War-related anxiety is a significant mental health problem in many countries where wars occur. Peacekeeping missions, international conflicts, and civil unrest can leave people suffering from the symptoms, even if they were not directly involved in the battle. Family members play an essential role in helping people with war-related anxiety get back to living a happy life.
Some of the ways you as a family member can help a veteran achieve mental wellness and positive living include:
- Recommending Treatment And Counseling Organizations
Treatment options can vary based on symptoms, personal preferences, and insurance situations. Numerous resources can help the veteran find an anxiety management program or therapist.
Government-sponsored therapists trained in treating war-related anxiety can help manage a veteran’s symptoms by providing psychotherapy sessions and recommending self-management techniques or medications if necessary.
Additionally, many private therapists also specialize in treating in-patient and out-patient anxiety disorders and can provide care for individuals with war-related trauma histories. You can follow this link to learn more about them.
- Encouraging Regular Exercise
Regular exercise helps reduce anxiety in general. As a family member, you can discuss the benefits of working out with a veteran, help them get started, and provide support to ensure success. Exercise has many health benefits, including stress relief and improved sleep patterns. It’s also an excellent way for veterans to clear their minds and focus on something other than fears and worries.
Getting started with exercise can be difficult when feeling anxious, but it doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. The veteran doesn’t have to join a gym or buy expensive equipment. There are plenty of easy ways to increase activity in their daily routines, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going for a short walk during lunchtime.
Moreover, you can do activities with them that encourage physical fitness, such as playing football in the park, shooting hoops at the basketball court, hiking in the woods, or doing aerobics videos at home.
- Helping Them Not Overdo It
Your beloved veterans are not alone. Many of their fellows have also struggled to combat the psychological and physical effects of war. These effects (commonly referred to as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD) are often deeply rooted in the brain chemistry and physiology, causing them to experience mental and emotional states that can be difficult to control or understand. That’s why it’s essential that you—as their loved ones—help them manage the symptoms without overdoing it.
It would be best to help them understand that the most significant mistake when managing anxiety is going too far. It could be exercising too much, overeating, drinking too much, sleeping too much (or not enough), and overthinking about problems. Even talking about their feelings can become toxic if done in excess.
- Encouraging Familiarity
Familiarity is essential in managing war-related anxiety since it can be comforting. People are often soothed by what they already know, and even if there’s a risk involved with something familiar, the threat may seem minimal. Being comfortable in an area that the veterans know well can help them regain control over their environment.
If your beloved veteran is feeling anxious in public or at home and you want to help them feel better, try to stick with things or places that make them feel safe and comfortable before the trauma. Encourage them to avoid being out late at night (if this makes them uncomfortable) or spending time alone if it scares them.
When people suffering from anxiety are exposed to unfamiliar surroundings for extended periods and deprived of stimuli they find comforting, it may become more challenging to manage their anxiety and promote calmness.
- Listening Without Judgement
Listening is one of the essential skills you can use to help your loved one with their anxiety. Experts call this ‘active listening,’ which means giving full attention and listening with all senses when your friend or family member is talking.
The best way to actively listen is by paraphrasing what they’re saying back to them, e.g., ‘It sounds like you feel anxious when you meet new people because you don’t know how they will react if they know about your war experiences.’ It lets them know that you can hear what they say and encourages them to continue talking about their feelings.
When someone is experiencing anxiety, it may be tempting for the listener to try to give advice or suggest solutions to their problems. However, this can make the person feel like they aren’t being heard or understood.
Instead of trying solutions right away, let your loved ones talk through how they’re feeling without interruption and judgment. If you need clarification on what they said or why they feel a certain way, ask without being aggressive or critical—this shows empathy and interest in understanding their situation better.
- Encouraging Competence And Control
Another way to practice competence and control is through responsibility. Make sure your loved one has responsibility around the house for related things. For example, veterans could be responsible for taking the dog out or playing with the children. These responsibilities serve as a reminder of their beingness and humanity. By encouraging them to take steps towards independence and engaging them in fun-filled tasks within the home, you can boost their mood.
- Proposing Social Support
Having a solid social network is crucial to managing PTSD. These support systems can keep your beloved veteran grounded and help combat feelings of isolation.
One way to maintain this social support is by establishing regular one-on-one interactions with them alongside other family members. If you’re looking for more social support from those who have experienced similar circumstances, encouraging them to join a PTSD support group or a veteran’s organization could also be beneficial.
- Minimizing Distractions And Stressors
There are a few things family members and loved ones can do to help minimize distractions and stressors in the lives of service members with anxiety:
- Offer your support: Loved ones can often feel helpless when their service member is experiencing anxiety, but you don’t have to be an expert to help. By regularly offering support, you may be able to help your loved one set aside some time for relaxation and reflection—which will go a long way in easing their symptoms.
- Create a peaceful environment: A relaxing space will go a long way toward helping your loved ones cope with their anxiety symptoms by minimizing distractions and stressors. One of the most effective ways to create this type of space is by turning off the noise—so try limiting background noise like the TV and radio and avoid loud conversations or arguments near your loved one.
- Helping With Organization And Memory
In addition to listening and being there for your loved ones, assisting them with organization and memory is also helpful. Indeed, this is where a family member or a naturally organized friend could lend a hand.
A calendar can help a veteran with anxiety keep track of appointments and events. A plan can provide structure for daily activities and tasks. Writing things down can help improve memory. A journal or notebook may be an excellent way to organize thoughts during or after tough times.
A journal or notebook used exclusively by someone with anxiety is also a great place to keep lists like:
- Important events
- Appointments, goals
- Things they used to do but don’t anymore due to anxiety
- Things they never used to do but now do because of their condition (like avoiding certain situations)
- Activities they may want to try doing again (if only it didn’t cause so much stress)
These lists are important because they can help people with anxiety know their triggers. They’re also helpful when trying to understand why it makes them uncomfortable. By providing them with a notebook beforehand and asking if they could look over their list with you before going through it point by point—they may not only know about the specific problems at hand. But also feel appreciated for taking the time out of your busy schedule.
- Sharing Old Photographs And Stories
Reminiscing about old times can be a great way to help your veteran reconnect with pre-war memories. Remind them of who they were before they were deployed and encourage them to get in touch with that person again.
If you don’t have photos, putting together a scrapbook to share with them can be a fun project and a great way to remind your veteran of their roots. It also helps them rediscover their identity as someone more than or other than the person they have become in war.
While you can’t cure war-related anxiety, you can help manage it. Family members are vital in helping their loved ones who experience war-related anxiety achieve mental wellness. If you’re a family member of someone experiencing war-related anxiety, encourage them to seek treatment and counseling. Motivate them to exercise regularly, as well as to eat healthy food and drink plenty of water. Spend time with your loved one; go for a walk together or watch a movie. Remind them that they’re not alone, and let them know you care about them daily.