veteran coping with holiday loneliness, veteran feeling lonely during the holiday season

While the holiday season is generally a time of joy and community for most, it can be lonely and stressful for some individuals, especially veterans. The unique challenges veterans face during the holidays often stem from military experiences and adjustments to returning to civilian life. These challenges might include mental health conditions like depression, PTSD, loneliness, experiencing loss and grief, or navigating social gatherings.

Understanding the Unique Challenges Veterans Face During the Holidays

Many veterans struggle with a sense of isolation from family and friends who don’t fully understand their struggles or experiences, creating a disconnect and causing veterans to keep to themselves and self-isolate. Experiencing loneliness during the holidays can be more challenging due to the universal expectation to be happy and spend time with loved ones. Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often find the holiday season difficult due to the festive atmosphere, loud noises, or certain smells that might trigger painful memories. The holidays can be difficult for those feeling the loss of comrades or loved ones or the absence of friends who understand them. Physical injuries from their time during service can limit veterans from participating in or experiencing holiday activities, provoking feelings of frustration and sadness.

Beyond PTSD, veterans often struggle with anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health issues that can be exacerbated during the holiday season. Some may experience financial difficulties that can be stressful as the holidays often involve gift-giving, traveling, and festivities requiring financial expenses. The frequency of alcohol use during the holidays can cause veterans to overindulge in substance use to cope with the related stress, loneliness, or traumatic memories. Veterans often struggle with complicated family dynamics as a result of their service and being away from home for long periods. This can create a disconnect from their role in the family, causing them to shut down and isolate themselves. The holiday season generally involves large social gatherings and events, which can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing for veterans. This might cause them to choose to withdraw from holiday parties, heightening feelings of loneliness and separation.

Tips for Veterans Coping with Loneliness During the Holiday Season

For veterans struggling with loneliness during the holidays, finding ways to prevent these feelings of isolation and foster a sense of connection and joy is essential. Finding different strategies to combat loneliness for veterans could begin with connecting with fellow veterans or family and friends, practicing self-care, volunteering in your community, or seeking professional help for your mental health. Everyone has their idea of happiness and different activities and things that bring them joy, making it essential to find what makes you feel connected and cheerful during the holidays.

Connecting with Other Veterans

Reaching out and spending time with other veterans in your community or connecting with them online can offer a sense of mutual understanding and camaraderie. Communicating with someone who understands and can share similar experiences with you can help eliminate those feelings of loneliness and foster a sense of belonging.

Reaching Out to Family and Friends

Staying in touch with family members and friends, whether through phone calls, video chats, or in-person meet-ups, can help reduce those feelings of isolation. Spending time with loved ones can improve your mood and existing feelings of anxiety or depression during the holidays.

Prioritizing Self-Care and Mental Health

Practicing self-care and incorporating it into your routine is essential for maintaining your health and well-being as a veteran. Self-care practices can include:

  • Physical exercise (going on a walk or for a run)
  • Yoga or meditation practices
  • Exploring new hobbies or interests
  • Maintaining a nutritional diet
  • Staying hydrated
  • Prioritizing 7-9 hours of sleep every night
  • Focusing on positivity

These are all ways to lift your mood and provide a distraction from the loneliness you’re experiencing. Group classes or activities also allow veterans to meet new people and surround themselves with like-minded individuals. This can significantly benefit those with few friends and family members living nearby. Implementing self-care techniques is an effective way to boost mental health and reduce feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety in veterans. Finding what coping techniques improve your mood and overall well-being can help manage mental health issues and enhance your quality of life.

Volunteering and Community Events

Volunteering your time, whether it’s for a local animal shelter, environmental cleanup, or serving in a soup kitchen, is an excellent way for veterans to give back and connect with their community. Finding community service opportunities and ways to give back can significantly improve physical and mental health, fostering a sense of purpose and self-confidence. Veterans might feel like they’ve lost their value and purpose since returning to civilian life, and giving back to the community can help them reclaim their confidence and ambitions.

Seeking Professional Help

While there are numerous coping strategies to help manage stress and loneliness as a veteran, sometimes there’s a need for professional help and support. Whether you’re struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse, or trauma, there are treatment sources available to provide you with the necessary support and guidance for a happier and healthier life. The holidays can be a stressful time of the year, even for those without mental health issues or trauma, so don’t be afraid to ask for help and support when you need it.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment: Support for Veterans

Experiencing loneliness during the holiday season or any time of the year can lead to a range of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, or even substance abuse. Implementing these coping strategies can significantly improve feelings of isolation for veterans; however, sometimes, seeking professional treatment and counseling is more effective. Struggling with mental health can lead veterans to cope with alcohol or other addictive substances, developing into a substance use disorder (SUD). When a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder co-occur, this is known as a dual diagnosis co-occurring disorder. Dual diagnosis treatment in drug and alcohol rehab takes a comprehensive approach to treating veterans battling addiction and mental health, employing trauma-focused therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization, and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy alongside other holistic treatment methods.

 

Reach out today to hear more about our addiction treatment programs for veterans and first responders at Rock Recovery Center in West Palm Beach, FL.

 

 

 

 

References:

  • VA News, 2023. How Veterans can cope with holiday loneliness.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022. How Much Sleep Do I Need?
  • National Institute of Mental Health, 2022. Caring for Your Mental Health.
  • Mayo Clinic Health System, 2023. Helping people, changing lives: 3 health benefits of volunteering.
  • WebMD, 2021. What to Know About Loneliness During the Holidays.