Easing holiday, reintegration stress for service members

Holidays can be difficult for anyone.
For service members coping with invisible wounds, and members of the National Guard or Reserve who return to civilian lives that do not involve those with whom they served, this time of year can be especially stressful.

“Service members may feel isolated following deployment, and large events such as holiday parties can be overwhelming,” said Col. Christopher Robinson, senior executive director of psychological health at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

To help service members and families reintegrate and manage stress, the DCoE-sponsored Real Warriors Campaign encourages service members, veterans and military families to reach out for support.

“When service members return from deployment, friends and family may want to celebrate their return,” Robinson said. “If large parties feel overwhelming, service members should talk about their anxieties and what friends and family can do to celebrate their homecoming.”
It is common to feel frustrated during the reintegration process, but it takes time to reconnect.

It may help service members experiencing stress to schedule time with their partner, children and parents to learn about new routines and to talk about their experiences during deployment. Talking to friends and family may ease frustrations.

Mentally prepare for parties and events
People may be curious about deployment, and some of their questions may make service members uncomfortable.
Service members may want to try to anticipate questions and think about their response before events. They can decide what they feel comfortable sharing and should know they do not have to go beyond that.
It is not always possible to anticipate anxiety and emotions, so if a conversation or event becomes uncomfortable, service members should remember that it is OK to excuse themselves.

Limit alcohol
From cider to eggnog, alcohol may often feel like a holiday tradition. It is important, however, to limit alcohol consumption. Studies show that drinking alcohol can cause serious problems that could negatively affect service members’ health and relationships in the long run.

Overcome isolation
“After deployment, service members may feel alone, especially if they are separated from their unit,” Robinson said. “Service members may feel like no one understands how they feel.”

While service members may want to isolate themselves from family and friends, being around others is important to their well-being. It may help to make plans to socialize with friends and family in comfortable places, and to stick with the plans.
The Internet may be a valuable way for service members to stay connected to their unit, but they should not let online interactions replace socializing with friends and family.

Reach out for help
Service members and their families are encouraged to reach out for support through resources such as Military and Family Life Consultants, chaplains and other counselors.
Service members, veterans and military families can also reach out to trained health professionals at the DCoE Outreach Center for support by visiting www.realwarriors.net and logging onto Real Warriors Live Chat or by calling civ. 001-866-966-1020.

Other resources
• Military and Family Life Consultant in the Stuttgart military community: civ. 0170-708-0715 or 0160-9574-8279.
• Social Work Services: 431-2676/civ. 07031-15-2676
• Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis Line: DSN 118 or toll free 00800-1273-8255.
• Stuttgart Military Police: 430-5262/civ. 0711-680- 5261/5262.