warrior man and woman

After Trauma—5 Ways to Manage Stress

Five strategies to help us endure pain and overcome challenges.

When I wrote my book Warrior SOS: Military Veterans’ Stories of Faith, Emotional Survival and Living with PTSD, I interviewed multiple, amazing veterans, including some Delta Force operators, a former Navy SEAL and several others with random military jobs, but extraordinary stories. From them, and from my own experiences, I’ve learned that the longer we live, the more likely we’re going to experience seemingly insurmountable challenges. Thankfully, the there is hope when navigating the turbulent waters of troubled days that occasionally come. 

Here are five strategies to help us endure pain and overcome challenges—military veteran or not.

1. Avoid downplaying the seriousness of what you experienced.

We must not ever feel like we haven’t endured enough pain or heartache to be suffering. Mark Twain once wrote, “Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion a child’s loss of a doll and the king’s loss of a crown are events of the same size.” 

Sure, no guy wants to be called a little girl who lost a doll and is weeping like a baby, but the truth is some things hurt us in ways that only kings and princes could understand. 

2. Don’t compare your experiences to others.

Here is an example of what many men say to themselves following traumatic events: “If I had the same experiences as [so and so] then I would feel justified for feeling the way I do.” Whether it’s actually expressed or thought, it’s not healthy.

Comparison often brings feelings guilt and can compound feelings of inadequacy. Obviously, these negative feelings are something to avoid since they are barriers to health and healing.

3. Believe that you’re capable and able.

The term disabled, disability or even disorder can be destructive. No one wants to think they’re broken. I believe that’s a large reason why many who silently suffer from post-traumatic stress don’t get much-needed help. There’s a stigma associated with PTSD, beginning with calling it a “disorder” as in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I like the term ability, much better than dis-ability. Focus on what you can do. You may view yourselves as injured, but don’t consider yourself completely broken. Though you may have changed, you’re still capable and competent—a prince, a king, a man of talent and nobility. 

4. Remember that healing hurts.

People in the hospital have been injured; that’s why they’re there. Sometimes doctors and nurses need to dig and scrape to clean out infection. Too, bullets and bomb fragments need to be removed just as emotional lead needs to be cut out. 

When it comes to emotional, mental and psychological troubles, there is help. We need to seek out that help. We shouldn’t wait. We mustn’t place Band-Aids over amputations or mask problems with the veneer of self medication (e.g., excessive drinking).

Get help now. The sooner the better. Sure, healing hurts, but waiting to get help won’t necessarily make it hurt less. In fact, waiting may exacerbate the pain.

5. Rethink your definition of true manhood.

In his book Men at War, Ernest Hemingway wrote the following:  

“When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you. . . . Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you. After being severely wounded two weeks before my nineteenth birthday I had a bad time until I figured out that nothing could happen to me that had not happened to all men before me. Whatever I had to do men had always done. If they had done it then I could do it too.”

Sometimes we just need to experience life in order to appreciate it more. We begin to revere and respect our ancestors—our progenitors—on a greater level the more we experience life. In such a situation, we may often reconsider the true definition of manhood, especially as we look to our own family history and learn about all the troubles and trials our own ancestors faced and conquered.

Jeffrey Denning

Jeffrey has written award-winning articles for the Washington Times, Guns.com, and other publications. He is the author of seven books, including Warrior SOS: Military Veterans’ Stories of Faith, Emotional Survival and Living with PTSD. He teaches courses on peer support, suicide prevention, and other mental wellness and resilience to public safety professionals. If you would like Jeff to speak at your event or training please contact him HERE.

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