Transitioning back into civilian life after military service means transitioning to a whole new set of routines and habits. When you are in the military, a lot of your life is determined for you: when to wake up, what to eat, when to exercise, and what to do with your time. When you return to the civilian world, you need to create this structure on your own.
One of the most common complaints about people who leave the military is that they fall out of shape so quickly. Without regular exercise routines, you rapidly lose energy, agility, and health.
Make the decision that exercise will become an important habit for your new civilian life. In addition to keeping you physically fit, regular exercise also improves mental health and, in many cases, eases the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
After becoming accustomed to the military’s stringent sleep schedule, you’re probably going to welcome the opportunity to get a little more shuteye. However, you need to be careful. Without a new sleep routine, many returning military members fall into the trap of staying up all night playing games or surfing the internet, and then oversleeping in the morning or spending the day in a groggy haze.
Try to structure your day so that you get 8 regular hours of sleep every night, sleeping and waking at approximately the same time every day. This will also improve your overall physical health, and help you manage stress.
A recent study showed that 24 percent of all American military members smoke, which means that many people return to civilian life bringing a particularly unhealthy habit with them. Now is the time to start making smarter choices. Check with the VA or your health provider to find ways to stop smoking. You will improve your health and save thousands of dollars in the combined costs of cigarettes and lower health care expenses.
In the military, there is a clear hierarchy of decision-making. Orders often come from above and are followed without question. In civilian life, of course, relationships involve much more negotiating and compromise.
One of the hardest parts of returning to civilian life is re-entering a home and family that has developed its own routines and habits without you. Your presence shakes things up, and there is likely to be some friction before things settle down. Be prepared to work together to find new family routines and habits that work for all of you.
Often, returning to the civilian world means starting a new job. While it might feel good to take a long vacation after your years of military service, at some point you will need to dust yourself off and prepare to get back into the workforce. This, too, requires a whole new set of habits. There are many government and local organizations developed specifically to help veterans get jobs, so visit one of these centers and use their advice to prepare a resume and begin applying and interviewing.
As you job hunt and find your new career, you need to make sure you are developing appropriate habits that will ensure your success in the civilian workforce. Many of these habits, such as punctuality and discipline, are ones that are already very familiar to you from your years of military service. However, you will likely need to brush up on a few new skills, such as how to interact with customers or clients.
As you prepare for the next phase of your life, make sure you have the good habits that you need to get your new job done. This is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family as you transition to your new civilian life.