them one at a time. Be patient and praise yourself for making progress.
A common stress reaction is negative thought patterns and “black and white”-thinking. Veterans experiencing this can become overly self-critical. Learn to identify and separate helpful thoughts from distressing thoughts. Focusing on helpful thoughts is not the same as just thinking positive thoughts or trivialising challenging experiences. Debating whether or not the thoughts are justified or true is not helpful. Rather, try looking at the situation from different perspectives; what would you say to a colleague that was thinking this?
Stress management – HighRes
Using the HighRes app, you can learn to cope with physical and psychological stress reactions. This may include breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, recognition of stressful situations and how to regulate your thoughts and emotions.