5 ways to improve mental health in veterans

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Veterans face an elevated risk of mental health issues. During service, they experience situations like natural disasters, death, trauma, torture, etc., which leave bad memories and may even cause mental disorders. One in every five veterans reports PTSD, major depression, and anxiety. Deployment can further increase this risk since it may often result in increased alcohol consumption, drug use, suicidal thoughts, and other unhealthy habits.

However, not paying attention to the mental health risks associated with veterans post-deployment can worsen these conditions and cause life-long impairment. Some ways they can care for their mental health include:

1. Get effective treatment for PTSD

Feeling stressed and edgy and experiencing upsetting memories after witnessing trauma, life-threatening events, and death is justified, but it cannot be left untreated. Veterans who experience excessive stress must consult a doctor as their condition can be post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

There is ample evidence that shows that PTSD is treatable. With proper treatment, veterans can feel that they are in a happy and healthy environment. Treatment for PTSD includes medication, various psychotherapy, etc. 

According to the Deputy Director of Research at the Veteran Affairs National Center for PTSD, 53% of the people who receive therapies (trauma-focused psychotherapy) have their symptoms subsided. 

2. Regular exercise for mental health 

Recurrent stress dampens your immune system, which cannot fight mood disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, stress, and anxiety. A compromised immune system is also unable to restore your physical health, which is intricately connected with your mental health. 

Physical activity improves your immune system. It also helps veterans fight the occurrence of fatal illnesses such as mesothelioma (caused by asbestos exposure during service). Epistemological evidence suggests that exercise reduces or delays the occurrence of mesothelioma. For more information, visit the mesothelioma veterans center, which talks at length about its risk factors, treatment, legal assistance, and compensation. 

Apart from strengthening your immune system, exercise also improves sleep, mood, and memory. The positive natural energy you get through physical activity helps fight negative thoughts and improve self-perception. 

3. Eat the right food

Eating the right food is not only required for your physical health, but it is indispensable for reinforcing your mental health too. Sugar and processed food are not healthy for your body. They cause inflammation throughout the body and the brain, contributing to anxiety, mood disorders, and stress.

You may observe that you eat more processed food during stressful situations. Or during the busy hours of the day, processed foods and snacks seem to be the most convenient options. They are palatable, but at the same time, they instigate the dopamine centers in the brain —the brain’s pleasure and reward centers. As a result, you feel more cravings to consume more of such foods. 

When you try to reduce their intake, feelings of stress and uneasiness creep in. Therefore, these foods are not just empty calories; they are addictive too— a no-no in both situations. 

To strengthen your mental health, eat healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables. They are rich in probiotics that regulate your mood and reduce inflammation. Also, foods with Omega-3, such as salmon and dark leafy green vegetables, are natural stress-busters and brain-protectors. 

4. Engage in mindful meditation

Mindful meditation is beneficial for veterans. Mindfulness is a state of being present and aware of your feelings, surroundings, and thoughts. You try to maintain a state of mind where your brain is at peace. 

Mindful meditation helps with mental health issues such as anxiety, and depression, as it allows you to concentrate on the present without reminiscing or indulging in future plans. 

Mindful meditation can benefit veterans by helping them accept things as they are and preventing them from trying to find a way back to their old life. Eventually, it leads to positive mental health and well-being. Additionally, mindful meditation improves their productivity and quality of life by improving their concentration and focus on the present. 

All these benefits make mindful meditation a winning self-care strategy for veterans. 

5. Spend time in nature 

Nature is God’s unique gift to humanity. Just staying close to nature, such as plants, trees, sunlight, and fresh breeze, has magical effects on your mental health and well-being. Spending time in natural surroundings is an excellent way to soothe your aching mind and eliminate negative thoughts. 

Studies show that exposure to green space improves your mood and instills calmness. Nature reduces the production of stress hormones, lowers blood pressure, boosts neurotransmitters, improves attention span, and promotes better sleep. 

Some ideas to increase your exposure to nature include:

  • Take advantage of any green space or park near you. Spend at least thirty minutes in the park daily. Surrounding yourself with trees, plants, and chirping birds can do wonders for your mental well-being. 
  • Include a morning walk in your daily plan. Morning is the cleanest and purest time of the day when the whole city is still preparing to start its buzz and activity. Take advantage of less-polluted air. Plus, early exposure to blue light promotes a healthy circadian rhythm. 
  • Plan trips to national parks. Many parks provide free or discounted entry for veterans and service members. 
  • Some groups arrange veteran expeditions— you can join them to meet your buddies, explore nature, and spend quality time together. 

Conclusion

Veterans find it quite hard to transition to civilian life after deployment. Therefore, they easily neglect their mental health and ignore issues like stress, depression, negative memories, and nightmares. 

The tips mentioned above can help them live a peaceful life by adequately addressing their mental health issues and providing them with a healthier lifestyle. 

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