The holiday season may be a time for social gatherings, parties and glittering decorations, but in spite of being surrounded by family and neighbors, this time of year can leave transitioning military members feeling isolated and out of sorts. The music, the chatter and some of the more superficial commercial aspects of the holidays can be at complete odds with what a veteran returning to civilian life may be feeling on the inside. This can be compounded by a lull in the job search process, as many prospective employers wind down their interviewing and recruiting until after the New Year.
It is important to recognize your own needs and to find ways to make meaningful connections during this especially stressful time of year:
Let those closest to you know that you may need to occasionally step away from large gatherings to focus on conversations in a quieter space with just one or two people. They may not immediately understand why you are gravitating away from the crowd.
- Reach out in person, via Skype or by phone or email with former military colleagues to say hello and to ask how they are doing. Reconnecting with them will remind you they still “have your six” even if they are not physically nearby.
- Revisit your spiritual needs, whatever that means to you, to rebuild connection to what grounds you in your life.
- Give yourself time for introspection and meditation, not just “zoning out” in front of a videogame or watching endless hours of reruns. Take a walk, go work out, take a deep breath of fresh air.
- Volunteer your time to help others who need help. Shoveling an elderly neighbor’s driveway, organizing a food drive, or providing another community service are all ways to reinvigorate your sense of purpose and are reminders that you still have much to contribute.
Most importantly, don’t lock yourself in the cave. Reach out and reconnect. Help those you trust understand how you feel; they can’t read your mind.
For those who know a veteran in transition, a great way to lend support beyond expressing thanks for their service to country, is to reach out during the holiday season and throughout the year to ask “How can I serve you?” or “What can I do that would be most helpful to you as you transition to civilian life?” The veteran may not always have an answer to your question, but what matters is that you asked and are ready to lend them your time and support.