Welcome back to another month of fun and festivities. I hope the holidays have treated you well. Every year we get to this moment when we tell ourselves we are going to change some things in the coming year to better ourselves. The resolutions, or goals, are often not obtained due to lofty tasks and not being carefully thought out or planned in how they will be executed; like that of a military mission. Some common resolutions that many veterans look to achieve are categories of health, financial, mental health/happiness, and sharing or helping other veterans. I will look deeper into these goals to see if any of these things interest you as a focus of self-improvement in your upcoming year.
Military veterans have always been healthy-minded individuals that have usually placed it as an essential part of their lives. It is expected that as the years' pass, many veterans forget about their previous military fitness regimens. Unfortunately, aging and life impact us all, but it doesn’t have to be quite so brutal if we take care of ourselves through exercise and eating right. Remember back when you started basic training, and you made (or were forced) to make a resolution to create a healthy routine. This does not mean you have to do 1000 pushup and sit-ups in the middle of the hot sun, but instead, you should start small and build up from there. Vow to make your health and fitness a priority in your life and a part of your daily routine. It is hard to resist the healthy feeling you will have when you are currently ill and overweight from an inactive lifestyle. So ultimately, set a small, realistic goal. Even if you just start walking 15 to 20 minutes a day, then built up from there in moderation, it will be worth it in the end. Do it for yourself. You will find that you will start feeling better and have more energy if you eat right and start taking better care of yourself.
Taking care of your body is only one part of the equation; taking care of your wallet is another part. This is an area that is sometimes very difficult for many people. Not everyone has the ability or luxury to save money, but there are a few simple things that you can do with your money to make it stretch further. Finding coupons is an easy way to save your hard-earned cash. Many people do not realize that coupons are everywhere, like the daily newspaper and even online, that applied to nearly every type of purchase. Another way to save more money is through Groupon. This resource allows you to save a lot of money in Las Vegas. Spending time to look up coupons online can save you thousands of dollars a year. There are also many discounts throughout the Las Vegas area as long as you research and ask. If they say “no,” then say respectfully “thank you.” It doesn’t hurt to inquire about a military discount. There are more discounts out there than you think. Some very recognizable ones are Vettix.org. These are free concerts, shows, and event tickets for veterans. Another benefit for veterans is Free National Parks Pass for veterans at www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes for free passes to any national park-like Lake Mead. Another great local resource is lv.houseseats.com to great show seats for local Las Vegas shows. There is a nominal fee for the annual membership, but it is well worth the cost and pays for itself upon the first use. Take the extra time to search for savings, and your wallet will thank you. You will also have fun too.
Mental Health / Happiness
This should be the easiest one, but for many, it is not. For veterans suffering from PTSD, or poor Mental Wellness, finding happiness can often be extremely challenging. A large percentage of veterans in the United States continue to struggle with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while society continues to look for ways to help these heroes. PTSD is diagnosed as being a mental health issue that results from having experienced or witnessed traumatic events and can result in symptoms of severe anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, insomnia, agitation, flashbacks, isolation, and other harmful side-effects. PTSD can debilitate a veteran's work, family, and social life to a level of being nonfunctional. Unfortunately, PTSD can be linked to the high suicide rate for U.S. veterans. Recent studies by the VA estimate that 20 veterans commit suicide every day. Even though veterans represent only 9% of the population, they make up 18% of Americans who commit suicide. Society has begun to recognize that the U.S. veteran population needs help overcome the residual effects of war.
Many times, some veterans need to know that there are many similar people out there that have traveled, and made it through, similar experiences of PTSD. A person living with PTSD never knows when a flashback might occur, or when something may trigger the memories, and what the physical reactions may be. Sometimes keeping up a happy appearance during the bout of depression can be just as exhausting and too much to handle as the original traumatic experience.
There is a wide range of 24-hour veteran crisis hotlines available for veterans who find themselves seriously struggling with these challenges. Any veteran can call toll free: 1-800-273-8255 and press “1” to reach someone immediately through the VA’s crisis line; their website also has confidential online chat and text options, as well as help for veterans with hearing impairment. In many cases, just allowing veterans to talk through your emotions or mental state can release them from the moment, and knowing that they are not alone can give them the strength they need.
Sharing and helping other veterans
Many veterans have an innate sense of duty to help other people. Why not help other veterans or share your time if you sense they are lonely. Take up a new indoor or outdoor hobby with them. Some veterans who are experiencing specific symptoms of PTSD – repetitive thoughts, racing mind, sensitivity to certain trigger noises, anxiety from being in crowds – can benefit from the peace acquired from hobbies. There is a wide range of hobbies and organizations that solely exist to help give veterans the chance to learn a new activity to quiet and heal the mind.
Another great way of sharing is getting involved with dog adoption agencies that are involved with veterans. Dogs help offer the benefit of companionship without any judgments or expectations to veterans who are challenged with the isolation and irritability from PTSD. Dogs are naturally vigilant and help remove that anxiety from a veteran who is experiencing difficulty with sleep. Most pets enjoy giving, receiving affection, and are naturally soothing. Dogs also are dependent on their owners, making them the main reason for a veteran to hold on, knowing they need to care for their pet in the future. Whether a veteran requires a highly-trained dog that can detect and react to signs of severe PTSD or a simple companion dog that is always there to hang out, there are specific programs that can help veterans, typically at little or no cost.
This year, we need to resolve to help one another find the happiest of times. If you know a veteran who is suffering from loss or mental health issues, get help immediately. Every day is precious and being mentally fit and happier is imperative. Sharing this information can also bring joy to others. If you know a veteran that needs some extra attention, help them out. Extending a helping hand, or paying it forward, makes the world a better place, and brings happiness to the heart.
Hopefully, this past year has brought you some great fun and memories. I hope and wish that the upcoming year will bring even better ones. Have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.
Image provided by UAW (2016). Whats Your New Year's Resolution? Retrieved from https://uaw.org/whats-new-years-resolution/