As a veteran, it is crucial to make sure you’re caring for yourself mentally and physically in all aspects of life, not only while you’re on active duty, but also once you’re done serving. Prioritizing your needs is key to ensuring you can live a fulfilled life post-service. Below are some health and wellness tips to keep in mind.
Schedule Regular Health Screenings
Getting regular health screenings is very important as a veteran. Receiving annual checkups can help pinpoint problems you may experience and can give you peace of mind when it comes to your overall health. Health screenings are important because there’s a variety of substances and chemicals you could have been exposed to while in the service.
Your time in active service could have exposed you to asbestos, agent orange, contaminated water, radiation, and other toxic chemicals that could have been in the air, water, or used in equipment where you were deployed. Just last year, a new act was passed by Congress called the PACT Act, which extended VA benefits to veterans who were exposed to a toxic substance during their time in the service. While the deadline to apply for relief recently passed, it is recommended that any veteran reads through the act. With this in mind, it is important to express concerns to your healthcare providers so they can run the proper tests and screenings annually.
Pay Attention to Mental Health & Stay Connected
About 7% of Veterans will develop PTSD in their lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Seeking out a therapist could be a useful way to process your time in the military and the potential mental health risks you might face after decommissioning. It can also be good to have a neutral figure to support and listen to you while providing general guidance in your life.
Try your best to make an effort to get together with friends and family. Being in social settings and having support from all areas of your life is a great way to feel fulfilled. Another idea would be to join support groups where you can get together with other veterans who have common interests.
Mental health support is more accessible now than ever before, something as small as a monthly virtual appointment with a therapist could have immeasurable impacts on your mental health.
You should also strive to exercise both your body and mind on a daily basis. For more physical workouts, you could pick up running, swimming, cycling, boxing, martial arts, or lifting. If you’re looking to do more fun or competitive activities, you could try tennis, pickleball, or even golf. Many of these activities have lessons and classes you can take to perfect your skills.
Activities such as walking, yoga, meditation, pilates, or sitting in a sauna are more on the lighter side and can help support mindfulness. Find a hobby or exercise that you like and try to do it once a day or every other day to help keep yourself on track.
While time in the service can impact your mental health, it also can have negative impacts on your physical well-being. More than one-third of veterans who served post-9/11 have a service-related disability. Taking up some of the activities listed above can help to mitigate the effects that a service-based disability can lead to. As always, consult with your doctor before taking up any new sport or form of exercise.
Recent studies have found that veterans experience sleep ailments after service at a higher rate than the general population. Problems such as sleep apnea, insomnia, and PTSD-triggered nightmares are all prevalent among veterans. Addressing your mental health will help prevent some of these ailments.
As you become accustomed to veteran life, keep in mind that all humans need to make sure they are getting enough sleep on a daily basis to help support their health. If you are 18 years or older, you should get at least 7 hours of sleep a night or more. Reaching that 7-hour sleep goal has positive benefits on your body, such as increased energy, improved memory and quality of life, and overall physical and mental health. If you aren’t able to get enough sleep and feel sleep deprived, there may be underlying health issues you need to figure out.
Fueling your body with the nutrients it needs and adopting a healthy diet is a key component to living a healthy lifestyle. Making sure you fill your plate with well-balanced food is very important. When you fuel your body right, you increase your overall health by improving energy levels and decreasing the chances of chronic diseases. You should try your best to eat more fruits and veggies, fewer fats, and reduce your intake of both sugar and salt.
As you take on this next step of your life and career after service, keep in mind and prioritize the importance of health and wellness.