Stress Management During Deployment

Service members in field

In the military, stress happens. But too much stress can have negative effects on performance, safety and well-being. During deployment, it is especially important to know the signs of stress and to be ready with good stress management techniques.

Deployment Support for Spouses

If you feel the effects of stress due to your spouse’s deployment, check out tips, resources and articles specifically for you and your family on Plan My Deployment.

Know the symptoms

Don’t ignore the signs of stress. It can affect your performance and safety. These are a few of the symptoms:

  • Problems sleeping
  • Unusual irritability or angry outbursts
  • Unusual anxiety or panic attacks
  • Difficulty completing tasks or making decisions
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Signs of depression (such as apathy or loss of interest in things once enjoyed)
  • Any unusual changes in behavior, personality or thinking

Nine tips for effective stress management

  1. Keep up the routine of regular meals, sleep and exercise.
  2. Watch your health. Drink plenty of water. Eat nutritious meals. Exercise and get enough sleep.
  3. Give yourself a break. Rest after stressful events. Learn relaxation techniques.
  4. Download the free Chill Drills app. This collection of audio mindfulness exercises was developed for the military community to help manage stress.
  5. Talk to others who’ve been there. You’ll see you’re not alone.
  6. Work to build trust with your unit, at home and within your community.
  7. Have a laugh. Humor can be a powerful stress reliever and can help you see things differently.
  8. Address your spiritual needs. Many find strength and calm in prayer. Discuss your concerns with a chaplain.
  9. Ask for help with problems back home, or ask someone on the home front to take care of stressful issues that may arise while you are deployed.

How to find help for stress

Stress is a physical reaction, not a sign of weakness. If you or someone nearby is having trouble with stress, get professional support as soon as possible to speed recovery. Here are some resources for stress relief. They’re confidential, won’t affect your security clearance, and are not reported to the command:

  • Contact us at Military OneSource. We offer confidential sessions with licensed professionals at no cost to military members and their families — and we have helped many service members work through issues, including stress management. Health and wellness coaching is also available to help you manage stress by developing better diet, exercise and sleep habits. Find out more about Military OneSource’s confidential, non-medical counseling here. Or call us at 800-342-9647.
  • Military and family life counselors are also available through your installation’s Military and Family Support Center.
  • Combat stress control teams. These mental health professionals support service members on site during deployment.
  • Your unit’s chaplain. Military chaplains can provide counseling, guidance and referral on many issues during deployment.

For medical help with stress:

You may be eligible for a referral for medical counseling services in your community through a military treatment facility or TRICARE.

  • Therapy services may be available at your nearest military treatment facility or a local network provider.
  • Your primary care manager can refer you to appropriate counseling, or you may contact your regional TRICARE office.

Remember, we all experience stress, but it doesn’t have to run your life. Reach out, take steps, take control.

If you are in crisis, or you know someone who is, there are immediate resources available to support you or your loved ones. Contact the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat by texting 838255.

Getting Help for Combat Stress

Guardsmen with dog

Learning to recognize the signs of combat stress in yourself, another service member or a family member who has returned from a war zone can help you call on the right resources to begin the healing process.

Combat stress and stress injuries

Combat stress is the natural response of the body and brain to the stressors of combat, traumatic experiences and the wear and tear of extended and demanding operations. Although there are many causes and signs of combat stress, certain key symptoms are common in most cases:

  • Problems sleeping
  • Uncharacteristic irritability or angry outbursts
  • Unusual anxiety or panic attacks
  • Signs of depression such as apathy, changes in appetite, loss of interest in hobbies or activities, or poor hygiene
  • Physical symptoms such as fatigue, aches and pains, nausea, diarrhea or constipation
  • Other changes in behavior, personality or thinking

Combat stress sometimes leads to stress injuries, which can cause physical changes to the brain that alter the way it processes information and handles stress. You should be aware of the following when dealing with a stress injury:

  • Stress injuries can change the way a person functions mentally, emotionally, behaviorally and physically.
  • The likelihood of having a combat stress injury rises as combat exposure increases.
  • The earlier you identify the signs of a stress injury, the faster a full recovery can occur.
  • If left untreated, a stress injury may develop into more chronic and hard-to-treat problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • There is no guaranteed way to prevent or protect yourself from a stress injury, but there are things you can do to help yourself and others recover.

Stress reactions

Different people handle stress — and combat stress — differently, and it’s not clear why one person may have a more severe reaction than another. Here’s what you need to know about stress reactions:

  • Stress reactions can last from a few days to a few weeks to as long as a year.
  • Delayed stress reactions can surface long after a traumatic incident or extended exposure to difficult conditions has occurred.
  • An inability to adapt to everyday life after returning from deployment can be a reaction to combat stress.

How to get help

If you or someone you know is suffering from a combat stress injury, it is important to get professional help as soon as possible. Reach out to one of the following resources if you have symptoms of combat stress or stress injury, or if you are experiencing severe stress reactions:

  • Combat Stress Control Teams provide on-site support during deployment.
  • Your unit chaplain may offer counseling and guidance on many issues that affect deployed or returning service members and their families.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs has readjustment counseling for combat veterans and their families, including those still on active duty, at community-based Vet Centers.
  • TRICARE provides medical counseling services either at a military treatment facility or through a network provider in your area. Contact your primary care manager or your regional TRICARE office for a referral.
  • The Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence provides free resources on traumatic brain injury to help service members, veterans, family members and health care providers. Resources include educational materials, fact sheets, clinical recommendations and much more.
  • Veterans Crisis Line offers confidential support 24/7/365 and is staffed by qualified responders from the Department of Veterans Affairs — some of whom have served in the military themselves. Call 800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat by texting to 838255.
  • Non-military support channels such as community-based or religious programs can offer guidance and help in your recovery.

If you are suffering from combat stress, you are not alone. Reach out to get the help and treatment you need to be able to live your life fully.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Service member tying boots

People who live through a traumatic event sometimes suffer its effects long after the real danger has passed. This is called post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. While PTSD is often associated with combat veterans, any survivor of a natural disaster, physical abuse or other traumatic event may suffer from it. The good news is that with professional help, PTSD is treatable. But the first steps in getting help are learning the risk factors, recognizing the symptoms and understanding the treatment options.

Knowing the risk factors

Several factors play a role in developing PTSD, such as individual personality, severity of the event, proximity to the event, the people involved in the event, duration of the trauma and the amount of support the person receives afterward. You may be at higher risk if you:

  • Were directly involved in the traumatic event
  • Were injured or had a near-death experience
  • Survived an especially long-lasting or severe traumatic event
  • Truly believed your life or that of someone around you was in danger
  • Had a strong emotional or physical reaction during the event
  • Received little or no support following the event
  • Have multiple other sources of stress in your life

Recognizing the symptoms

Just as individual reactions to trauma vary, PTSD symptoms also differ from person to person. Symptoms may appear immediately after a traumatic event or they may appear weeks, months or even years later. Although the symptoms of a “typical” stress reaction can resemble those of PTSD, true PTSD symptoms continue for a prolonged time period and often interfere with a person’s daily routines and commitments. While only a trained medical professional can diagnose PTSD, possible signs of the disorder include:

  • Re-experiencing trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder frequently includes flashbacks, or moments in which the person relives the initial traumatic event or re-experiences the intense feelings of fear that surrounded it.
  • Avoidance/numbness. As a result of flashbacks or other negative feelings, people suffering from PTSD may avoid conversations or situations that remind them of the frightening event they survived.
  • Hyper arousal. Feeling constantly on edge, feeling irritable and having difficulty sleeping or concentrating are all possible signs of PTSD.

Children can also suffer from PTSD. In children, PTSD symptoms may differ from those seen in adults and may include trouble sleeping, acting out or regression in toilet training, speech or behavior. Parents of children with PTSD may notice that the children’s artwork or pretend play involves dark or violent themes or details.

Understanding the treatment options

Even suspecting you have PTSD is reason enough to get a professional opinion, especially when free help is available around the clock to service members and their families. If you’re not sure whom to talk to, start with any of the following:

  • Military treatment facility or covered services. You can locate the nearest military treatment facility and covered services in the civilian community near you through the TRICARE website.
  • Your healthcare provider. If you receive health care in the community through a civilian provider, you can start by talking to your doctor.
  • Local Department of Veterans Affairs hospital. If you are eligible to receive care through a VA hospital or clinic, find the nearest facility through the Veterans Health Administration website.
  • Military Crisis Line. If you or anyone you know ever experiences thoughts of suicide, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255. The Military Crisis Line staff can connect you with mental health support and crisis counseling services for a wide range of issues.

Remember, you are not alone. Free help is available 24/7 to service members and their families. Seeking help is a sign of strength that helps to protect your loved ones, your career, and your mental and physical health.

Note: Military OneSource does not provide medical counseling services for issues such as depression, substance abuse, suicide prevention or post-traumatic stress disorder. This article is intended for informational purposes only. Military OneSource can provide referrals to your local military treatment facility, TRICARE or another appropriate resource.

Wounded Warrior Programs

two disabled veterans talking

The military provides specialized wounded warrior programs designed to help severely ill and injured service members transition back to duty or civilian life. Each service branch has its own program. While the programs do not focus on medical issues, they do help service members and their medical teams develop a comprehensive recovery plan that addresses specific rehabilitation and recovery goals.

Wounded warrior program eligibility

Wounded warrior programs are not solely exclusive to service members with combat injuries. They also assist:

  • Service members who are battling serious illnesses
  • Service members who have been injured in accidents and require long term care

Types of support wounded warrior programs provide

Wounded warrior programs provide non-medical support that is tailored to fit the service member’s needs. This support spans from something as simple as helping service members understand their benefits to assisting them with their specialized transportation needs. The program provides services that address:

  • Pay and personnel issues
  • Invitational travel orders
  • Lodging and housing adaptations
  • Child and youth care arrangements
  • Transportation needs
  • Legal and guardianship issues
  • Education and training benefits
  • Respite care
  • Traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress support services

How to enroll in the wounded warrior program

Enrollment into the wounded warrior program varies per branch. Some service branches allow wounded warriors to self-refer into the program. Other service branches require that a medical officer make a program enrollment request on behalf of the service member. Here is a contact list for the various wounded warrior programs:

  • Army: In order to be considered eligible for entry into the Warrior Care and Transition Program, soldiers must meet the entry criteria for their component. For more information and assistance, contact the Army Wounded Warrior Call Center at 877-393-9058, DSN 312-221-9113.
  • Marine Corps: The parent command, medical officer, medical case manager or Wounded Warrior Regiment detachment officer-in-charge must initiate the request on behalf of the service member. For more information on the referral process, contact the Wounded Warrior Regiment call center at 877-487-6299.
  • Navy Wounded Warrior: Sailors and Coast Guardsmen may self-refer to the program or be referred by a family member, their command leadership, or their medical team. For questions on enrollment eligibility, contact the Navy Wounded Warrior call center at 855-NAVY-WWP or 855-628-9997, or use the contact links provided on the website.
  • Air Force: Anyone can refer an airman into the Air Force Wounded Warrior program. Contact the AFW2 program office at 800-581-9437 or use the direct email links provided on the website.
  • Special Operations Command Warrior Care Program: USSOCOM WCP was established in 2005 to provide support to special operations forces wounded, ill, or injured service members and their families after life changing events to help them navigate through recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration. For more information, call 877-672-3039 or 813-826-8888.

For additional information and resources including free specialty consultation services, visit the Military OneSource Wounded Warrior webpage. You can also contact a Military OneSource consultant 24/7/365, by calling 800-342-9647, using OCONUS dialing options, or scheduling a live chat.

When Your Spouse Has a Traumatic Brain Injury

Health specialist points out areas of magnetic activity in a brain displayed on a monitor.

As a spouse of a service member who has suffered a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, you may be experiencing a range of emotions. It is important to allow yourself to feel every emotion that surfaces and attend to your own needs. Here are some strategies to consider as you prepare to take on your new role as a caregiver to your spouse.

After the injury

Your spouse may spend a few weeks and months in the hospital, which could be challenging for the two of you. In this phase of recovery, it may be helpful to:

  • Gather information. Learn everything you can about your spouse’s injury so that you can compare notes with doctors and other health professionals. Ask questions about your spouse’s treatment program and take stock of the various medical care providers that you interact with during your hospital stay.
  • Pace yourself. Don’t spend all your emotional energy in one place because a brain injury requires long-term care. Save your strength for the long haul.
  • Understand your spouse’s treatment program. Your spouse’s team of medical care providers will develop an individualized plan to treat his or her injury, which could require multiple hours of in-patient therapy per day.
  • Be understanding. Don’t take your spouse’s hostile outbursts personally. Some TBI patients behave angrily toward their caretakers in the first few days and weeks of recovery. This behavior is a result of the injury and not a personal attack.
  • Get help. Let your family and friends help you with the day-to-day stuff like taking care of your children, preparing meals and other chores. Make sure you get plenty of rest and eat healthy meals. If you need assistance, contact a Military OneSource consultant who will put you in touch with a trained counselor in your area. Consultants are available 24/7/365. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS dialing options, or schedule a live chat.

Understanding the challenges of TBI

Traumatic brain injuries vary from patient to patient. Some people experience headaches, seizures, dizziness, memory problems and difficulty focusing. Others symptoms include:

  • Chronic fatigue. Rehabilitation consumes a lot of energy. Simple tasks may be exhausting for your spouse, and the brain injury may be disrupting his or her sleep cycle.
  • Anger. Some patients may seem angry or frustrated because they can’t do simple tasks, remember things or focus on a project. Try to be patient.
  • Too much emotion. It may be difficult for your spouse to control his or her emotions. Help your spouse avoid emotional triggers by turning off the TV or radio during conversations. Allow only a few family and friends to visit at one time.
  • Insensitivity. Brain injury patients tend to make inappropriate statements in social situations. You can help your spouse by speaking about your feelings directly instead of using nonverbal cues.
  • Loss of focus. Your spouse may have difficulty organizing his or her thoughts. You can troubleshoot this issue by helping your spouse establish routines.

Taking care of your spouse at home

Your spouse will endure a long-term recovery process. Although coming home from the hospital is a step towards health, there will still be some challenges ahead. You might try these tips:

  • Adjust to changing roles. If you are trying to hold down a job while performing the bulk of the household duties, you might become overwhelmed. Be sure to ask for help. Consider going to couples counseling so that you and your spouse can adjust to changing roles.
  • Understand your spouse’s changes. Brain injury patients can look normal, but still exhibit emotional and behavioral symptoms that take longer to heal.
  • Let your spouse rest. Brain injury patients tire easily. Schedule outings in the morning when your spouse is rested and allow for naps during the day.
  • Treat your spouse normally. Giving your spouse some of the duties he or she had prior to going to the hospital will make him or her feel useful. Increase these duties over time as your spouse recovers.
  • Remember what you have together. As you and your spouse adjust to the “new normal,” take time to nurture your relationship: remind each other of what you most admire in each other, or look through photos of special memories.
  • Find a TBI survivors group. Meeting other couples in similar situations can be very helpful. Connect with other families by attending a TBI survivors group.

For more information about TBI, visit the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury website. They offer a variety of Family & Caregiver resources, including a comprehensive downloadable caregiver’s guide. Traumatic Brain Injury: A Guide for Caregivers of Service Members and Veterans includes:

  • Comprehensive lists of medical terms and diagrams
  • Charts to help keep track of medical providers and medications
  • Worksheets to help coordinate caregivers and tasks
  • Helpful suggestions about what kinds of behavior to expect and how best to respond
  • Encouraging stories from other caregivers, and more.

When your spouse suffers a traumatic brain injury, your life will be impacted in ways you didn’t expect. Recovery can be challenging, as it requires large doses of patience and understanding. By educating yourself on TBI and using the tips listed in this article, you can better navigate through this phase of your lives and adjust to your new normal.

Understanding and Dealing With Combat Stress and PTSD

Service member relaxing

Combat stress, also known as battle fatigue, is a common response to the mental and emotional strain that can result from dangerous and traumatic experiences. It is a natural reaction to the wear and tear of the body and mind after extended and demanding operations.

Recognizing combat stress and stress symptoms

It can be difficult to detect combat stress because the symptoms include a range of physical, behavioral and emotional signs. However, there are some key symptoms, which include:

  • Irritability and anger outbursts
  • Excessive fear and worry
  • Headaches and fatigue
  • Depression and apathy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Problems sleeping
  • Changes in behavior or personality

How to deal with combat stress

It is important not to blame yourself or a family member for experiencing combat stress. It has nothing to do with weakness or a character flaw. Like an overused muscle, the brain simply needs to heal from too much exposure to trauma and stress. Here are a few steps you can take to recover:

  • Attend to your health. Stress can be an important signal that we are overextending our bodies. It is important to stop and attend to the body’s needs by eating right, exercising and getting adequate rest.
  • Rest. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Sleep restores the body and can protect you from the negative consequences of too much stress.
  • Reach out for help. Working with a counselor can be very helpful in identifying some thoughts and behaviors that might be worsening your stress. A trained expert can also share some strategies that will promote positive health. Military OneSource confidential non-medical counseling provides service members and their loved ones with resources and support to address a variety of issues and build important skills to tackle life’s challenges. Consultants are available 24/7/365. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS dialing options, or schedule a live chat.

    If you feel as though you are in crisis, or know anyone who is in crisis, please call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, and press 1.

  • Practice relaxation techniques. You can decrease stress and build resilience by learning how to relax and pay attention to positive things. Do things during the day that you enjoy – listen to music, take a walk, remind yourself of things you are grateful for, and use your sense of humor. Simple breathing exercises can also release stress by relaxing the central nervous system. Check out these Department of Defense recommended wellness apps, and resilience tools. These mobile applications are free and for iOS and/or Android devices.

Combat stress or PTSD?

Combat stress is often confused with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, which can occur after someone goes through a traumatic event like war, assault or disaster. While many of the symptoms are similar between the two conditions, they are different.

Combat stress usually happens for brief periods of time and is considered a natural reaction to the traumatic events that service members experience. Symptoms often disappear after a service member is home for a few months, or even weeks.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, on the other hand, is more severe. It can often interfere with a person’s daily responsibilities and demands a more aggressive treatment. PTSD usually requires sessions with a mental health professional and methods to process difficult emotions.

A person diagnosed with PTSD often experiences specific symptoms – such as recurrent dreams or flashbacks – following a traumatic event as part of the combat experience.

In summary, PTSD tends to be more severe and usually requires working with a mental health professional. Combat stress is a more common reaction to demanding and traumatic experiences. Service members can usually recover and resume their everyday lives by following some simple strategies and taking time to heal.

How to Deal with Stress as a Caregiver

Caregiver support group cuts a cake at a monthly forum.

It’s hard to avoid stress when you’re caring for a loved one with a serious injury or an ongoing wound or illness. Caregiving is an important job that can be extremely demanding. Remember, as a caregiver, managing your stress is one of the best ways to ensure you’re able to stay strong and resilient, and care for your loved one. Pay attention to your body and your moods and find time for yourself. You need it and you deserve it.

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Preventing compassion fatigue

Over time, the stress of caring for another person can cause something called “compassion fatigue.” This is a common condition that can make you feel irritable, isolated, depressed, angry or anxious. It can even disturb your sleep and impair your judgment. Compassion fatigue can come on suddenly or build gradually over time, so it’s important to check in with yourself regularly to note how you are feeling. MoodHacker is a resilience tool that helps you track, understand and improve your mood. Since relationships and stress often drive our level of satisfaction in life, this mobile solution can get you headed in the right direction.

Left untreated, compassion fatigue can lead to burnout and other conditions that may not go away on their own.

Build a support network

As a caregiver, having people you can count on when times get tough and you need backup can be invaluable. Here are a few tips for building a strong support network:

  • Stay connected to your community. Your community can be your installation, neighborhood, religious community, co-workers or even just a group of close friends. This community can give you a built-in network of local support when you need it most.
  • Join a support group. When you have struggles, sharing them with people who are in a similar situation can help you feel less isolated. People who understand may also be able to share new ideas and connect you with additional resources. The Peer 2 Peer Forum also provides the opportunity for caregivers to share knowledge, expertise, resources and ongoing support.
  • Seek out counseling. Talking with someone can sometimes help problems seem smaller and more manageable. Military OneSource offers confidential non-medical counseling — at no cost to you — in person, over the phone, by video or online.
  • Be there for others. Reach out to people in similar situations. A sympathetic ear can work wonders to relieve stress, and you can develop relationships that allow you to lean on each other.

Managing stress

The key to resilience amidst the challenges of caregiving is to be mindful of your own emotional and physical health.

  • Exercise and eat a balanced diet. Physical strength and health directly relate to your mental and emotional health. Connect with real-live coaching experts right on your phone or tablet with this resilience tool, CoachHub. Track and set goals from exercise and nutrition to stress reduction.
  • Take a few moments each day just for you. Make it a priority to do something just for you as often as you can. Try this simple Chill Drill designed by a therapist specializing in working with service members and their families to help reverse the symptoms of stress.
  • Resist feelings of guilt. If taking time for yourself sparks feelings of guilt, remind yourself that you can only provide care when you’re doing well yourself.
  • Say “yes” when someone offers assistance. Don’t be shy about accepting help. Allow others to feel good about supporting you and your loved one. Accepting help is an act of strength, not weakness.
  • Embrace a hobby. Doing something you love like painting, hiking, swimming or scrapbooking — no matter how little time you can spend — boosts your feelings of well-being.

You may feel that whatever stress or difficulty you are going through isn’t important compared to the struggles of your loved one; however, caring for yourself is the first step providing the support your loved one needs in the days to come.

Free and confidential non-medical counseling is available through Military OneSource. Call 800-342-9647 at any time. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options. If you need immediate help or are experiencing a crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1).

Follow These Stress Relief Tips

man exercising at home

Some stress in your life is healthy. It can motivate you to change behaviors and develop skills, especially in military life. However, constant stress is not good for you and can lead to health issues and performance problems. Here are some tips for recognizing and managing stress.

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This app can help you cope with pandemic-related stress. It’s free, secure and recommended by the Department of Defense.

Learn to recognize when you feel stress

Stress can cause a variety of different symptoms. Some people experience back pain and tense muscles, headaches, nausea or stomach pain, trouble sleeping and fatigue. Less-obvious symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Apathy
  • Feelings of being out of control
  • Changes in behavior – low energy or loss of libido

Learn how to manage stress

The good news is that once you recognize the signs of stress, you are well on your way to managing it. Try Chill Drills, a collection of simple audio mindfulness exercises designed by a therapist specializing in working with service members and their families to help manage the symptoms of stress. You can also use these stress-management techniques to help minimize your symptoms:

  • Focus on the things you can control. When you feel stressed out by a situation, think about what you CAN control. Give yourself some action steps. If your actions will have no impact on the situation, then learn to accept it for what it is.
  • Exercise. Commit to a regular workout. Run. Lift. Swim.
  • Make time for your favorite activity. Treat yourself to some “me” time. Continue doing those activities that give you pleasure. Try to fit leisure activities and hobbies into your day.
  • Simplify your life. Do whatever you can to simplify your life. Say no to social commitments you don’t enjoy and limit your time on email and social networking sites.
  • Laugh often. Look for the humor in everyday life. Rent your favorite comedy or laugh with a friend. You can take your military duty seriously without taking yourself seriously.
  • Breathe deeply. By taking long, slow breaths, you increase your oxygen and calm yourself down. The Defense Health Agency recommends the Breathe2Relax app. It trains you on the “belly breathing” technique, which can relax tension throughout your body.
  • Stay in the present. Try to be aware of what is happening in the present moment and focus your attention on what you are doing in any given moment. When your thoughts turn to the past and the future, gently try to bring them back to the here and now.
  • Learn how to relax. Try some visualization exercises, such as picturing yourself in a relaxed or happy setting like the beach. Go for a walk. Listen to music. Read a book. Or check out the Military Meditation Coach Podcast, which the Defense Health Agency recommends for relaxation exercises and tips.
  • Get organized. Too much clutter can add to feeling things are out of control. Do your best to get rid of it. File old paperwork. Clean out your closet. Donate your excess belongings to a second-hand clothing store.
  • Find and give support. Reach out to others in similar situations or in your community. Your community can be your installation, neighborhood, religious community, co-workers or just a community of close friends.
  • Seek out confidential counseling. Talking with someone can sometimes help problems seem smaller and more manageable. Free and confidential non-medical counseling is available through Military OneSource. Call 800-342-9647 at any time.

If you need immediate help or are experiencing a crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and Press 1.

Download the Chill Drills by Military OneSource app:

Keep calmness close by with the Chill Drills app, available for free download and use anytime.

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Managing Stress – The Essentials

Back of person running down dirt road

Stress isn’t all bad. It can motivate you to change behavior and develop coping skills, especially in military life. However, constant and severe stress often causes health issues and performance problems. Military OneSource provides tips for recognizing and managing the symptoms of stress. While Military OneSource does not provide health care services, it does offer non-medical counseling and information about available resources, such as health and wellness coaching. If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat by texting 838255.

Manage your stress with these tips:

Stay in the present

Try to be aware of what is happening in the present and focus your attention on what you are doing in any given moment. When your thoughts turn to the past and the future, try to bring them back to the here and now.

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Express your anger in constructive ways

There’s a difference between feeling angry and expressing anger. You can’t always control when you’re going to feel angry, but you can control how you respond to it. Many people who experience anger usually don’t know how to confront it in appropriate and constructive ways. Read our tips for finding healthy ways to express anger.

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Learn how to relax

Knowing how to relax is an important part of staying military and family ready. It reduces stress and promotes resiliency. By taking long, slow breaths, you increase your oxygen and calm yourself down. Even a few deep breaths can relax tension throughout your body. Try different relaxation techniques and see which ones work for you. Experiment with some visualization exercises, go for a walk, listen to music or read a book. You can even tune in to your body by practicing simple and quick audio mindfulness exercises with Chill Drills by Military OneSource.

The Defense Health Agency recommends tools to help manage stress:

  • Breathe2Relax is an app that teaches deep-breathing techniques to reduce stress.
  • The Military Meditation Coach Podcast provides relaxation exercises and tips for well-being.

Find these and other apps for well-being on the Military OneSource Recommended Wellness Apps page.

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Seek counseling

Military OneSource offers personal non-medical counseling services via telephone, face-to-face or through a secure live video session or online. Counseling sessions are also available through the Military and Family Life Counseling Program. Trained to work with the military community, counselors give service members and their families the level of comfort they need to benefit from a counseling relationship.

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VA Benefits for Disabled Veterans and Service Members

Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides benefits and services to meet the needs of veterans and service members. While many VA programs are designed to serve veterans, particularly disabled veterans, VA services are not limited to those who have left the military.

If you are an active-duty disabled service member and need help covering the cost of school, securing a home loan or acquiring life insurance, or require medical care for your disability, the VA can help you and your family.

Medical care

More than 1,400 medical centers and clinics form the core of the VA’s services. In addition, the VA works with TRICARE to provide services for active-duty service members who are disabled:

  • Eligibility. Determine your eligibility for benefits by visiting VA Health Benefits.
  • Medical services. For a complete listing of VA health services, go to VA Health Care.
  • Medical care for active duty service members. Contact TRICARE for service-connected injuries or illnesses. Your service branch primary provider can refer you to the VA for treatment of combat injuries.

Post-traumatic stress disorder care and resources

The VA is expanding access to treatment for PTSD by increasing the number of mental health providers at VA medical centers. To learn more about the programs, support groups and research for helping those with PTSD, visit the Veterans post-traumatic stress disorder page of the VA website.

Disability compensation

The VA’s tax-free disability compensation pays veterans who have service-related disabilities. The amount is based on the severity of the disability, with additional payments available if the veteran has a spouse or other dependents:

Transition and employment services

The VA offers briefings on its benefits and services through the Transition Assistance Program. This outreach effort is intensified for service members leaving active duty due to a medical problem. The VA’s goal is to make sure all transitioning service members fully understand the benefits and services available to them:

  • Returning Service Member Program — If you have returned from Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation New Dawn, visit VA’s Returning Service Member Program Web page.
  • Disabled Transition Assistance Program — To find out about the services available to you if you have a medical disability, visit
  • Rehabilitation and employment services — To be eligible, you must have a service-connected disability and require vocational rehabilitation. The program is also available to active-duty service members awaiting discharge because of a disability. For more information, go to the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Web page.

Home and car adaptation

Veterans and service members with specific service-connected disabilities may be eligible for grants to help them adapt homes or cars to meet their disability requirements.

The VA offers housing grants to veterans who receive compensation for certain permanent and total service-connected disabilities:

  • Specially Adapted Housing Grant — used to build a specially adapted home or remodel an existing home for adaptation
  • Special Housing Adaptation Grant — used to adapt an existing home owned by the veteran or adapt a home intended for purchase, or help a veteran buy a home already adapted

Veterans and service members may also be eligible for home improvement and structural alteration grants. To determine what this grant will pay for, visit the Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services page of the VA website.

For veterans and service members with service-connected disabilities, the VA offers a one-time payment of up to $11,000 toward the purchase of an automobile. The VA may also pay for adaptive equipment, repair, replacement or reinstallation of equipment.

Life insurance

The VA’s life insurance program offers Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance to veterans with service-connected disabilities. Supplemental coverage is available at an additional cost. Service members remain covered by VA Servicemembers Group Life Insurance until they leave the military. For more information, visit the Life Insurance page of the VA website.

Other benefits

Many VA benefits and services extend to service members and veterans regardless of disability status, including the following education and home loan guaranty benefits:

  • Education Montgomery GI Bill®, Post-9/11 GI Bill® and the GI Bill® cover the cost of education and certificate programs.
  • Training programs — Many types of training are available through the GI Bill®, including undergraduate or graduate degree programs at colleges or universities.
  • Transfer of benefits to family members — Under certain circumstances, you may be able to transfer your benefits to an eligible spouse or child.
  • Home loan guaranties — The home loan guaranties help service members get competitive rates on home loans with little or no down payment. Find out more by visiting the Home Loans page of the VA website.