How will you manage the transition from life in the armed services to life at home, going to a place of work every day – or perhaps not going to work everyday? Now you’re back in civvy street, there are lots of new things for you to learn or to re-learn how to cope with – but before you attempt to do any of this, wouldn’t it be a good idea to reflect on the world you left behind – not just the sad things but all the great things and great people you may no longer see anymore? If you’re having trouble moving on – or believe you may have trouble coping, once you leave the armed services, here are some exercises to help you to make a healthy transition from one world into another.
Out of the Battlefield – Endings
If you have recently been discharged, you may feel like you are lost in a kind of psychic wilderness.
You used to know how you felt about things, about people, about events and activities but you just don’t anymore. You’re not sure what you feel and it worries you – you can’t be sure how you’ll feel about anything anymore.
Don’t worry. This is quite normal. You are in what is called the Neutral Zone. To manage the transition from one world to another, there are 3 stages…
- The Ending Stage – the end of your time on the battle field/in the services.
- The Neutral Zone – the liminal spiritual space that you find yourself, between two worlds in the head, but physically re-located
- The New Beginnings Stage – the time when you’re ready to embark on your future having integrated your past experiences and resolved any psychological sticking points. This is when you begin to embrace your new life, and operate from a place of strength and dignity, aware of your talents and flaws and accepting of both.
The Ending Stage
You cannot rush this stage – you must explore your endings carefully, gently, slowly and at a pace to suit you and your ability to work with the material you are dealing with.
Write for five minutes about a skill you needed when you were in service – a skill you don’t really need anymore – or don’t need quite so intensely. Write ONLY for five minutes then stop. (if you’re using ‘talking’ instead of writing, then talk for five minutes but then stop). You might choose something like map reading, surveillance or tracking, running, managing people…whatever it is write about how much you valued this activity and skill and how much you were valued because of it. Then think of a way to say ‘thank you’ – to forge a way beyond it and to acknowledging the value the skill provided for you.
Exercise 2 – Oasis of Safety
It is not always therapeutic to re-live trauma – rather, it might be more helpful to reconstruct an oasis of safety you know well and can believe in – in your mind’s eye. Places of safety are strong and inside them there is gentleness and nourishment to comfort and feed us.
Imagine you have a guide, a spirit guide there to protect you. Imagine that your spirit guide is wanting you to have a place of safety, an oasis of safety you can turn to when you need calm.
Ask your guide to lead you there…your guide might take you to…a castle? an island? a church? a cloud?
- What food would you eat there?
- Who would be there with you?
Write a description of your oasis of safety and spend some time there…..is there water? what can you hear? is there music? what can you see all around you?
When you need to feel calm – re-imagine this oasis of safety – it is your private place.
One of the key symptoms of ‘not coping’ when trying to re-adjust to civvy street, is an inability/unwillingness to participate in recreational activities. This could well be due to a change in physical ability, a change in relationships or simply a change of mindset. But we know that recreation is crucial for our well being. Having fun is a distraction from the here and now – whilst we’re playing, we don’t have to contend with the ‘adult’ responsibilities that can be very challenging. Even just thinking about playing can be helpful.
Write a list of all the new activities/games you learned whilst serving…eg dominoes, surfing etc
Even if you no longer engage in any of these activities, pick the one you liked the most and describe ‘what’ it was you liked about it
What new activities have you considered as potentially enjoyable/interesting?
If you are looking for new ideas of things to do for recreation and relaxation, take a look at the list below. Which of these possibilities do you think you would enjoy? Take tiny steps first…don’t feel downhearted that you can’t do it all…pick one thing a week, then two things a week and build up.
Do you already participate in any of these activities?
Visit family or friends
Call an old friend
Go out to eat with family or friends
Join a club or attend a club meeting
Participate in military social activities
Go to church socials or classes
Participate in or coach a community sports team
Join a walking or running group
Go on a date
Have a garage sale or go to one
Do volunteer work or community service
Play pool or billiards
Play board/card games
Go golfing with friends
Play in a band or sing in a choir
Take art lessons
Hire a personal trainer
Camp, hike, rock climb, or fish
Garden or do yard work
Go motorboating, kayaking, sailing, etc.
Visit a national park
Take a scenic road trip
Plan a day trip or a vacation
Water-ski, surf, or swim
Play basketball, baseball, soccer, etc.
Run, jog, or bike
Go horseback riding
Go to a fair, zoo, or amusement park
Go to the movies
Go to a comedy club
Go to a museum, theater, or concert
Go to a college or professional sports event
Try creative writing, blogging, or journaling
Fix a car, bike, motorcycle, etc.
Play a musical instrument
Start a collection
Try woodworking, photography, painting, etc.
Take a bubble bath
Sit in a sauna or jacuzzi
Take a nap
Read scriptures or other sacred works
Read a novel
Read a newspaper
Get a massage
Eat a snack on the couch
Watch a funny TV show
Meditate (get guidance with this from a qualified practitioner)
Make a list of movies you want to see
Play with the dog or cat
Put a jigsaw puzzle together
Do a crossword puzzle or other word games
Do a Sudoku puzzle or other number games