Hull Veterans Support Centre

Looking After Yourself in Retirement

When we work in the Armed Forces, we’re looked after by our superiors and our squad mates.

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When we take retirement, or are forced into it, the social and professional network that we’ve grown accustomed to over the period of our employment is taken away from us.

From living a structured, regimented life where our human needs are met on a daily basis, veterans can often be jettisoned out into a world which requires them to act with a lot more autonomy. We’re all capable, of course, of looking after ourselves – after all many of us spend our working lives in foreign lands, often with the responsibility of caring for our fellow troops as well as ourselves.

That being said, when we leave the Forces, it can be hard to adjust to independent life. If you’re struggling with looking after yourself post-retirement or you’re about to take the first steps into civilian life, have a look at these pointers to give you a head start:

Staying social

One of the hardest parts of leaving the Forces is the sudden lack of social engagement. We’re so used to being surrounded by our squad mates during our work life – on the field, in the barracks or the mess tent. When we retire, life by ourselves can feel quiet or even lonely in comparison. Those of us who are lucky enough to return to a family upon retirement might still struggle with readjusting to the new social rules that we are required to follow.

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What you can do about it: Being socially active in today’s age has never been easier. The internet has allowed us to reach out to millions of other people, this includes the hundreds of thousands that are going through a similar thing. Use social networks to find like-minded people or simply research where your closest Veteran’s centre is.

Staying on top of your health

Working in the military is a physically demanding job, one where we can pick up more than our fair share of knocks and injuries. Whether it’s an old wound picked up on the battlefield or even a more serious condition that might have gone undetected for years, it’s imperative that you stay on top of your health issue once you leave the Forces. No more routine health and fitness checks means that you could miss an important diagnosis.

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What you can do about it: Make the most of the NHS, if you can’t get the answers you need from them, then you might be able to get the funding to go private. Although you might have to travel further afield you can still get a CT Scan in Manchester or an MRI Scan in Liverpool for a relatively small sum.

Being mindful of alcohol

There’s a common misconception that men and women in the military struggle with alcohol dependence much more than people in other professions. Although this kind of judgement does not do the reputation of military men any favours, it may still have a grain of truth to it. The Army and Navy are social institutions that are ruled similarly by intense drinking rituals. When on leave, men and women can consume vast amounts, something that they cannot do when on base.

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What you can do about it: When rejoining civilian life, be wary of how much alcohol you consume. Drinking with civilians will be a slightly different experience than to drinking with your old colleagues, take your time and pace yourself.

Eating well

Once you leave the Forces there’s no going back. That means no more sharing bunks, no more communal showers but, most importantly, no more free meals! It’s quite common for veterans to put on weight after retiring. We get used to eating vast quantities during our time at work, which we need to keep us fuelled throughout our intensive work days. However, if we continue to eat that much through our retirement, we soon find that we put the pounds on.

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What you can do about it: Watch your weight and reduce your calorie intake in relation to how active your lifestyle is. If you want to continue eating as much as you did before, you’ll want to make sure that you join a gym and exercise as if you were back on base!

Staying active

The most important thing to remember when taking retirement is that your post-military life will be a great deal more sedentary than what you’ve grown accustomed to. Even if you fall into a job that requires you to stay on your feet, you’ll never be pushing yourself to the same extent that you were in the past. Exercise is a key part of mental well being, the pheromones and chemicals that are released into the body when we exercise help our mood and increase our libido.

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What you can do about it: Exercising can be as simple as going for a walk or a light jog. Gym memberships can come very cheap these days, with budget gyms costing as little as £16.99 a month. Amateur sports clubs are always looking for new members, take a look online to find ones in your area.

Making the transition from military service to civilian life is difficult, ease yourself in and find something to focus on.

Life Skills That You Can Build At Home

When people from the Forces retire, we can often be a little overwhelmed by the huge amount of spare time that we have at our disposal.

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From a civilian’s perspective it can be difficult to understand the retirees plight.

Most people look on retirement as a golden chalice, something to be aspired to, the reward for years of hard work and perseverance. Of course, these aspects are present when a military man or woman retires, but these feelings of accomplishment are also coupled with the nagging sense that we are somehow not pulling our weight as much as we used to.

Our working lives in the army is dominated by team work. It’s rare that we ever have to work by ourselves, if this ever happens, our work is always contributing towards our troop. Working in the forces is synonymous with team work, so when we retire, we can often feel lumped with a sense of emptiness or even shame. This feeling of guilt; that we have left many of our colleagues still in service to pick up the slack, can lead to us feeling bad about ourselves. Negative emotions such as these can lead on to us developing a low self-esteem or even depression.

Before you go down this road, it’s important to remember that just because your professional career in the army has ended, that doesn’t mean that your professional development has to as well. There are tonnes of skills that you can learn, for free or relatively little, that can help give your retirement the sense of purpose and drive that you need.

Coding

For men and women retiring from the Forces today, it will feel like they are entering a strange new world where technology trumps everything. There’s no need to feel like you’ve been completely left in the dust when it comes to the future of computing though! Basic coding can be learnt for free online and text books for more advanced techniques can be bought for a few pounds.

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What this can lead to: Although it might take you some time to pick up the various languages required, it’s not impossible for you to pick up a job as a programmer after a few years of practice. Other potential avenues include digital marketing and social media management.

Cooking

When soldiers leave the army on a permanent basis, the thing they often miss the most is the food. Comparisons are often drawn to leaving prison. If you’re in the military for a number of years then you simply become acclimatised to receiving your meals at the same time every day. Life at base camp is repetitive but reliable, you can guarantee that you’ll always get a sturdy meal from the mess. But when you leave, this could leave you a little lost and at risk of putting on weight.

Use cookery shows on television and recipes on the internet to develop your own techniques so that you can safe on money and keep trim.

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What this can lead to: The catering industry is one of the biggest employers in the UK. Good cookery skills can put you in line for position as a chef or catering assistant.

Reading and Writing

Simply picking up and reading any book or magazine increases your ability to read and understand text at speed. Writing is something that we’re not necessarily called on to do very much whilst we’re employed in the Forces, but you’ll find the more that you practice it the easier it will come and the wider your vocabulary will develop. It can be as simple as keeping a diary or even writing a blog on your favourite hobby.

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What this can lead to: Once your literacy skills have increased beyond the ordinary you’ll be considered for professional positions in offices. Or you could strike out on your own as a freelance writer or blogger.

The important thing to remember is that any personal development on your part, after your retirement, should be celebrated. For many, retirement signals the end of progress and the beginning of the end of your life.

Don’t let yourself fall into this trap – the more you can achieve in this period of life the happier you will be.

 

Job Opportunities That Require No Education

In an ideal world, Veterans would be recognised for the skills and achievements they’ve accumulated throughout their Military service

However, it’s important to remember that many people have had very little interaction with people in the Armed Forces, let alone understand the range of skills that are built up during the minimum years of service.

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This would be alright, if we had the chance to learn and develop a way of presenting ourselves for job interviews.

However, preparing for civilian life is often the last thing on our minds when we’re serving. So, when it comes to looking for work after we’ve retired from the service, it can be difficult to find a meaningful occupation that can also pay the bills.

Luckily, there are a few options open to Veterans which don’t involve too much training and can prove to be quite lucrative – if enough elbow grease is applied:

Commercial Cleaner

It may seem like a rather pedestrian job to bring yourself down to, especially after potentially travelling all around the world with the forces, but working as a commercial cleaner could prove to be the kind of job that ticks all the boxes for a veteran.

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Specialising in cleaning specific items or parts of the home will make you stand out as an entrepreneur; as long as you find the right niche you’ll always be able to find work. Of course, setting up a busy is not always that easy – that’s why it can be preferable to buy a into a franchise, instead of starting up by yourself. Companies like The BBQ Cleaner specialise in educating people in the ways of setting up a small business – preparing them for every eventuality, so they can go onto successfully run their business independently.

Driver

All you’ll need for this job is a current driving licence with no points. Thanks to the nature of our jobs, most of us don’t get given the chance to add any points to our licenses, so we usually have clean records by the time we leave the service.

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Ex-military men might be stuck with some slightly unfavourable stereotypes sometimes, but we’re also associated with a few positive ones too! Good organisational skills, tidiness and decent time-keeping skills are all qualities that are linked to jobs in the armed forces; attributes that also make for fantastic drivers. Whether it’s on a casual basis for a company such as Uber, or a more professional job as a chauffeur – these companies tend to look favourably on people from military backgrounds.

Security

Lastly – this field of industry might not appeal to veterans looking for a more peaceful retirement from service. For those still looking to stay alert and involved in high-pressure situations, the security business might be just the thing.

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Of course security work doesn’t always have to mean stressful positions – there’s plenty of range within the business. Small pubs and bars, during the weekdays, often need one or two men to watch the door – convenience stores in city centres often hire a sole member of security, to keep an eye out for shop lifters. These jobs can often be very social, putting you in the centre of a bustling atmosphere, just the thing for a veteran looking to adapt to civilian life.

There are some useful websites out there specialising in offering work to ex-servicemen, so don’t feel like there’s not a job out there for you!

Mental Health Challenges That Veterans Face

Just because you’ve left the battlefield, doesn’t mean that the war is over

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Working within the Armed Forces throws ordinary people into extraordinary scenarios. Over the years that we spend in service, we are given thorough training and coaching in how to cope with moments of crisis – but sometimes the heaviest times can occur to us after we’ve left the war zone.

These are 4 of the mental challenges that Veterans face upon leaving the Forces:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD]

PTSD is a condition that can affect anyone – from active servicemen to those no longer serving.

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Since it’s initial discovery in the wake of the First World War (labelled as ‘shellshock’), there have been a number of myths and false ideas propagated about the condition. Chief of these is the notion that you can only suffer from PTSD if you have seen combat. Movie cliches have done little to help the case of those suffering from the condition, as people often consider PTSD sufferers to be unhinged or unpredictable in some way.

For more info on PTSD and how to find help, visit CombatStress.

Depression

Although it’s fair to say that you can reach some euphoric highs, whilst working in the forces, you can also open yourself up to some crushing lows.

It’s nigh on impossible to make it through a full military service without encountering some form of tragedy or loss that will mark you permanently. Whether it’s the death of a comrade or witnessing the breakdown of a squad – these personal events can weigh heavily on the mind and cause prolonged periods of depression. This can manifest itself in many ways, and, at first, may not seem that obvious. Symptoms can range from a feeling of hopelessness to suicidal thoughts and can be hard for sufferers to communicate.

The NHS has a detailed breakdown of depression here.

Anxiety

Although clinically diagnosed Anxiety is often overlooked as a mental condition among those in the forces, it can be a debilitating condition that can ruin lives.

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We are all familar with feelings of anxiousness, these occur from time to time – during periods of stress and hardship. Within the armed forces these moments can occur on a daily basis. However, it’s when these feelings – akin to the fight-or-flight response – start to encroach on everyday life that Anxiety can be seen as seriously effecting someone. Sufferers can find themselves worrying about things that are simply out of their control, or even worrying about worrying itself.

Anxiety is a condition that should be faced head on – Mind is the leading UK charity for Mental Health that can help the best.

Substance Dependency

Dependency on alcohol, drugs, or even prescription medicine, can often be the result of leaving any of the above conditions untreated.

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Men and women in the Forces can sometime have a tempestuous relationship with alcohol. Prolonged periods of abstinence are often followed by intense binge drinking nights out, or all weekenders, that often leave the body (and bank account!) exhausted. When we have to rejoin civilian life, it becomes all to easy to see every day as an opportunity to drink – this is when damaging habits begin to get formed.  Depression and anxiety can often lead to experimentation with illicit drugs as well, which carry legal and health ramifications.

Action on Addiction is the most active charitable fund working with drug abuse, you can also consult Talk To Frank for some straight-forward advice on drug abuse.

If you think you might be suffering from any of the above conditions, then you should consider talking to someone about it. Drop in to a Support Centre or give one of the above charities a call.

Moving Forward with Planned Actions

Leaving the Military Service can often be a difficult transition

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Thousands of civilians may well dream of the day that they can ‘retire’ and live a life of leisure. For military men and women, the abrupt transition to retired civilian life can often be one that is hard to handle.

One of the wonderful things about working in the Armed Forces is the sense of purpose and responsibility that such a job imbues an individual with.

Every minute of every day is accounted for – leaving little time to stop and pause for breath. It’s a whirlwind career choice that, although definitely not for everyone, has the capacity to channel many individuals’ efforts into one combined force. Being a part of a squad is akin to having a new family; there’s a sense of camaraderie and brotherhood that is rarely found in other occupations – this makes leaving the forces even harder.

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So what happens when we leave the forces? What happens when we are suddenly given all the time in the world, with no direction?

Although we are given some preparation for the seismic shift in lifestyle change, by the Government and our superiors, nothing can really prepare you for the endless expanse of spare time you are gifted with upon your discharge from service.

If you’ve recently left the forces and are struggling to find purpose – try considering these ideas as a jumping off point:

Start a Blog/Vlog

All you’ll need is access to the internet and an electronic device. Setting up a written blog or video diary costs nothing and is really easy to do. It can be about anything – your favourite films, experiences in the Services or even your predictions for the Football scores!

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By writing regularly you can keep your mind focused and your literacy skills focused, starting up a video diary is also a great way of expressing emotions and sharing your feelings with the world – without having to open your front door. By engaging with the online community, you could even end up making a few friends along the way.

[Try sites like: WordPress for written blogs and YouTube for video blogs.]

Volunteer For A Charity

England is a wonderfully generous country that has a reputation for fostering charitable causes, from the big cases to the small ones. In addition to the major charities, such as Oxfam and Red Cross, who have their headquarters in London, there are hundreds of smaller groups who operate out of smaller towns, throughout the country.

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Thanks to the internet, it’s a cinch to find out about the causes that are being championed in your local area. If your access to the internet is limited, then you can always go to your village hall or religious building to see if there are any events happening soon.

[The Government’s Database on Charities can help you find a local cause – alternatively, search your town name with the word ‘charity’.]

Join a Sports/Social Club

Now has never been a better time to start exercising. If you’ve just left the armed forces, then you’ll know how strange it is going from an active lifestyle to one that is completely sedentary. Be careful that you don’t put on the pounds once you’re discharged!

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Your local council-run gym will be the most affordable place to attend classes, but a brief search on Google, cross-referenced with your chosen sport, should also bring up some good results. The internet’s a great place to find other people with like-minded hobbies – so why not go out and find them?

[Try Meet Up, for finding other people with similar interests – similarly a search in Reddit might also turn up some local clubs that could be of interest.]

Find A Self-Employed Part-Time Job

Although some part-time jobs might not be ideal for certain veterans, there are plenty of self-employed occupations that offer the chance of flexible hours and good pay. These can range from the simplest act of delivering leaflets door-to-door to even offering an oven cleaning service.

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With the development of technology, there are now loads of great opportunities open to veterans with some spare time on their hands – they often include meeting people and exercising too, which is never a bad thing when trying to adjust to civilian life.

[Companies like OvenU offer opportunities start to own your own cleaning franchise, alternatively Deliveroo and Uber always have part-time vacancies open for those looking for more casual work.]

Visit A Veteran’s Support Centre

If you’re struggling to find ways of filling your days, or simply feel like you need to talk to someone, then there are hundred of Veteran Supports Centres dotted around the country. These places are often run by Veterans who have experience in what you’re going through – they can offer you advice and support, if you need it.

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[Search: ‘Veterans Support’ and your area – to find local branches nearby that can help you out. It’s what they’re there for, after all.]

Remembrance Sunday – Britain Remembers

Thousands pay their respects in joint Remembrance services across Britain

Despite controversies surrounding International Football players and the US Presidential Election – the people of Britain rally behind the men and women who have sacrificed so much for the safe-guarding of our future. 

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Former and current servicemen gathered at the Cenotaph in Whitehall – alongside members of the Royal Family.

Churches, Village Squares, Cathedrals, Town Memorials

Although the attentions of the nation might well have been diverted during, what can only be described as, a turbulent week in the news; when the services were held on Sunday morning, thousands fell silent in honour for the countless lives that were sacrificed in service of our country.

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20 people deep, the streets of Whitehall were packed with civilians who had come to pay their respects to the 700 or so servicemen that had turned out in full uniform to pay tribute to their fallen allies. Some 8,000 or so people were estimated to have filled the streets – come 11 o’clock all fell silent for a total of two minutes.

Those in the streets, reported the silence to have felt both solemn, yet strangely uplifting at the same time. A peculiar contradiction, at a time when the nation could be forgiven for not paying veterans the attention and respect they fully deserve.

Controversy is caused around Poppies

In the week leading up to the memorial services, discussion and debate was abound as international football players from England and Scotland were instructed not to wear Remembrance Poppies on their shirts for a World Cup Qualifying match. The international football governing body, FIFA, recently passed new rules regarding the wearing of ‘political or religious‘ symbols whilst on the pitch – with the iconic poppies falling under this banner somehow.

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However – players, managers and supporters from both sides, defied these rules by wearing armbands and poppies on the match that took place on Saturday.

In other Poppy-related news, Nigel Farage (leader of UKIP) was blasted by the media for not being present in the country during the Remembrance period. Mr. Farage was photographed with the recently voted President-elect Donald Trump over the weekend – alongside other major UKIP notaries. It would appear that, despite his party’s Veterans focused rhetoric during the previous election, he chose to fly to the States to solidify a political connection – rather than paying his respects alongside the rest of the country.

Questions over the Government’s care for Veterans arise

At this time of year, although it is important that we consider the lives that have been sacrificed in decades past, during the World Wars that claimed the live of thousands of British men, it’s also a good time to start raising awareness for the veterans still living amongst us today – who may be struggling with disabilities or impairments that have led them to be discharged from military service.

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In 2014, veterans charity Help For Heroes warned that up to 75,000 military personnel may have been physically injured, scarred or psychologically damaged from the time that they spent in conflict zones. This number is probably a great deal higher and something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Defence Veterans Minister Mark Lancaster recently said that the Government is not considering creating a dedicated department for the welfare of Veterans, considering this a responsibility for the whole of the Government. Mr. Lancaster believes that the continued partnership between the Government and several charities is enough to look after the health and well being of veterans present and future.

Despite the news and controversies that have surrounded this year’s Remembrance Services – the turn out and respect afforded to those that have sacrificed so much for our safety has, once more, shown the British people’s respect for our Veterans.