How to build a normal life after service

Forming a community can be crucial to adapting to civilian life.

Transitioning to civilian life after returning from the military can take mental and physical preparation. A major factor can be the way you adapt to a new home and build a community. From locating the right home to making the changes necessary to create a sustainable life in new surroundings, there's lots you can do to feel more welcome upon returning. Even though this may seem like a tall order at first, the feeling of finding a natural civilian life is important and necessary.

As you create a new day-to-day routine, think of the ways you can make the shift easier:

Find a new community
A crucial part of settling into a new life is the way you'll go about everyday activities. A recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article profiled one military veteran who pursued work with an organization dedicated to mental health support for other soldiers.

This veteran, U.S. Army Spc. Richard Kitelinger, told the source about the way his home helps him manage specific physical issues.

"The house is extremely compatible for my needs," he said. "Everything I need is on the main floor. I avoid stairs when possible – they put a strain on my back. Because I suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) I get debilitating migraines once or twice a week. Our bedroom is soundproof and has blackout shades. It helps a lot."

"Don't neglect the sort of neighbors who will make you feel most at home."

Think about the kind of things you want in your ideal residence, and don't forget the kinds of neighbors who will make you feel most comfortable. Any medical conditions you have could also factor into your choice as you look for a place to settle down.

Make some social adjustments
Life in the military can come with set rules that simply aren't present once you return. Paying attention to your reflexes and being mindful could show others you are taking to your new role and want to do what you can to connect with others.

There's something valuable about being around others with similar experiences, too, so reaching out to veterans who are also coming back to civilian life can be helpful, supportive and valuable. However you go about it, the extra help will likely prove useful in orienting yourself to new surroundings.

The social structure you've been used while in service will suddenly be different, so finding those who you share common traits with could be an important initial step for normalcy. There's also the lack of the regularity that military operations tend to run on. If this is something you've relied on for years, transitioning away from it could require a lot of effort and self-forgiveness. Eventually, though, you may start to see positive results.

"The social structure you've been used to while in service will suddenly be different."

Put yourself out there
In addition to friends and neighbors, getting out into the world can also be a productive way to return to civilian life. Get out and volunteer for a cause you know, or engage with things around you. It could be something that helps other veterans adjust, or just a way to give back.

Either way, finding some activity that means a lot to you can be more helpful than what you might think. You might be able to draw from some specific experience or skill obtained in service to try and discover a new use for these in civilian life.

Once you establish a new routine, you could find yourself in a life you appreciate. It will take time but should ultimately lead to a better sense of belonging, and that's what it's all about.

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