Preparing for deployment can be a time of mixed emotions. Many Service members, including National Guard members and Reservists, look forward to the chance to do what they’ve trained for, while at the same time, they may worry about the challenges of a long deployment and about leaving loved ones behind. With many details to attend to and arrangements to be made, preparing for deployment can be stressful.
Each person’s experience preparing for military deployment will be different. Depending on your personal situation, you may be concerned about the impact deploying will have on your children or other family members, your finances, or a job you are leaving. If you are preparing for war deployment, you may have to face the possibility of injury or death. Getting into the right mindset and preparing for deployment may affect your daily activities, the way you get along with others, and your sleeping and eating patterns.
Most Service members and their families find effective ways of coping with deployment. For others, dealing with deployment can be very overwhelming. Whatever your experience, reaching out for support can play a big part in making your transition smoother.
What should I keep an eye out for when preparing for deployment?
Anxiety, stress, or frustration are natural reactions to significant events like military deployment. When getting ready to deploy, these are some of the things you may experience:
“Before my third deployment, I was really on edge and I was sure I wasn’t coming back. You only have nine lives, man, and I had used eight and a half of them up.”
When your stressful thoughts and feelings are disruptive enough to interfere with your work, relationships, or daily activities, your physical, mental, and emotional health can be affected.
What can I do to help cope when preparing for deployment?
“We are a dual military family. Somebody is always in harm's way and that's stressful for anybody no matter the age. I began to see that some of those issues were taking their toll on my kids, my husband, and me.”
When preparing to deploy, there are steps you can take to address the issues you may be facing. A healthy lifestyle and staying physically and emotionally fit can improve your overall well-being and go a long way to helping you cope effectively.
In the time before your deployment, remember to:
Create a deployment plan to help decrease some of the uncertainty for you and your family while you are deployed
Agree on a realistic schedule for communicating with your loved ones while you are away
Take advantage of offers to help during your deployment from friends and members of your community
Decide in advance what types of things you will want to talk about during deployment and what you might not want to talk about until you get back home
Exercise, eat well, and stay healthy
Relieve stress through relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or prayer
Reach out to family or friends if you’re feeling down
Try to get a good night’s sleep—Getting quality sleep can help you feel better
Avoid using alcohol to cope with stress or anxiety
Talking to your family and friends about your experiences can be helpful as you deal with your transition. You might also try talking to a fellow Service member about what you’re experiencing. They may have a better understanding of what you are going through and may be able to provide you with support and suggestions for a smoother transition to your deployment.
Take the next step – Make the connection.
Every day, Veterans, National Guard members, and Reservists connect with proven resources, services, and support to address the issues impacting their lives. If preparing for military deployment is interfering with your health and well-being or getting in the way of your relationships, daily activities, or work, you may want to reach out for support. Consider connecting with:
Your family doctor: Ask if your doctor has experience treating Service members or can refer you to someone who does
A mental health professional
Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center: VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans
A spiritual or religious advisor
Explore these resources for helping Service members cope when preparing for deployment.
Learn more about the possible associations between preparing for deployment and other concerns such as trouble sleeping, feeling on edge, relationship problems, anger and irritability, anxiety disorders, and depression.
This program by the Department of Defense provides information and support for Service members and their families who may need support when preparing for deployment. This site is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and there is no charge for these services.
Featuring real stories of Service members who have reached out for support, this campaign was launched by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury to promote the processes of building resilience, facilitating recovery, and supporting reintegration of returning Service members, Veterans, and their families.
VA Medical Center Facility Locator
Having trouble coping with your upcoming military deployment over an extended period of time could be associated with health conditions that need attention. This link will allow you to search for VA programs located near you. If you are eligible to receive care through the Veterans Health Administration, you can enroll in one of VA’s treatment programs.