It’s a fact that many veterans experience mental health dilemmas after they have served their country for the last time. One of the main contributors to this is that when you were serving, your identity had to be stripped down so you can function effectively as a team. That’s the psychological part of basic training, and it works really well, helping you to connect with your unit while keeping a clear enough head to react quickly to situations. When you have been serving for a long time, it is easy to know your identity – it corresponds to your rank and to your unit. When you leave service and become a veteran, it can be difficult to adjust your identity, which can lead to mental health issues later down the line. That’s why it is so important to reconnect with yourself after your final service. Here are two great ways to do it:
Connect with Your Community
As a veteran, you will definitely garner a lot of respect and support in your community. When you are reconnecting with your identity, a great way to do so is by connecting with your community, especially if it was the community in which you grew up. You should consider volunteering and helping those less fortunate than you. This is a great way to do good, and it feels great to help others. You will also bring a lot to the table of any volunteer group with your discipline skills. It also gives you the chance to meet new people and expand your mind by talking to people in a wide range of situations. You probably have just the right skills to be a community leader.
If you don’t have the time to spare, financial altruism is a good middle ground. Donating money has been proven to be good for stress, and it helps you to show yourself that you care for your fellow Americans – which is likely the reason you served in the first place. Many people choose to make a monetary donation to The Red Cross in times of crisis, as they are at the front lines of many disaster zones (you might have encountered them yourself while serving).
Give Yourself a Quality Questioning
When you have changed your life position, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the newness of everything. It can feel intimidating. Something that happens to everybody in these circumstances is questioning and overthinking – whenever a problem comes up, or if you feel like readjusting to your life outside of service is difficult, you might find yourself doing negative self-talk, like asking yourself negative questions: “why aren’t I better at X”.
Just because you have been highly disciplined and effective in the armed forces, that doesn’t mean that you don’t sometimes feel self-doubt and anxiety. Everybody does. A great way to counter that is by making a shift. Try to notice whenever you ask yourself negative questions or questions that make you feel bad and counter them by asking yourself quality questions, like:
What am I most excited about in my life now?
What will I now be able to do that I have wanted to do for a long time?
What am I most grateful for in my life currently?
What am I most proud of about myself now?
The answers to these questions will help you to reconnect with yourself properly.