Undoubtedly, traumatic experiences are common among veterans of the armed forces. These experiences can have lasting effects on veterans’ mental health, especially as they transition to civilian life. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to overcome trauma, and dedicated support is necessary to challenge its effects. Likewise, it is always possible to embrace new daily routines and coping strategies to navigate trauma. Even small daily practices can make a massive difference in each veteran’s recovery journey.
Trauma Among Veterans
Traumatic experiences are all too commonplace for veterans. Still, trauma manifests differently for everyone. There are many forms of trauma, and each can have lasting effects on a person’s mental health, physical health, and overall lifestyle. Identifying the sources of trauma is the first step toward creating an effective recovery plan.
Some of the most significant forms of trauma for veterans include great degrees of loss. Losing brothers or sisters in arms while on tour or experiencing personal injury as a result of being in an active warzone is common. These feelings of loss, grief, and trauma can be incredibly pervasive.
Some may also experience “survivor’s guilt,” or the feelings of guilt and depression that stem from surviving a life-threatening event. Persistent aches and pains from wounds incurred in the line of duty can also be reminders of these traumatic events, further complicating an individual’s recovery journey.
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However, others may have traumatic experiences from their time in the military that do not stem from an active warzone. Losing fellow service members, politics surrounding a particular war or tour, or on-base traumatic experiences (such as military sexual trauma) can all have lasting effects.
The effects of trauma are pervasive throughout the veteran community, with between 11 and 30% of veterans struggling with trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The severity of trauma can depend on factors such as the length of time an individual served on duty as well as their number of deployments.
Common Effects of Trauma
Traumatic experiences not only continue to inform emotional health, but also daily routines and behaviors. Trauma has many lasting effects on veterans. Common signs of trauma or PTSD include:
- Mood swings
- Self-isolation tendencies
- Constantly feeling “on guard”
- Difficulty sleeping
- Being easily frustrated or having bursts of anger
- Pervasive feelings of shame or guilt
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increase in risk-taking behaviors
- Use of drugs or alcohol
Navigating trauma is complex. However, there are daily practices that veterans can use to navigate the effects of trauma and promote a healthier daily life.
Establishing Healthy Coping Strategies
Each veteran will have their own best practices when it comes to navigating their unique journey with trauma. Professional help at treatment programs in Hawaii is often necessary to effectively challenge these feelings as well as other emotional turmoils or the use of addictive substances. Still, there are strategies that veterans can utilize on a daily basis to facilitate their own healing process.
Talk to Loved Ones
Talking about trauma is difficult, and it can be exceptionally hard to open up about experiences and embrace such a degree of vulnerability. However, this doesn’t mean that a person must isolate themselves or ignore these intense feelings. Talking to loved ones regularly is instrumental in deepening interpersonal relationships and practicing communication strategies.
Veterans do not necessarily have to begin these conversations by discussing traumatic experiences. Rather, conversations can build into these topics over time as trust develops and individuals become more comfortable with the topic. Regular communication efforts may include:
- Meeting with family and friends in person
- Talking with loved ones on the phone
- Keeping email or text chains with loved ones active
All of these are great ways to talk to loved ones and create a healthy, supportive outlet for when a person is ready to discuss their journey with trauma.
Avoid Denying Feelings
Denial is often a result of trauma. It is normal to want to push down these emotions due to their intense and uncomfortable nature. However, this can produce destructive outcomes as these emotions continue to build without being acknowledged or expressed. Having a safe outlet to allow oneself to experience these emotions is crucial. For some, this can be done in a dedicated professional setting, directly identifying and challenging their effects on one’s life.
However, others may look to more private outlets. For example, using a journal or other private space to record feelings can be a great way to acknowledge and express feelings in a safe way. Where denying these feelings can have dangerous consequences, creating a space where an individual is allowed to express such vulnerability is instrumental across their entire recovery journey.
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Focus on Health
Trauma is an overwhelming feeling. However, focusing on physical health can have great benefits for a person’s emotional state as well. Making an effort to have nutritious meals at regular mealtimes and keep the body moving can all help address the emotional effects of trauma. Going on a walk or jog, hiking, or learning a new sport can all help to keep an individual’s body healthy. Additionally, avoiding unhealthy foods can further aid in emotional healing.
Trauma is an unfortunate and common experience for veterans of the armed forces. We at Hawaii Island Recovery are committed to helping you or your veteran loved one challenge the effects of trauma for a healthy and sober civilian life. Our dedicated veteran programs are committed to helping each veteran connect with peers and informed professionals to overcome the unique challenges that veterans face, all while creating an atmosphere of support, camaraderie, and accountability. We believe in treating the whole self by addressing substance use, trauma, and any other mental health issues in tandem to create a truly transformative recovery. To learn more about how treatment centers in Hawaii can challenge trauma in your life, call (866) 390-5070.