How to Get Back to "Normal"
Whether you’re a reservist or full-time military person, your return from war means the embrace
of family and friends, and resuming everyday life. Even before the rejoicing
over your safe return subsides, you ’ll be trying to find your way back to what’s normal again.
Here are some tips to help you through this time of transition:
- Realize the reunion is more than
just coming home. It’s a major event for the people in your life -- maybe even bigger than the separation.
In fact, research shows that reunion can cause more stress in people’s lives than deployment. That’s not to say that returning service members and their family and friends aren’t happy about the homecoming. They’re usually ecstatic. The stress comes from the changes that have taken place
and concern for what life will now be like.
- Spend time with family and friends. For
months, the people who are closest to you have been living with the
fear of losing you. Make a special effort to spend time with them
or, if they are far away, call often to support and reassure them.
- View stress as normal. Returning
to your everyday life is a major change, and change always creates
stress. If accepted and handled constructively, stress can be turned
into a source of excitement and enthusiasm about new beginnings with
family and friends.
- Go slowly. Take
time to ease back into your routine. Make a list of those things
that must be done -- such as banking, making living arrangements,
contacting friends and relatives -- and take them one by one. Trying
to do too much too soon will only add to your stress level. Consider
putting off major decisions until you’ve had plenty of time to readjust.
- Communicate with others. Talking
with others about your experiences and what you’re feeling can help relieve stress. It’s not a sign of weakness. Talk with a trusted relative, friend, faith leader
or family services staffer. Military chaplains can be helpful, as
most receive training in pastoral counseling and crisis.
- Take care of your physical health. Get
plenty of rest and exercise, eat properly, and avoid drugs and excessive
- Do things you find relaxing. Go
fishing, attend a concert, or take a long soak in the tub. Be kind
- Watch what you spend. Now
that you’re back, the urge to spend will be strong. Don’t spend more than you can afford.
- Start the rebuilding process together. Do
it as a family. Make the decision that this time will serve to make
you and your family even stronger. Get involved in positive activities
that encourage togetherness and reassurance.
- Expect something of a letdown. Most,
if not all, service members experience it. It simply means that you’re no longer running on pure adrenalin and that things are beginning to settle
down. Or, it may mean that the homecoming hasn’t solved all the problems that existed before the mobilization. Possibly, your
reunion didn’t go the way you thought it would. Whatever the reason, it’s perfectly normal to feel this way. However, if this feeling doesn’t go away, it could be a sign of something more serious. Read about this in the
Mental Health America Fact Sheet, “When the Letdown Doesn’t Let Up.”
If you feel overwhelmed by your homecoming, seek help. It's not a sign of weakness.
Nearly every military installation has a family service center, family
support center or Army community service center where you can access
information, referral, counseling, and crisis intervention services.
In addition, all military families, including National Guard members
and Reservists who are activated for more than 30 days, are eligible
for medical and mental health care either at a military medical treatment
facility or at a civilian facility through TRICARE, the administrator
of health services for the armed services. TRICARE provides information
about mental health benefits programs for the military on their Web
site, www.tricare.osd.mil. Or contact them at 888-363-2273. Also, Military
OneSource provides 24-hour access to information and help. Contact
them at 800-342-9647 or www.militaryonesource.com.