Stress is an aspect of life with which most people are well-acquainted, especially those who have served in the armed forces. Juggling the obligations of daily life with the heaviness of the past can contribute to a prolonged sense of overwhelm and eventually contribute to a decline in mental health. Additionally, the heavy burden of war memories can negatively impact the quality of life for veterans long after their time in the service has ended. Finding holistic ways to rediscover joy, peace and healing can make a big difference in the lives of these brave men and women. 

Cultivate Life-Giving Hobbies

In a busy world where millions of images, products, advertisements and ideas are vying for our attention, it is important to cultivate the skill of silencing the noise. Entering into an enjoyable activity can be a great way to do this. While you may not be accustomed to devoting intentional time to a hobby, it can be a great way to unplug and recharge, rekindling joy and peace in your day-to-day life.

Here are some ideas for therapeutic hobbies and pastimes that can double as stress management activities, helping to reduce tension and anxiety levels. 

Journaling and meditation. Thoughts and memories carry a certain weight to them, and sometimes putting them on paper can help to experience a sense of ease and acceptance in their presence. The goal here isn’t to forget the past but to learn to separate yourself from it to become fully aware of how days of old may have impacted you. Only then can you integrate your experiences into the person you seek to become today. 

Mindfulness, the practice of grounding yourself in the present moment, can help calm the nervous system and cultivate peace in every moment of the day.

Gardening. While planting flowers might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about stress relief methods, gardening can be a great way to foster peace and connection with yourself and creation. Physical contact with the earth, and time spent outside in the fresh air, have been shown to reduce stress levels. It can be very fulfilling to cultivate beauty around your home and neighborhood. 

Music and art. The rhythm and beauty of music and art can have a very calming effect on the nervous system. Try to find a song that elicits a relaxed feeling in your body, and listen to it whenever the feeling of stress creeps in. In this way, you can learn to associate that song with acts of becoming more calm. 

If art speaks to you, try registering for a class at your local art studio or visit a nearby art museum.

Exercise and outdoor activity. Physical activity can release endorphins in the body, helping to increase dopamine and other feel-good hormones. Joining an exercise gym or a rock climbing gym can be a great way to make regular practice out of getting some movement, and it can be a creative way to build community. Take your workouts outside with a hike, bike ride, or swim for added stress-relief benefits.

Socialization. A sense of belonging is an important part of feeling safe, loved and connected. This majorly reduces stress levels and can contribute to feeling a sense of value and purpose in daily life. Think of ways to incorporate other people in your daily activities, or research community event schedules that foster building new relationships.

Pet therapy. Animals have a very calming effect on people, and their companionship can provide comfort through emotional situations. Animals’ presence can reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness, and may even help to decrease the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Veterans can find a deeper purpose with a sense of routine and responsibility by adopting a pet from a local shelter. If pet ownership doesn’t sound appealing, try becoming a dog walker in your community or partaking in therapy modalities that incorporate animals in the sessions such as equine-assisted therapy.

Give back to the community. Veterans are not the only people who can reap the benefits of stress management. Devoting time and talents to an important cause, or volunteering for a local church are selfless ways that can lower stress in life while giving back to the community.

Find Support for Veterans Today

If you or a loved one are struggling with transitioning from the armed forces to civilian life, you are not alone. Silver Ridge Recovery can support you on your journey to building a happy, balanced lifestyle. Contact us online today, or call 855-945-7788 for more information on how to get more fully connected with yourself and others in your community.