What should I know about preparing for deployment?
Preparing for military deployment can be a time of mixed emotions. Many Service members, including National Guard members and Reservists, look forward to the chance to do what they have trained for. At the same time, they may worry about the challenges of a deployment and about being separated from loved ones. Because there are so many details to attend to and arrangements to be made, preparing for deployment can be stressful, and even overwhelming.
Each person’s experience preparing for military deployment will be different. Depending on your situation, you may be concerned about the effect that your departure will have on your children or other family members, your finances, or a job you are leaving. If you are preparing for war deployment, you may be thinking about the possibility of injury or death. Getting into the right mindset and preparing for deployment may affect your normal routines, the way you get along with others, and your sleeping and eating patterns. Reaching out for support can play a big part in making your transition smoother.
What should I keep an eye out for when preparing for deployment?
Anxiety, stress, or frustration are natural reactions to significant events, such as military deployment. When getting ready to deploy, you may experience some of these:
- Feeling lonely or detached from your loved ones
- Feeling angry, irritable, or anxious
- Having trouble sleeping
- Feeling unmotivated or having a negative outlook
- Arguing with a spouse or loved one more frequently
If stressful thoughts and feelings start to interfere with your work, relationships, or daily activities, your physical and mental health can be affected, and it can be a sign to reach out for support.
What can help me cope when preparing for deployment?
As you prepare to deploy, there are steps you can take to reduce stress. A healthy lifestyle and staying physically and emotionally fit can improve your overall well-being and help you cope effectively. You may also find it helpful to:
- Create a deployment plan to help decrease some of the uncertainty for you and your family.
- Try to plan a realistic schedule for communicating with your loved ones.
- Take advantage of offers from friends and other members of your community to help during your deployment.
- Decide before you leave what types of things you will want to talk about during deployment and what you might not want to talk about until you get back home.
- Exercise, eat well, and stay healthy.
- Relieve stress through relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or prayer.
- Reach out to family or friends if you’re feeling down.
- Try to get a good night’s sleep; getting quality sleep can help you feel better.
- Avoid using alcohol to cope with stress or anxiety.
Talking to your family and friends about your experiences can be helpful as you deal with your transition. You might also try talking to fellow Service members about what you’re experiencing. They may have a better understanding of what you are going through and may be able to provide you with support and suggestions for a smoother transition to your deployment.
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- If you’re not using VA medical services, contact your nearest VA medical center or Vet Center to talk about your needs.
What about other options at VA? VA offers a variety of tools and resources.
- The Veteran Training online self-help portal for overcoming everyday challenges includes modules on managing anger, developing parenting and problem-solving skills, and more.
- Mental health apps for Veterans cover a variety of topics, ranging from PTSD to anger management to quitting smoking.
- VA TeleMental Health connects you with a VA mental health provider through a computer or mobile device in your home or at your nearest VA health facility. You can learn more about this option from your local VA medical center.
- Vet Centers are community-based counseling centers across the nation in all 50 states and US territories that provide a wide range of social and psychological services, including counseling to eligible Veterans, service members – including National Guard and Reserve components – and their families. Counselors and outreach specialists, many of whom are Veterans themselves, are experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief, and transition after trauma. To learn more, find your nearest Vet Center. Teams are also available 24/7 by phone at 1-877-927-8387.
What about support beyond VA?
There’s a whole community of support ready to help with whatever you’re going through. Use this tool to find resources near you.