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Whether you’ve spent years on a military base or a month in a combat zone, re-entering civilian society after serving in the armed forces is never easy. The excitement of returning home to your family and starting a new life can be mildly tempered by the fear of the unknown that lies ahead. And, if you are dealing with a combat injury or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), even your own home can overwhelm you.
The good news is that while you can’t remove stressors from work, relationships, or everyday life, there are steps you can take to create a peaceful and welcoming atmosphere in the place that matters most: your own home. In this guide, we’ll talk about some of the most common challenges veterans face upon return and what you can do to ease them.
As if adapting to an entirely different routine weren’t enough to mess with your sleep schedule, many veterans experience sleep disturbances that make it difficult to get enough rest each night. In turn, the resulting sleep deprivation can contribute to or worsen underlying mental health issues like depression or PTSD. If you are having difficulty falling or staying asleep, or if you are experiencing sleep apnea or insomnia, talk to your doctor about treatment options. In addition to the tactics your physician recommends, there are also environmental changes you can make at home to create a more sleep-friendly environment.
Be Clutter Free
A clutter-free bedroom makes it easier for your brain and body to slow down as you prepare to sleep. This includes piles of laundry, stacks of paperwork, and technology. While you may think a pre-bedtime scroll through social media or a mini Netflix binge helps you relax, it actually does the opposite. That’s because the light suppresses melatonin production that lets your body know it’s time to rest. So, instead of using electronics, consider activities like reading a book or meditating before bed.
Choose Soothing Sounds
Factors like a comfy mattress, soft lighting, and staying cool play a major role in the quantity and quality of sleep you get. However, when creating the ideal sleeping environment, you also need to surround yourself with soothing sounds. While some people can sleep through cars backfiring, sirens blaring, and fireworks popping, others are much more sensitive. To prevent frequent waking and minimize the risk of a PTSD-induced panic attack, invest in a white noise machine that can mask unwelcome noises.
Make Room for a Hobby
The benefits of hobbies and leisure activities range from reducing stress to maintaining health to building a sense of community. Since these are all common challenges for veterans making the transition from active duty, hobbies are the perfect way to pass the time and create peace. Whether you are picking up an old hobby you once enjoyed or trying something new, making room in your home for the activity can make it easier to practice your craft.
Create a Studio
While don’t always need a dedicated space to pursue a hobby, it’s necessary when your activity of choice requires supplies, equipment, or even just concentration. Consider turning your spare room, extra closet, basement, or garage into a studio where you can complete your latest woodworking project, paint your next masterpiece, organize your coin collection, practice your guitar chords, or meditate without distraction.
Find a garage conversion contractor near you for ideas and a project quote.
Cultivate a Garden
Spending time outdoors naturally reduces stress and boosts your mood. For those reasons, time in nature can be particularly helpful to veterans with PTSD. Gardening is a low-cost, family-friendly way to combine the great outdoors with physical activity — another natural mood booster. That’s why cultivating a garden, arguably the world’s oldest hobby, is also one of the greatest for soldiers who are becoming civilians.
Whether you are working with a small farm or a few planters, it’s possible to create a garden just about anywhere. Even with the most basic garden setup, you can grow flowers, herbs, fruits, or veggies. You can do it alone, let the kids join in, or invite the entire neighborhood to participate.
Build Family & Community
For a veteran, adjusting to a civilian lifestyle includes building and strengthening interpersonal relationships. For service members who spent time deployed or living on a military base, relating to family members, non-military friends, and civilian co-workers is a common challenge. The way you structure your home and life can contribute to remembering and re-learning the social skills required to feel comfortable and loved in your new environment.
Design Family-Friendly Spaces
Thanks to technology, service men and women who must live apart from their family can usually keep in touch while they’re away. However, while absence makes the heart grow fonder, it doesn’t help you stay in tune with your family’s changing routine. This is especially true with children who are constantly growing and changing.
Bringing the people you love together to eat, play, and socialize in family-friendly spaces can help you reconnect. Dining rooms with a table where you can gather for meals, family rooms where you can watch movies or play board games, and patios where you can unplug and enjoy the outdoors together are all spaces you can create that promote the healthy, authentic interactions that strengthen relationships.
Host a Get-Together
Transitioning from a military life to a civilian one also means meeting new people. A low-key get-together may be exactly what you need to get to know your new network in an environment where you feel comfortable. Hosting a dinner party, game night, or potluck gathering can be a great way to meet new neighbors or co-workers or reacquaint with old friends.
While many people shy away from inviting people to their home, playing host or hostess doesn’t have to be a lot of work or stress for you or your family. A few simple snacks and drinks and good conversation are all you need for a successful event. Of course, if you are worried about getting your home ready, you can always enlist the services of a professional cleaning company near you, expert furniture mover, and local lawn care services to help prep your home inside and out for guests. If you’re new to the area, you can use online reviews to help you choose a trustworthy pro for the jobs.
Ultimately, your goal as a civilian should be to build a life you love — a task that is easier said than done. Initially, maintain focus on creating a home that provides peace and rest, a space that gives you purpose and relaxation, and habits that build relationships and community. Once you do that, you just may find that you can extract the good from the life you left behind and leave the rest where it belongs: in the past.