Stress can be a big part of military life, no matter what branch you support. But for members of the National Guard and Reserve, the stressors you and your family face are unique. You cope with the challenges of both military and civilian life, and the transition between the two can be difficult and challenging at times.
As part of your duties, you may be stationed away from home, often making it difficult to stay connected with your family and peers. During times of transition, it is important to recognize when you feel stressed and learn ways to cope.
Recognizing the Signs
It's important to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress, so that managing them can be easier. Be sure to stay alert to the signs and symptoms below and have your loved ones keep an eye out too:
- Trouble eating, sleeping or concentrating
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Feeling disconnected from family and friends
- Being more sensitive than usual
- Not taking care of yourself (e.g. hygiene)
- Easily bothered or trouble controlling your anger
- Often confused
- Rash behavior
- Feelings of fear, nervousness or anxiety
- Extreme mood swings
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, use the strategies below to help yourself cope. The sooner you take action, the more likely you will manage your stress.
Managing Your Stress
A support network can help you manage your stress. Because you may not be near your unit or an installation, it may seem like no one else understands what you’re going through. Try to surround yourself with people who love and care for you—they can listen to your concerns and help you identify and manage stressors.
There are also actions you can take to cope with stress. First and foremost, take time for yourself. This might involve deep breathing, meditating, listening to soothing music or practicing yoga. Taking the time to relax and focus on the present will help you reframe the situation and find the positive in your life.
Other tips for managing your stress include:
- Keep a journal
- Practice positivity – give compliments, smile and laugh more often
- Get regular exercise
- Eat balanced meals on a regular basis
- Get enough sleep
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake
- Maintain normal routines
- Make a to-do list and check off tasks as you complete them
- Avoid drug use
- Keep an open mind
Also remember to “expect the unexpected.” While keeping a routine schedule will be very helpful in managing your stress, try not to get too bogged down with the details. If something does not go as expected, take a step back to collect yourself and remember that plans may not always go the way you want them to, but that’s OK.
Reaching Out Makes a Real Difference
If you or someone you know needs additional tools or resources for coping with stress:
- Connect with Real Warriors Live Chat
- Call the Psychological Health Resource Center at 866-966-1020 to speak with a trained health resource consultant, available 24/7 to help answer questions and identify support services in your community
- Contact the Military Crisis Line for 24/7 confidential support by calling 1-800-273-8255, texting 838255 or chatting online at www.militarycrisisline.net
Returning Home After Disaster Relief Work: A Post-Deployment Guide for Emergency and Disaster Response Workers. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/emergencypreparedness/resilience_resources/support_documents/postdeploy/er_disaster_workers_nmh05-0219.html
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), National Institutes of Health. (n.d.) 5 Things You Should Know About Stress.