July 29, 2013 – There are more than two million people serving in the military. Every year, hundreds of thousands leave the service and enter the workforce. By the end of the year, almost 100,000 veterans will be returning home from Afghanistan alone. The transition from the rigors of the armed forces to the new normal of home life can be difficult, especially if you have seen combat. There are some things that you can do to make the crossover to your new life as simple and successful as possible.
Practice a Hobby
Idleness is your enemy. More than a third of returning vets will experience mental health issues, according to a report published through the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The top of the list will be post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Too much down time allows for perseverative thoughts, where the mind rehashes the same worries over and over. This is one of the first indicators of depression. Start with a home improvement project that will benefit your health and well-being. For example, swap out an old dusty spare bedroom for a sunroom space for hobbies. In your new space you can keep your mind busy in a peaceful setting by practicing your favorite hobbies. And, exposure to natural light can lighten your mood and decrease symptoms of depression, too.
Build Your Network
Even if you have not been diagnosed with PTSD, you do need to acknowledge that you are part of a larger group of men and women that have fought for our country and are now experiencing difficulties adjusting. With that in mind, go and work with some of your brethren. Having a socially-forward, outward focus on the world leads to higher reports of global self-wellbeing. In other words, helping someone else will make you a happier person. Talk to your local pastor, VA hospital, or social service center to see if they could use your help.
Social networking gives you a support system of like-minded people, even if they are worlds away. Facebook has become the savior of many veterans. Studies conducted over the last decade show that Facebook connections are true, and real friends. They serve the same benefits, called social capital, as a friend that is sitting right in front of you.
The Veteran’s Administration has a lot of valuable resources – unfortunately, the VA reports that only about 3 percent of vets use the resources on the My HealtheVet website. Use this information to find opportunities for betterment. Go back to college or learn a new skill. The updated GI bill has many generous benefits for a returning student which includes free or reduced education costs. You would not be the only vet to return home and go to school. In the last three years, almost one million vets have done this.