Coping and Anxiety Management for Deployed Personnel and Veterans
Military service is a difficult, disruptive, and sometimes life-threatening experience. As a result it is common to experience traumatic stress and perhaps even some symptoms of depression and anxiety during and following this life experience. Military service may also influence physical problems such as changes in sleep and appetite, digestive problems, more susceptibility to colds or other illnesses, and increased use of alcohol and other substances. Persons on active duty and veterans may also have emotional responses such as fear, irritability, nightmares, difficulties concentrating, feelings of betrayal, and loss of interest in everyday activities.
How can deployed personnel cope with the stresses of military service, and how can veterans manage and integrate the stressors of military service into their life experiences? Here are some helpful suggestions:
Whether deployed or having returned, you may use grounding, a technique designed to keep your experience in the “here and now” and remind you that you are alive and present to life.
- Focus on breathing as a calming and centering strategy. A natural part of our "fight or flight" response to threat or anxiety is to breathe rapidly and deeply, which can often result in hyperventilation. Hyperventilation produces uncomfortable or even frightening sensations that can actually increase anxiety, creating a "vicious cycle" in which anxiety or fear provokes hyperventilation, which in turn increases anxiety and fear. Breathing training can help stop this cycle before it gets out of control.
- Experiment with watching your thoughts to identify those that may be catastrophic or lead to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Whether deployed or having returned, realistic and present-centered thoughts can contribute to a sense of presence and stability.
- Challenge negative beliefs. Replace such thoughts as, "It is always going to be like this” with, "This experience is something that will pass.”
- Adjust self-talk. Convert negative messages into positive ones, for example, replace "I’ll never get through this," with "I can do this, but it’s normal and okay to feel scared and overwhelmed."
- Use previous ordeals that have been successfully overcome as a "power base."
- Consider alternative outcomes for worst-case scenarios, for example, "I can still see my friends, I can enjoy the little things in life."
- Imagine how this event will be viewed in the future, remembering how things do change over time.
Learn to manage anxiety through such strategies as guided imagery and relaxation.
- Mobilize a support system or group to reach out and connect with others, especially those who may have shared the stressful event. Although there are professional resources to organize and facilitate recovery following military service, there is a lot we can do on our own. Consider joining a veterans’ support group.
- Talk about the traumatic experience with empathic listeners in your circle of colleagues, friends, family, and spiritual community.
- Cry if that works for you, or laugh or yell, but do something to express yourself emotionally “Getting things out” helps.
- Exercise can contribute to greater well-being following military service.
- Prayer, meditation, or other spiritual practices are helpful coping strategies
- Look for opportunities for service to others, that even in the midst of your own challenges while being deployed or on your return can help enhance coping.
- Use creativityto fill your life with “food for your soul.” There are some wonderful pieces of art and music being created by deployed military persons and by veterans.
- Nourish yourself through healthy eating and drinking, and avoid self-medication, alcohol, or other drugs.
- Write about your experience in detail, just for yourself or to share with others
Remember that as difficult as military service is, it is possible to pass through and integrate it as a meaningful part of your life. Focusing on your coping during your service and upon your return will nurture inner strength, compassion for others, self-awareness, and a perspective on your service and its meaning for you and others.
The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.
Veterans Heart Georgia: This grass roots organization utilizes innovative approaches to helping veterans of all wars with the entire spectrum of the effects of war and military service. The organization is made up of veterans, mental health professionals and citizens.
CareForTheTroops Inc. is a 501c3 Non-Profit formed to develop a network of civilian faith communities, civic organizations, and networks of therapists all trained and able to work with the military members, veterans, and their families as they adjust to the changes experienced during and after returning from deployments and combat.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Our Mission: IAVA’s mission is to improve the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families.
This is the information for Georgia’s largest provider of VA services and the web site address
- Atlanta VA Medical Center
- 1670 Clairmont Road Decatur, GA 30033
- Phone: (404) 321-6111 hrs. 8:00a.m-4:30p.m.
- Website www1.va.gov/Atlanta 2
- 4-hour VA suicide hot line : 1-800-273-TALK
America's Heroes at Work: Welcome to America's Heroes at Work - a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) project that addresses the employment challenges of returning service members living with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
U.S. Vets Over 200,000 veterans will sleep on the streets of our nation tonight. Our VISION is that one day there will no longer be homeless veterans in America...U.S. VETS provides housing, counseling, job assistance, and HOPE to thousands of homeless veterans each year. Our programs foster the skills necessary for every veteran to return to the community and remain self-sufficient.