Transition stress in military life is not often thought about by those outside the military. From that point of view, it may seem easier to transition from active duty to civilian life because they are not having to be in warzones, combat areas, or on active duty. For those on the inside of military life, veterans and their families often deal with a challenging issue without knowing how to cope. Veterans can feel alienated from the life they had in the military once they transition.
Stress from this experience reaches into their immediate and extended families. Couple this with other mental health conditions and trauma, it leaves veterans with very little capacity to know how to navigate seeking help. Some may turn to substances as a way to cope. Find out why behavioral health and addiction specialists are working to help veterans (and their families) handle transition stress by building resilience for the journey ahead.
Not Always PTSD
There is no doubt, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) exists and causes devastating repercussions on people’s lives. Behaviorally, spiritually, and physically it can be exhausting to deal with the symptoms, related health complications, and cope with day-to-day life. Sometimes it is easier to see veterans in light of a more well-known diagnosis than to find out what is truly going on. PTSD is not a “catchall” diagnosis.
Though it is possible for veterans to experience symptoms of PTSD alongside transition stress, there may be some for whom they have no symptoms of PTSD at all. They are simply lumped into a broader category, needing a bit more probing to fine comb the details of their life to see what support services best suit their needs.
Veterans who go on missions and come home might not find the transition that engaging. Daily life seems mundane to some of them after being in combat zones or active duty placements. Some spend years in these areas only to come home to a family they have not seen that changed while they were away and now they are trying to put new meaning and purpose into their life as it is today.
The mission can give a veteran purpose, including hierarchical ranks and achievement-driven focus. Without it, life can feel less exciting. Transition stress is due to myriad issues, including:
- Loss of purpose or direction
- Loss of identity in the seasons of life
- Difficulty finding meaningful employment
- Difficulty navigating relationships
- Post-military life challenges
Transition stress is a longing for the ways they lived before because they have not found a way to embrace life as it is now. The quest to find new meaning in their lives, then, is key to helping them build resilience in civilian life.
There are a few ways military families can work with their loved ones to help their transition stress and ease all the stress on the family as a whole. It takes everyone to participate in making this a great experience so they can move forward together with renewed hope for the future. The first thing is to help the veteran embrace a new community. Finding a community is hard when there may be lingering mental health and addiction issues.
The first thing is to find support services for any issues and address them head-on. Build community support for the family and loved ones while they seek treatment. Get them into programs that help them find renewed hope for the future while treating existing health conditions.
Other resilience strategies can also include finding hobbies. Going for walks, finding a spiritual community or faith groups to participate in, and seeking time with family in activities they love can be helpful. It might be quiet and solitude they need or something more active like running with other veterans who transitioned home. Whatever it is, keeping active and exercising is a healthy part of building resilience against transition stress.
Finally, it is important to help them develop a renewed sense of self. Their identity was wrapped up in the military badges, placement, and other things they loved. Now they are not part of that same group, they may feel lost trying to find a new “home.” Include them in family therapy sessions to learn how to navigate life together. Seek out coaching and therapies that help create a renewed sense of self and hope for the future.
Watch for any signs of trauma or pain to emerge that may require support services. Take trips and vacations together to get away or seek new places to live, work, and play if where they are now is not working. Be open to helping them find gainful employment, return to school, or find other means of exploring this new life they are in now. All these are helpful in supporting a veteran to transition in a healthier way to a new life with the love of the community behind them as they make the journey forward.
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