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What they don’t tell you in resettlement...

If you have read any of my previous posts or you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen me talking passionately and relentlessly about the importance of community and mental health for veterans, particularly women veterans, who as I have mentioned before are somewhat forgotten about, once we have parted ways with military life.

Research has proven that it’s our predisposition as a human race to belong and be connected that makes leaving the military so difficult. Our fear of rejection and loss of community is so overwhelming that it can have serious repercussions on our mental health and well-being. That loss of community has even been described by Neuroscientist Naomi I. Eisenberger as being “one of the most painful experiences we endure” further indicating that our neural response to social disconnection is similar to that of physical pain!

The current programme of resettlement has little to no consideration for the overall mental health and wellbeing of a service leaver, it focuses mainly on the ideas of getting a job, which is undoubtedly important, however without a community, without that the connection the military life embodies and without the tools to maintain mental, and emotional wellness getting a job is often not enough.

According to Mental Health First Aid (MHA) England.

People with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs every year at around double the rate of those without a mental health condition. This equates to 300,000 people – the equivalent of the population of Newcastle or Belfast

Mental Health is a hot topic in the UK and the world at present, particularly as a result of the pandemic. In fact, the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness week is loneliness.

Loneliness affects millions of people in the UK every year and is a key driver of poor mental health

Mental health and well-being are paramount to a positive transition from military life to veteran life and the resettlement programme really does need to up its game in this arena for all service leavers, as the usual medical clearance checks of a visit to the med centre, dental centre and PT department are purely a tick box exercise and do not provide a holistic overview of an individual’s true well-being. It should not be the responsibility of charities either, who unfortunately, usually only get involved once a problem exists.

Therefore, until the game changes, this is something that you are going to have to do for yourself. A fact that I personally learnt quite late in the game therefore am screaming from the rooftops as loud as I can for all of you to hear! (I’ve never been known to be a shrinking violet! Lol).

That’s what they don’t tell you!

If you have never considered your mental health before, then during transition is definitely the time to do it!

It is an important part of your well-being and how you’re able to operate psychologically, emotionally, and socially among others. At a time when you need to integrate into what essentially can be classed to us veterans as a foreign land, where they all talk funny and have never heard of a naked bar (or back garden… sorry Sir! Lol), taking care of your mental health and well-being should be paramount!

Therefore, I have used my own experiences with mental health and well-being to good use, added a bit of research and I’ve compiled a list of 4 things you can do to safeguard your mental health and well-being through the transition period from military life to veteran life (to use the words of Buzz Lightyear “and beyond!”):

1. Decompress

You may have heard this expression before when returning from a tour and being sent to Bloodhound Camp in Cyprus for a few days to smash sh*t up and get hammered before returning to your families.

I’m not telling you to fly to Cyprus or any other island and lock yourself away for a few days or to start wreaking havoc anywhere!

You can go to an island if you want to (don’t damage anything though!)!

What I mean is, learn how to release that pressure you are feeling. The pressure to find a job, home, pay bills etc.

How you chose to do this is a very individual process but as a starting point you could try one of the following:

Talk to people


Talking with friends and family, getting supported by them and having your thoughts and feelings acknowledged can be helpful in itself.

Talking with other veterans, whether that be an online community like the V-word or face to face within a peer support group helps (something I’m hoping to set up in the future so I can see some of your lovely faces!). Connecting and sharing with others who are going through similar experiences and have similar feelings can provide a safe space where you feel accepted, validated, and valued.

Do something you enjoy!

Make time for yourself and do the things you like, it doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, it can be something as simple as taking a bath, going for a walk, listening to music, going for a coffee with a friend or journaling. I like all of those things listed, I also like to play the piano (absolute novice, but it brings me joy!) and I write this blog!

Try Mindfulness

This is not a fluff piece, it's not a load of b*ll*x either and no you don’t have to necessarily wear a daisy chain headband and yoga pants to practise it (although you absolutely can if you truly desire!). So, before you roll eyes and pull out your archaic 'man up card' (god awful things) and breeze past this particular section, please humour me.

There is evidence for the effective use of mindfulness with military veterans for stress, posttraumatic stress disorder, sleep, and depression.

As someone who suffers from anxiety, mindfulness has been an absolute godsend. I will be honest I did initially roll my eyes at the idea of it. However, with practice and less judgement, it has become one of my go-to practices in times where I feel overwhelmed or when I can’t get all the thoughts and fears from the past and the future to bugger off and stop whizzing around my head like a cake mixer turning my brain into mush!

Do you know what I mean? When you are lying in bed, trying to catch the ZZZ’s then that thing from 20 years ago pops up and you start thinking of all the things you should have done or said instead? (That wh*re known as anxiety!)

Anyway, mindfulness is about getting you focused on the present moment and the present moment alone, being aware of where we are and what we are doing. Preventing us from being overwhelmed and fretting about things we cannot control. It slows you down and gives you an element of peace.

The practise of mindfulness can take anything from 1 min to 60 or more if you like. I generally tend to do short intervals in the day if necessary and then a 30 min one at night to help me shut my brain off.

When we’re mindful, we become more self-aware, reduce stress, more in control of our thoughts and feelings, and become kinder to not only ourselves but for others too.

There are many ways you can practise mindfulness (including the need to wear yoga pants!) and there is lots of information and apps available online. I personally use Headspace and highly recommend it.

A side note: For the Mums out there that may be reading this, it also has some awesome stuff on there for kids to help them manage their emotions too I use it with my mini. When she gets frustrated and stressed, we take a minute to blow out the candles and smell the flowers… it works… (most of the time).

2. Stay Fit

We all know that fitness releases those natural endorphins and helps with our mental well-being as well as our physical. There are many benefits to being fit, but I’m far from being a PT so won’t patronise you with my own google research and will let you do your own!

What I will say is though, I didn’t do this and wanged on 6 stone! It was only an incident where my mini ran behind a reversing car and I couldn’t catch her that woke me up and set me off back on the path of fitness... The mini was fine and safe because a kind lady swooped her up in time, but I was devastated that as her mother I was too fat to move quick enough and protect her myself. I had become a parody of myself. I’m now 3 stone down with 3 to go.

Going to the Gym has been a really positive outlet for me both physically and mentally. It has given me the “me time” I need, something to focus on and when I don’t go, I can definitely feel it both physically and mentally. I haven’t been going lately and my mental health has definitely declined.

So, I actually went today! Didn’t want to be a hypocrite! (Another positive for me writing this blog!)

Honestly, though, I’m that absolute hot mess in the gym that looks like a belisha beacon and glows red by the end of the session and is breathing out of her ar*ehole, therefore I usually hate the thought of it and sometimes even hate it when I’m doing it… but the rush after is worth it. Also, the vanity benefits help too.. not to mention those endorphins (wish I could bottle those, I’d be loaded)!

I’m sure a fair few of you can relate… I hope…

3. Learn something new

Research suggests that learning new things increases our self-esteem as well as our knowledge base. It also introduces you to new people and social circles thus promoting the opportunity to build that much-needed community (I’m gonna keep on Saying it!)

It doesn’t have to necessarily be anything as intense as an educational course like a HND or a degree either. It can be anything, I personally have recently started learning how to play the piano, something I have always wanted to do and I’m genuinely enjoying it.

However, you can learn about pretty much anything you want, via YouTube, courses through friends, etc.

What is that thing you have always wanted to learn? Do it!

4. Be Kind

Be kind to yourself

Research has found that people who are kind to themselves and others have profound emotional and well-being benefits.

Research shows that kindness to ourselves:

· Helps us to know ourselves (identity… it's important, see the last blog!)

  • Boosts our self-esteem and confidence (who doesn’t want that?)

  • Makes us more positive

  • Helps us cope better with stress, anxiety, and depression

  • Improves resilience – our ability to bounce back after a setback

So how?

There are a vast number of ways we can be kind to ourselves!

It’s not always easy, as a very self-critical person this is something I genuinely have to work on daily.

Talk kindly to yourself

First and foremost, the voice that you will hear the most throughout all of your life is your own, so talk kindly to yourself. Talk to yourself how you would someone else. Try to see the good in yourself instead of finding the negatives and belittling yourself (I’m a nightmare for this! Are you?).

Practise self-care

There is a reason why you are told to put your oxygen mask on before helping anyone else when in an emergency situation whilst flying! If you are not ok how do you propose to be any good to anyone else?

Self-care is not overindulgence, buying yourself that dress or going on lavish holidays, as it is often promoted on social media platforms. Self-care is pretty much what this whole blog piece is about! It's looking after our own fundamental needs, such as getting enough sleep, taking care of our bodies, minds and overall health.

At my lowest point I didn’t practise self-care well, hence the 6 stone weight gain, bad skin, slow walking and getting out of breath going upstairs… I found it difficult to even bother to brush my hair or my teeth to be quite honest, as I did not care about myself! (Gross but true!)

Again, honesty, self-care is something I STILL have to remind myself to do not only as a full time working women, veteran, wife and as a mum too… on the regular!

I have to manage my time and carve out opportunities for fitness, I do face masks with the mini to ensure I’m looking after my skin and I schedule in time to do my blog, play the piano.

The hardest thing I have found throughout the whole of my transition to veteran life is to set boundaries with work and get that work-life balance right (See the blog post I am more than just my job).

Ringing any bells??

Self-reflection and practising gratitude

This has been a big one for me recommended through therapy. I found this hard at first, particularly at the darker times of my mental health journey when I catastrophised and wanted to disappear.

***I must stress, at no point was I suicidal however I did often want to just disappear. Does that make sense? Have you ever felt this? My therapist says she hears this a lot. Which is sad but also comforting knowing that I’m not completely chicken oriental! Sounds extreme when I read this back to myself but it's true.***

Moving on, a tool I found particularly useful was the 6-minute diary (click for link).

I bloody love notebooks and stationery. A little obsessed in fact and yes full disclosure I do have a monthly stationery box subscription!

I know, I know… But it makes me happy so f*ck it!

It’s a bit of a thing in our house now, like an event, when it arrives the mini and I open it together and use whatever is in it.. it’s a monthly ritual now I can’t open it without her!

Although I do find it hard to share with her sometimes,

I’m a bit like Gollum over it… mmmm my precious!! Lol

Back to the 6-minute diary…

What is it?

Well, it’s a gratitude journal... that takes 6 mins a day to fill in!

I know you're probably thinking what’s the point, right?

But practising the act of gratitude is a proven cognitive behaviour therapy utilised to combat anxiety.

At first, I felt a bit weird doing it, didn’t really know if I was doing it right or not… but I tried my best to approach it with an open mind. It took practice to really get into it though.

There are lots of gratitude diaries available out there, you don’t have to use this one, just take a little look-see on the interweb and choose the right one for you.

Be kind to others

If you could bottle the feeling you get when you do something for another without expectation and see their positive reaction, you would be a rich person a bit like the endorphins high after exercise.

Do you agree?

When we are kind to others, we not only improve our self-esteem but theirs too creating a bond and again yes, I’m going to say it… builds a social connection i.e., community!

Lots of ideas on how to be kind and information on how it benefits our well-being can be found online. Again though it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, it can be anything as simple as smiling at a stranger, holding a door open for someone to babysitting for an hour for your mum friend to let her at least take a sh*t in peace!

These seemingly small gestures for you could be momentous to the receiver.

So, this was a bit of a long post guys! I hope you managed to read it this far!

Did you?

Comment below if you did and let me know if you are going to try any of the suggestions made… I would love to hear how you get on?

These are the approaches that I personally found to be the most rewarding and positive for me but there are many more, it is important that you take the time to research, find what works for you and take care of your mental health and wellbeing during transition. No one else will…

Decompress, Stay fit, Learn Something New and Be kind!

Leaving the military is not the end of your journey, it’s merely just a part of it, now is the beginning of your next adventure.

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