10 strategies to help single Service Members adjust to coming home

Returning home from deployment can be exciting, but it can also be stressful and take some getting used to. Coming home as a single Service Member can mean more freedom to do whatever you want with your free time, but it also can come with less built-in support. Here are some strategies to help you ease back into being home.

Scenario #1: You just found out you’ll be going home soon after a long deployment.

Strategy: Plan ahead. Will you be coming home to family or close friends? Or do you have little or no built-in support system back home? Either way, think ahead to what support you’ll have when you get home, and build the relationships you have, or plan to create some new ones. Also, think about how you want to celebrate your return, as well as where you’ll live, how you’ll get around, and how you’ll get your things out of storage.

Scenario #2: You can't wait to get home, but you've heard coming home can sometimes be disappointing and difficult.

Strategy: Give yourself time to adjust.  Take some time to readjust to your environment, new schedule, and any other changes in your life. Try to get into a good routine that includes enough sleep, proper nutrition, and regular exercise. Readjustment can be unsettling, so feeling lonely, angry, sad, or tired are normal and should smooth out after a while. But if these feelings remain, grow, or hurt your ability to function well—or you feel that experiences from combat are impacting your home life—seek out extra support. Chaplains, counselors, support centers, and Veterans Affairs can all help.

Scenario #3: You’re not sure how you’ll fit in with family and friends when you get home.

Strategy: Talk. Your family and friends can’t read your mind. Talk about what you’re feeling and what you want. Don’t expect your family and friends to be able to know how much you do or don’t want to hang out, how you’re feeling, or what you want or need if you don’t communicate with them.

Scenario #4: You don't have any close family or friends at home, and you’re going to miss your buddies from deployment.

Strategy: Connect. Stay connected to your battle buddies through social media, email, and phone calls. Don’t wait for them to contact you. Also, try to connect with places or organizations where you can meet new friends and build a support network. Try your local sports club, religious community, or online community. Volunteer, take a class, or find a new activity where you can have fun and meet people. Health.mil highlights programs for single Service Members in each branch. So be open and reach out.

You can also connect with other singles by dating! Whether you’re meeting singles in person or online, try to find a partner who’s similar to you.

Scenario #5: You’ve kept in touch with some family and friends, but now that you’re coming home, you’re worried they’ve left you behind.

Strategy: Be patient. Your family and friends may have changed while you were gone (gotten married or divorced, had babies, moved, gotten closer to other friends), so take some time to get to know them again. It could take some time to adjust to the changes. Also, find opportunities to make some new friends.

Scenario #6: After being around the same people all the time during your deployment, you’re looking forward to some alone time when you get home.

Strategy: Don’t isolate yourself. While it might feel appealing sometimes to just be on your own after deployment, don’t spend too much time alone. Spend some time to make new friends and see the old ones, find fun activities to do, such as paintball, hiking, or visiting your local MWR, and enjoy life.

Scenario #7: There's a lot to do when you get home, people to see, and time to catch up on. You’re not sure if you'll have time for it all.

Strategy: Balance your needs. If you’ve got close friends or family in the area, give them some focused attention. They were probably worried about you while you were gone and want to make sure you’re okay now. But balance your desire to see the people you missed while you were gone with your own inner needs.

Scenario #8: You can't wait to get back stateside so you can go to your favorite stores and restaurants.

Strategy: Chill your spending. Don’t go crazy spending your paycheck. If you had someone else manage your finances while you were away, you may want to check your credit report and create a budget now that you’re home. Many Service Members make more money while deployed, so coming home could mean fewer dollars each month than you’re used to.

Consider your budget when eating out too. It may be tempting to indulge in all your favorite treats you missed while you were gone. But don’t ignore your nutritional needs for health and performance. Eat balanced meals to stay everyday strong. And try to limit your drinking. It was probably restricted during deployment, so your tolerance may be lower. Go slowly with the booze and remember to stay hydrated.

Scenario #9: Now that you’re home and have more time, you’re ready to tackle something new. What should you do?

Strategy: Improve yourself. Once you’ve settled in, now might be a good time to tackle a goal in your life that can enhance your resilience or performance. Military OneSource has a free health and wellness coaching program where you can tackle goals such as weight management, stress management, improving your fitness, quitting smoking, and more. Or read other sections of HPRC’s website to get ideas on a variety of topics such as stress management, sleep, and performance psychology.

Scenario #10: Now that you’re back, it's hard to plan ahead since you don't know when you'll be deployed again.

Strategy: Be flexible. Learning to live with uncertainty can be a great skill to cultivate because your next orders, deployment location, and timeframe are likely to be unknown or change. Try HPRC’s strategies for mindfulness and going with the flow.

Whatever you do, remember to focus on the positive. After deployment, you might need to make a conscious effort to shift your thinking now that you’re back in a peace zone. Remind yourself to think more positively instead of assessing risk so often. Try thinking about how your deployment enhanced your life’s meaning. (For example, because of deployments, you’re more able to put all your military training into action.)

Need additional resources? Check out these reintegration resources by branch:

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Elnitsky, C. A., Fisher, M. P., & Blevins, C. L. (2017). Military Service member and Veteran reintegration: A conceptual analysis, unified definition, and key domains. Frontiers in Psychology, 8. Doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00369

Hinojosa, R., & Sberna Hinojosa, M. (2011). JSP: Using military friendships to optimize post-deployment reintegration for male Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom veterans. The Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 48(10). doi: 10.1682/jrrd.2010.08.0151jsp