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Deal with stress

Deal with stress

A job search can produce high levels of stress for veterans and military service members.

Learn how to understand and manage your stress with the information and tips below, provided by the Transition Assistance Program of the U. S. Departments of Defense, Labor, and Veterans Affairs.

Free, confidential Crisis Line

If you’re a veteran or service member in crisis—or you’re concerned about one—there are caring, qualified VA responders standing by to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Services are free, anonymous, and confidential and are available to all veterans and service members, regardless of whether you’re registered with the VA.

Veterans Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255 Press 1


Text 838255

Deaf and hard of hearing 1-800-799-4889

What to know

A job search usually produces stress. This is because change and uncertainty always produce stress. Although military life is full of assignment changes and moves, there is a certain stability in knowing that you are employed, you have support and a paycheck. 

However, leaving the military and looking for a civilian job will probably bring about the most change and uncertainty you have had to deal with in quite a while. You will need a lot of emotional support to maintain a positive attitude and to remain optimistic during your search for the right job.

Positive and negative stress

In practical terms, stress is a mismatch between the demands in our lives and the resources we have available to deal with those demands. Positive stress can help a person concentrate, focus, or even perform at peak efficiency. Many people do their best work under pressure. After meeting the challenge, they take the time to relax and enjoy their achievements.

Stress becomes negative when you stay wound-up and do not or cannot relax after meeting a challenge. Although negative stress has been linked with many physical ailments ranging from tension headaches to heart attacks, the good news is that stress does not have to be detrimental to your health. 

In leaving the military there may be some internal confusion of identity, loss of self-esteem and control. Your physical and mental condition will be affected by the loss both of your military job and your established social group and norms. You may go through several changes as your job search progresses.

What to do

To manage stress, you must recognize its sources, signs and symptoms in yourself and others, particularly in your family. It is important to develop strong coping and problem-solving abilities and communicate with family and friends, especially your spouse.

Maintain important relationships, attend cultural and religious events, and engage in hobbies and recreational activities. View work as only one part of your life. 

It is important to maintain or create a routine as similar to your previous schedule as possible. For example, continue to get up at the same time each morning. Dress in business clothes, and be sure to project a professional image on the telephone. During the day, make contacts in person, phone, and e-mail. Since most jobs are found through networking, communicating with contacts should be the focus of your efforts.

To minimize future stress, approach problems as challenges and opportunities for growth. Start by identifying your primary goals and objectives, then break them down into manageable challenges. Take steps each week to overcome those mini-challenges.

Know when to seek professional help

Sometimes the only way to deal with stressful events is to get professional help.

It takes strength to recognize that you can’t always go it alone. Reach out to the Veterans Crisis Line 800-273-8255 if you are feeling very anxious, overwhelmed, or helpless. 

Counseling services in your local area may help you move forward in your personal life so that you can focus on getting and succeeding in a job. You can search online for "counseling" or "mental health services" and your city, or ask your doctor or other health professional for referrals to mental health services. 

Develop a personal stress management plan

Be sure to include these items:

1. Recognize the stressors in your job search and personal life. Try to identify triggers for stress, and develop other responses you could use to avoid heightened emotion. 

2. Develop a job search plan.

  • Commit to your plan.
  • Review the results weekly, and make needed adjustments.
  • Rejections are a part of the process. Recognize that often, persisting through all the "no's" means you will eventually get a "yes."
  • As you implement your job search plan, you will likely feel a sense of relief and more of a sense of control over your life.

3. Structure your time and practice time management.

  • Begin your day by ordering your priorities.
  • Plan the most efficient way to complete a task.
  • Focus your total concentration on the task at hand.
  • Avoid wasting your time on activities that drain your energy or don't move you forward.

4. Initiate/maintain an exercise and nutrition regimen.

  • Engage in fun activities and exercise your mind and body.
  • Follow a healthy food plan.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs.

5. Maintain your religious beliefs, social/family customs and daily routines.

6. Learn and use relaxation techniques.

7. Develop and maintain support systems.

  • Surround yourself with positive people.
  • Help others.
  • Consider career counseling.
  • Join a job search group.

8. Establish a life plan and career goals.

9. Schedule time for yourself. Your job search is not personal time; it is your current job.

10. Include daily humor and laughter in your life.

11. Communicate openly and honestly with others.