Help With Stress Relief for Veterans
The information in this article is current as of March 2, 2022.
Veterans can face a long list of challenges when returning home from their deployment. Finding a new job, securing housing, and processing the situations they have been through can all add to their everyday stress.
The prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans is estimated between 11%-20%, depending on their service area. This calls for even more help managing stress within the veteran population. This article offers at-home techniques and professional resources to help with stress relief for veterans.
At-Home Techniques for Veteran Stress Relief
For light stress that isn’t impeding everyday life, veterans can implement plenty of at-home techniques to relieve stress. Hopefully, you’ll lower your stress levels, feel more at peace, and learn to regulate emotional reactions. So why not try combining the methods and tips below.
Sometimes, an explosion of stress may seem to come “out of nowhere.” Still, it’s been built up over time from the more minor daily stressors you experience. The first step for lowering stress levels is recognizing your stress symptoms.
Stress can manifest as:
- Aches and pains
- Feeling like your heart is racing
- Fatigue or trouble sleeping
- High blood pressure
- A weak immune system
If the stress you’re experiencing stems from PTSD, you may notice:
- Reoccurring, unwanted memories of a traumatic event which causes you to relive the event or have nightmares
- Avoiding places that remind you of the traumatic and stressful event
- Adverse changes in your mood and thinking
- Being easily startled or being on constant high alert
If you’re experiencing PTSD symptoms, it’s essential to seek professional guidance to manage this stress. It may not be best to rely on only at-home remedies. At-home remedies can work together with professional help against PTSD.
Once you have recognized that you’re feeling stressed, either in general or over a specific situation, you can implement a relaxation technique to take control of the situation.
Popular techniques include breathing exercises, body scans, guided imagery, meditation, practicing an ancient art, or repetitive prayer.
- Breathing exercises: Focusing on one’s breathing can lower stress levels, including blood pressure levels. Not only do breathing exercises refocus your mind onto the present and solely onto your body, but it also allows you to exhibit control over something in a moment where you might otherwise feel powerless. So why not try this breathing technique – used by the Special Forces – to start.
- Body scans: Body scans help pinpoint where stress is felt in your body. Start with your feet and move upwards, finding areas that feel tight or stressed. Take time to loosen the muscles in any tense areas before moving upwards until your whole body is relaxed.
- Guided imagery: Guided imagery can be done in professional counseling sessions, but it can also be self-driven. Conjure up an image or a scene of something pleasant for you. Then, close your eyes and focus on this scene. Imagine it in as greater detail as possible, including what you’d see, smell, hear and even taste. Ten minutes of guided imagery could lower cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose levels and even heighten immune cell activity for veterans.
- Meditation: Mindfulness has long been a helpful practice against stress, anxiety, depression, and even physical pain. Mindfulness focuses on being in the present moment. The goal is to avoid visualizing past, present, or potential problems. For those who may be hesitant to try meditation, you may want to start with the Military Meditation Coach Podcast.
- Ancient arts: The ancient arts include yoga, tai chi, and qigong. These activities may be physically challenging, but they genuinely focus on mental engagement, training you to control your mind better.
- Repetitive prayer: If you’re a religious or spiritual person, you may find calm in a repeating prayer or mantra. This can be done through your thoughts without actual verbalization. It’s a way to reign in stressful thoughts and refocus on something positive you believe in and enjoy.
Stress Management Apps for Veterans
There are plenty of stress management assistance apps built especially for veterans and the military population. Many can be paired with professional services to extend approaches taught during counseling sessions.
The Chill Drills by Military One Source app provides guided drills to help create calm. It’s free to service members and their families. Find it on your app store or the Military One Source website.
Apps promoted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:
- ACT Coach: Assists with practicing acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) techniques
- AIMS for Anger Management
- CBT-I Coach: Assists with practicing cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for insomnia
- Couples Coach: Assists with improving interpersonal, intimate relationships
- Insomnia Coach: Provides guided training to help you get to sleep
- Live Whole Health: Teaches skills for healthy living
- Mindfulness Coach: Helps with emotional balance
- PTSD Coach: Provides tools to manage PTSD
- PTSD Family Coach: for family members of those struggling with PTSD
Focus on Your Health
Too often, stress is seen as a problem within the mind instead of within the body. However, it’s essential to improve overall health when learning how to lower stress levels.
Try to avoid self-medicating your stress with alcohol or drugs. Instead, incorporate exercise into your daily routine as often as possible, and balance it with healthy meals to keep your body strong. For information on free gym options for veterans, check out this article.
As we’ve read above, stress can often ignite many physical problems. By staying on top of your health, you are retrospectively battling against your anxiety.
Professional Assistance for Veteran Stress Relief
For those whose stress seems out of control or affects their daily routine, it may be time to use a helping hand to find stress relief. Countless agencies, organizations, and individuals offer veterans free or low-cost professional assistance for stress relief and other issues.
Official VA Mental Health Services
The U.S. Veterans Affairs (VA) Department provides countless services for U.S. veterans. From health care to benefits programs, they cover almost any department to help make veterans’ lives easier.
If you are in a crisis, you can contact their crisis line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. You can also send a text to 838255 or chat confidently with someone on their website now.
To schedule services to help with stress management and relief, including dealing with anger, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, and PTSD, veterans can turn to the VA.
The first step would be to contact and register with your nearest VA medical center. These centers offer peer support, counseling, therapy, and/or medication options. You can read more about their mental health services on their website here. You can contact 877-222-8387 for more clarity and information if you’re unsure which resource is right for you.
Other Veteran Stress Relief Services
There are plenty of other resources for free or low-cost stress relief help for veterans. Some are offered online, over the phone, or in person.
- Cohen’s Veteran Network: Low or no-cost mental health services for veterans and their families
- Give an Hour: No-cost mental health services through specific providers in their Military, Veterans, and Loved One’s program.
- Help For Our Heroes: Residential and partial hospitalization programs for mental health trauma, PTSD, depression, and co-occurring disorders for veterans and first responders
- Military One Source: Free, short-term, non-medical counseling for a wide range of issues for veterans and active military members
- Vets 4 Warriors: A 24/7 peer-support hotline at 1-855-838-8255. This line is not for speaking with a professionally trained therapist or counselor
Apart from counseling, veterans can seek professional services, including PTSD retreats, camps for uniting veterans, and stress support groups led by a licensed professional.
What Help Is Available for Veterans for Stress Relief?
Veterans can utilize techniques at home to manage short-term stress. Some methods include breathing exercises, body scans, guided imagery, meditation, practicing an ancient art, or repetitive prayer. For professional help, veterans can contact the VA or other non-profit organizations that offer veteran mental health services.
When Should a Veteran Seek Out Professional Help for Stress?
When your stress disrupts your day-to-day life, it’s time to turn to a professional for help. If you are experiencing any PTSD symptoms, you should consider speaking to a professional as soon as possible.
Stress Relief Help, the First Step
We hope you find these tips, apps, and websites insightful. The first step to finding a way that best handles stress relief can seem overwhelming, but many would agree the results are worth it. Please remember you are not alone. Help is out there.
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