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How Veterans Can Aid Resilience by Writing
Reintegrating into civilian life after serving in the military can be challenging for many veterans. Fortunately, there are several simple things you can do on your own to support the reintegration process, one of which is writing in a journal. Putting your frustrations, worries and concerns down on paper can help you relieve stress you may be dealing with as a result of difficult situations or your transition into civilian life.1 You can use the information below to learn about how you can take advantage of this useful technique to improve your reintegration.
The Benefits of Journal Writing
Clinical trials indicate that writing about stressful or traumatic experiences can enhance your immune system’s response, reduce recovery times and promote physical, psychological and social well-being. Specifically, writing can be:2
- A de-stressor and can release tension and settle the mind.
- A mood-changer, with the capability of making you happy.
- An outlet to help you let go of negative thoughts.
- A form of therapy for enhancing psychological healing and growth.
- A way to increase self-confidence.
Simply put, writing your thoughts and emotions down in a journal can be an excellent way to support your resilience, recovery and reintegration. This holds true for your family members as well — military spouses have also found it to be a very helpful exercise.3
How Can I Start Writing in a Journal?
Share your thoughts with other men and women who have served in the armed forces, by writing within the veterans section of the Real Warriors Message Boards.
Journal writing is when you keep a simple log of your daily or weekly activities, as well as the thoughts and feelings you have experienced. This provides an outlet of expression that can help you see, process and understand any stress that you may be experiencing. Here are a few helpful suggestions to follow as you begin:4
- Simply write about your most prevalent feelings in a day, what your thoughts were or any events you thought were interesting or important.
- Find a quiet time and place to do your writing.
- Keep your journal where you will see it every day and have easy access to it.
- Use whatever format you feel most comfortable with, such as a notebook or a computer.
- Try to write at a designated time during your daily or weekly routine.
Sometimes, it can be tough to know how to start writing. Try these phrases to get you going:5
- I feel powerful when…
- I'm proud of myself because…
- I am most grateful for…
- I feel my mission in life is to…
- I believe in myself because…
Reach Out for Professional Support from VA
Read about how soldiers at Camp Liberty in Iraq used writing and drawing as outlets for stress during deployment.
While journal writing can be extremely helpful, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional assistance from VA if you have concerns related to psychological health or traumatic brain injury. A wide array of free tools and resources are available to all veterans. To access the care that’s right for you, contact one of the following:
DCoE Outreach Center
Log on to Real Warriors Live Chat or call 866-966-1020 to speak confidentially with a trained health resource consultant for free, 24/7.
Your Local Vet Center
Find the contact information for your local Vet Center through the VA website in order to access readjustment counseling and outreach services at no cost.
Your Local VA Medical Center
You can also find the contact information for your local VA Medical Center through the VA website in order to access these health care facilities located across the country.
1Young, Bruce H., et al. "Disaster Rescue and Response Workers," National Center for PTSD. Last accessed Dec. 2, 2014.
2Pennebaker, James W. "Writing to Heal A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma and Emotional Upheaval," Oakland, Calif.: New Harbinger Press, 2004.
3Hightower, Kathie and Scherer, Holly. “Tell It to Your Journal: Writing Can Be Emotional Strength Training,” ArmyTimes. Published Feb. 12, 2007.
4Sinclair, Kevin. “Self-Discovery Through Journal Writing.” ArticlesBase. Last accessed Dec. 2, 2014.
5McKay, Kathryn. “Self-Discovery Through Journaling.” Discovery Fit and Health. Last accessed Dec. 2, 2014.