Strategies for Managing Stress at Events
Experiencing stress during reintegration is common for those who have served in combat environments in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere around the globe. Even the most seasoned and prepared warriors can experience common stress reactions after returning home from uncommonly challenging events.
When you return home, your family and friends may invite you to a number of social gatherings for events ranging from Labor Day bar-b-queues to Thanksgiving dinners to New Years Eve celebrations, or even welcome-home celebrations in your honor. The tips in this article will help you to be better prepared for these interactions, so that you can enjoy them and continue to successfully reintegrate into life at home.
Make a Plan Before Attending
Your family, friends, colleagues or others may be curious and will want to ask you all about your time on deployment, and some of their questions may have the potential to make you feel uncomfortable. It can be helpful to formulate a plan for yourself beforehand. Decide ahead of time what you are willing to discuss with them, and set boundaries for what you are uncomfortable discussing. You can also:
- Share a little at a time, then let the other person respond to what you have to say
- Listen without interrupting or getting defensive1
- Recognize that others may not agree with your personal views or understand your service in the military
- Agree to disagree — everyone has their own opinion about the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the military in general
- Respectfully decline to answer any question that crosses the boundaries you’ve set for what you are uncomfortable discussing1
Learn to Manage Feelings of Stress and Anger
Post-Deployment Reintegration into Family Life
Learn additional tips and tactics for successfully transitioning back into family life.
Everyone can experience stress before, during and after an event or gathering — regardless of whether or not they have served our nation in the armed forces. There are many things you can do in your everyday life to help manage your stress, from simply playing cards with buddies to practicing meditation.
One popular stress-reducer is exercise. Activities like jogging, swimming, weight lifting or playing sports can often reduce physical tension. (Check with you doctor before starting a new exercise routine.) Exercise can give you a break from difficult emotions, distract you from painful memories and improve your self-esteem.2 For other ideas about how to manage stress, visit the “stress-busters” page on the Navy Combat and Operational Stress Control website.
It is also helpful to recognize and try to manage any angry feelings that may arise. If a situation arises in which you feel anger when speaking to a family member, friend or acquaintance about your military service (or other topics), you can manage your emotions by:
- Taking a deep breath and counting to 10 before reacting
- Walking away
- Thinking about the ultimate consequences of your responses3
Using these tactics to manage stress or anger will allow you to more fully enjoy social events following deployment and beyond.
Reach Out for Support if You Need It
Experiencing stress after returning home from a deployment is not uncommon. The information in this article can help you learn to address that stress successfully, but if you feel that you’d like to speak with a trained professional, don’t hesitate to contact the DCoE Outreach Center. Call 866-966-1020 or log onto Real Warriors Live Chat to get free, confidential guidance on resources for getting help 24/7.
- Discuss your post-deployment experiences with other service members at the Real Warriors Message Boards.
1"Families & Friendships eLibrary Reference Material," afterdeployment.org. Last accessed Jan. 29, 2013.
2"Lifestyle Changes Recommended for PTSD Patients," National Center for PTSD. Last accessed Jan. 29, 2013.
3"Returning from the War Zone: A Guide for Military Personnel," [PDF 2.64MB] National Center for PTSD. Last accessed Jan. 29, 2013.