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Life after The Military: Practical Tips for A Happy Life

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Life after The Military: Practical Tips for A Happy Life

After some time spent in the service, the old excitement and “glamour” simply runs out. Most people that were in the service realize quite fast that there is nothing noble or uplifting about being in combat. It is a very difficult and for some even traumatizing experience that could leave a huge mark on somebody.

After seeing a number of friends and family members return from military service, some of whom had seen their share of combat, and just how difficult it was for them to reintegrate into civilian life, I started talking to those who managed to pull through and they gave me some priceless advices.

It can be quite hard to get back to the regular civilian life for various reasons. I asked people to tell me about the things which were the hardest for them and also to give me valuable insights on how they were able to overcome them and lead a happy life after service. Here is what those military veterans told me.

1. Don’t Expect Too Much

I know that this is a sensitive subject, but I’m trying to help you and I cannot do this without being honest. Chances are you won’t be welcomed as a hero. Your family will be there of course, but even that moment when you reunite, no matter how joyful it might be, can still be awkward.

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I am telling this to all of those who expect a triumphant storybook return. This might happen in the movies or books, but this is real life and you must prepare for it. Even your first kiss with your partner you haven’t seen for a long time can be awkward, especially if you have been away for a long time and you haven’t kissed for so long.

Additionally, you will learn that everyone has changed. This is the difficult reality of being in the military and having a partner. When being apart for so long in different emotional states, you and your partner will both change a lot. If you have kids, they will change as well and it might be tough on you, realizing what things you’ve missed while you were away.

2. Take Time to Readjust to Civilian Life

Each and every person who’s been in the service and especially those who’ve seen real combat need time to get used to being back home. It’s Impossible to simply leave a dangerous environment filled with destruction, death, and constant life threats followed with personal losses you must cope with, and expect to come back home without carrying some of those things back with you.

Even if you didn’t have a lot of real combat action, it doesn’t mean that the transition will not be difficult. When you have worked for months or even years with the army, taking care of your duty on a daily basis, being criticized or rushed constantly, you might get bored of living an “ordinary” life where everything is quiet. A lot of people struggle with the uncertainties of life and they miss their constant, clear military objectives.

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Essentially, you must understand that your mental journey to a normal life will be much longer than the physical one. Once all of the homecoming celebrations have ended, your transition period will still continue. During this period, it is essential that you try and take care of yourself both physically and spiritually. Focus on your family with group activities, be active and exercise, and the most importantly, talk about your experiences with people who can understand as this can help you during the transition period.

3. Find A Job

There are a lot of people who come back from their service and just sit around doing nothing. This gives them too much free time and they start thinking about the experiences they’ve had and the terrible things they saw back in the military. They start obsessing and bad things come out of it, including alcoholism, drugs, depression, etc.

Of course, you should take the deserved break you need, but after you have started getting used to civilian life you should start working as soon as possible. This will keep those thoughts back and you will focus on things that surround you during your everyday work. Try and find a job that has a higher dose of seriousness and requires similar discipline to make up for what you are missing.

4. Seek Professional Help

Sometimes just talking with your brothers in arm, friends, or family members is not enough to get you through the memories that might haunt you. In this case, you should look to use on your VA and seek professional help. The VA can help you in many ways, but one of the best things is that there is a huge community and a great resource you can utilize whenever needed.

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If you need someone to talk with and help you go through any issues you might be having after your military service has passed, they will be there at your disposal. No matter how alone you might feel, there are people with VA who have talked to a lot of those who had trouble readjusting, and helped them get back on track.

5. Find Your Place in The Community

For a lot of people, the sense of belonging to a group is one of the things they miss about the military. This is why it’s a good idea to get connected with some large community in order to feel like you are home. Of course, you should start by looking for a wider ring of neighbors and friends who have appreciation and respect for your time in the army. There are people who experienced this sense of community by becoming a part of service organizations, civic groups or clubs.

Some veterans do this using their faith and their religious community and they get involved in church activities. No matter what your interests are, there are a lot of communities and you can certainly find one that suits you. If you’re a part of something bigger and helping others instead of thinking about yourself, you can start feeling like a civilian.

The readjustment period can be a difficult time for anyone. Before the end, I would like to mention one thing that is very important.

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“Don’t try to remember who you were before you went to the army.”

Everyone changes after their service and this is a normal thing. You cannot force yourself to be someone you once were. You will change, and other people will change as well. Learn to accept these things and become a part of your community as the person you are at the moment.

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Ivan Dimitrijevic

Ivan is the CEO and founder of a digital marketing company. He has years of experiences in team management, entrepreneurship and productivity.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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