What are stress and anxiety?
Do you find yourself constantly concerned over many areas of your life, including feeling nervous about small things like being on time or worrying even when things are going well? Or do you often feel jumpy or become angry when anyone disturbs you? Maybe you can’t concentrate on things as well as you used to, or you break out in a sweat and your heart races for no obvious reason. If any of these symptoms sound familiar, they could be signs of stress and anxiety.
Stress and anxiety serve a purpose. They act as the body’s alarm system for dealing with threats or tense situations. The body and the mind prepare themselves physically and emotionally to deal with danger. But if the alarm never shuts off or if it goes off at high volume even for small concerns, stress and anxiety can become overwhelming and make it hard to carry out your daily routine.
“I thought I had put it all behind me so I didn’t know that my anxiety about going into certain situations was related to what I went through in the Persian Gulf.”
Some Veterans experience stress and anxiety because of past events — like combat or a traumatic military training experience — that are painful to remember or accept. Other Veterans are dealing with stress and anxiety because of other life experiences, like a job change or family conflicts.
Severe stress and anxiety sometimes cause physical symptoms, like trembling or shaking, or can lead to feelings of panic or unease. At high levels these conditions can also be associated with chronic disease. Over time, stress and anxiety can interfere with your work or daily activities and strain your relationships.
What can I do if I’m experiencing stress and anxiety?
- Try to get enough rest.
- Plan a schedule for your day to help manage the feeling of being out of control.
- Practice relaxation and mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing, to help cope when things upset you or don’t go according to plan.
- Do something you enjoy several times a week, like seeing a movie or visiting friends.
“My counselors at VA showed me different techniques on how to deal with my anxiety attacks. They’ve given me a guide on how to live, because the anxiety stopped me from living because I shut myself off.”
It’s important to find ways to reduce stress and anxiety. Your close friends and family may notice the effects these conditions are having on your quality of life. Turn to them when you are ready to look for solutions. By sharing what you’re experiencing with them, they may be able to provide support.
Take the next step to connect with care.
Every day, Veterans from all military service branches and eras connect with proven resources and effective treatments for dealing with stress and anxiety. Here’s how to take the next step: the one that’s right for you.
Read VA's latest coronavirus information. If you have flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, please call before you visit your local medical center or clinic. If you have an appointment, consider making it a telehealth appointment.
New to VA? Apply for health care benefits.
- Getting started is simple. Create a free account online to help ease your enrollment process. To prepare to apply for VA health care in person, by telephone, or by mail, explore VA’s “How to Apply” page.
- Not sure whether you are eligible for VA health care benefits? Read about eligibility for VA health care.
- Unsure of what kind of help you need? Call 1-877-222-VETS (1-877-222-8387) to find the right resources to meet your needs, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. If you have hearing loss, call TTY: 1-800-877-8339.
- Veterans’ family members and caregivers can see whether they qualify for VA medical benefits as a spouse, surviving spouse, dependent child, or caregiver. Explore family and caregiver health benefits.
Already enrolled in VA and interested in mental health support? Schedule a mental health appointment.
- If you’re already enrolled and using VA health care, the fastest way to schedule VA appointments is to call the VA facility where you want to receive care.
- With VA Appointments tools, you can schedule some VA health care appointments online, view details about upcoming appointments, and organize your health care calendar.
- If you’re not using VA medical services, contact your nearest VA medical center or Vet Center to talk about your needs.
What about other options at VA? VA offers a variety of tools and resources.
- The Veteran Training online self-help portal for overcoming everyday challenges includes modules on managing anger, developing parenting and problem-solving skills, and more.
- Mental health apps for Veterans cover a variety of topics, ranging from PTSD to anger management to quitting smoking.
- VA TeleMental Health connects you with a VA mental health provider through a computer or mobile device in your home or at your nearest VA health facility. You can learn more about this option from your local VA medical center.
- Vet Centers provide support, counseling, and readjustment services for Veterans and active duty service members (including members of the National Guard and Reserve) who have served on active military duty in any combat theater or area of hostility or have experienced a military sexual trauma. Find a Vet Center near you or call 1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387) to talk with a fellow combat Veteran about your experiences, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
What about support beyond VA?
There’s a whole community of support ready to help with whatever you’re going through. Use this tool to find resources near you.