Saturday, 30 March 2013

Having a bad day?

We all struggle with life sometimes. But we might not always understand just what it is that makes us struggle.

We struggle with new situations; with challenges for which we are not prepared. And it feels worse if we think that others are seemingly dealing with it so much more easily. Don't let yourselves be fooled - some of us are just better at keeping up appearences than others; and that isn't always a good thing.

Filling in an application form doesn't get your adrenalin going the same way pre-deployment exercise did. Sitting alone in front of a computer can't give you what training with your mates has given you.

You are going through a major change in your life - having a bad day every now and again is okay. Even if you've been through combat and back - the struggle in civvie street can still get to you; especially if you've not been given enough training and guidance

Do you know what the most stressful life events are - outside the combat zone?
  • major changes in one's financial situation (gaining as well as losing money);
  • additions to the family
  • personal illness or injury
  • illness or injury of a close family member
  • children leaving home
  • changes to one's job (not just losing it)
  • family / relationship issues
  • going on holiday
  • moving house
  • separation from a partner
  • retirement
  • being made redundant
  • death of someone close
The above is deliberately not in any particular order - but ask yourself: How many of the events in the list apply to you? How many have you gone through in the past year?

There is only so much you can do in order to prepare youself. Moving house might become easier once you've done it for the forth time - but it's always stressful. The third broken bone doesn't make medical treatment less stressful. And the death of someone close - well, I don't think I'll ever get used to it.

Even changes which we choose to make will be stressful - but coping is much more difficult when we did not choose the change; for example, in the case of losing one's job. But you can do something about it:
  1. Accept that it is okay to have a bad day, occasionally, even if there might not be any one particular reason; sometimes we simply need to recharge our batteries and refocus.
  2. Don't try to keep up appearances - you will eventually act it out on the people around you; which is the last thing you want.
  3. Talk about what bothers you. Just because you no longer belong to a regiment doesn't mean you're now on your own.
It's amazing how many like-minded people you can find via social networking - people in a similar situation; people who have been there before; people who can help. Talk to them.

If you struggle: Don't blame yourself! Don't think you have to manage on your own!

If your "bad day" turns into a week - if "bad days" keep recurring - or if you experience physical symptoms which begin to interfere with your life and which you did not experience previously: please talk to your GP urgently.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Be proud of yourselves

Every time I talk to one of you guys, what strikes me most is how modest you are.

I'm only now beginning to understand how difficult it is for you to "sell" yourselves when looking for a new professional future. You are used to operate as part of a team. Everybody is pulling his / her weight; and if you're not playing your part, you might well become a danger to the others.

Now you're on your own. Squaddie - Captain - Colonel - Brigadier - you all have one thing in common: What you took for granted is gone. You need to find a new way of looking at your previous career and translate it into something a civvie can understand.

That's a tough call for the toughest among you.

You need to find a way to strike a balance between being too modest and showing off.
It can be done, it has been done. You're all smart enough to get there. But it will also mean saying farewell to things that were important to you, and which might not be of immediate use in civvie street. That's a painful process.

Therefore, I would like you all to do me a favour and pause, just for a moment:
Please make a conscious effort, every now and again, to pad yourselves on the shoulder and be proud of who you are and what you have achieved.

It's easy to get lost in the new challenges and the apprehension. Yes, there is a lot you won't feel comfortable with. At times, you might feel you won't manage it all. But you will. You have already achieved more than you might be aware of at times. Being proud of yourselves doesn't mean boasting - it means recognising that there is value in what you have achieved and in what it has taken you to get there. And it will add confidence that the challenge you're facing now is not unsurmountable.