As a member of the military, you’re all too familiar with the challenges and hardships encountered throughout your dedicated service. Active duties on the battlefield, days spent on marine journeys, and facing the devastating mayhems of the battleground can leave a lasting impact on your physical and mental well-being. Close contact with explosives and harmful chemicals, combined with post-traumatic stress disorders, can present significant health challenges.
The post-retirement phase for any veteran is a time to finally take a well-deserved break. It’s a moment to step back and enjoy life after you’ve served the country well. However, as you move into your post-retirement phase, it’s essential to recognize the significance of self-care.
Making simple lifestyle changes and adopting healthy habits can help you overcome any physical and mental obstacles and maintain a healthier and happier post-retirement life. Considering the challenges of establishing healthy habits after leaving active duty, here are some valuable tips and suggestions to manage your health after retiring:
Go for Regular Checkups and Screening
Your life while you’re wearing the uniform is filled with physical and mental challenges. You’re constantly exposed to dangerous chemicals and naturally occurring harmful substances like asbestos during your service in the Navy, Air Force, or Army barracks. Prolonged exposure to such harmful substances can cause severe damage to vital organs, and diseases might surface years after the initial contact. For example, asbestos exposure can lead to irritation in the lung tissue and progress into a cancer called mesothelioma 10-50 years after the initial exposure.
Out of all mesothelioma cases in the US, 30% of the patients have a military background. If you’ve served in the military between the 1930s and 1980s and participated in wars, you’re at a high risk of developing mesothelioma later in life.
However, early diagnosis and timely treatments can increase your life expectancy and prevent cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. This is why it’s essential to get yourself screened and thoroughly checked every once in a while after you retire. For this purpose, you must establish a routine for regular medical checkups.
Besides regular screenings, be sure to get your annual immunizations for pneumonia, flu, and COVID-19 so you can maintain optimal health and prevent viral and bacterial infections.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
The food you consume daily directly affects both your physical and mental health. The effects of an imbalanced diet start to show up in your early 40s and later into your veteran life. Having said that, it’s never too late to make amends to your eating habits so you can enjoy your veteran life to the fullest.
Making the right dietary choices is synonymous with leading a healthy lifestyle. Now that you’re a veteran, it’s easy to give in to all sorts of tempting foods. Although a little treat to your taste buds won’t hurt, excessive consumption of fried or sugary foods can affect both your physical and mental health adversely. So try to maintain a balanced diet and avoid excessive consumption of sodium, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and saturated or trans fats. Moreover, steer clear of processed and preserved foods as they can lead to chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes. Last but not least, consume at least 2 to 3 liters of clean drinking water to keep yourself well-hydrated.
Your Mental Well-Being is Just as Important
Veterans who actively participate in wars usually face unique mental health challenges. The time spent away from home, and the circumstances they go through in the line of duty can cause various mental health issues like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), chronic anxiety, and depression.
If you find it hard to forget your past tragedies or traumatic experiences, or your anxiety and depression have started to affect your day-to-day routine, don’t hesitate to seek help from mental health professionals and support groups.
Besides intervention, you can manage your stress and depression through various coping mechanisms like yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, etc. Try to engage with other veterans and join community-level veteran groups. This will help you come closer to like-minded individuals and share your experiences.
Moreover, engage yourself in activities that you love doing. The post-retirement phase is the ideal time to experience everything on your bucket list and explore the world around you. These activities will give a new meaning to your life and help you overcome your trauma and depression.
Pay Special Attention to Medication
Managing routine medication is particularly important for veterans who have chronic health conditions. Timely and proper medication can help manage chronic diseases and prevent any health complications in the future. Always follow the prescribed medication schedules and visit the veteran healthcare centers for regular follow-ups.
Maintain a Healthy Exercise Routine
While you were in the forces, you might have had a strict exercise routine. Once you start your post-retirement life, it’s natural to find a laid-back lifestyle way too tempting. However, it’s essential to stay physically active to maintain your physical and mental health after retiring and enjoy the golden years of your life.
Regular exercise not only helps improve your muscle strength and maintain a healthy body but also prevents you from lifelong diseases like obesity, diabetes, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease. Above all, research shows that a healthy exercise routine can greatly improve your mental health and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, it’s always best to consult with your healthcare provider to develop a safe and suitable exercise routine, considering any pre-existing health conditions.
Stay Socially Connected
Social interactions are vital for your emotional and mental health as a veteran. You may feel a sudden change in your social life once you retire from the military. To cope with issues like isolation and depression, you can join local veterans’ groups or participate in community activities. You can spend time with your comrades and have meaningful interactions with like-minded people. Putting time into social relationships allows you to branch out and learn something new, whether it’s a new pastime, an educational program, or a new physical activity.
As you say goodbye to the military and move to your post-retirement life, you should give due importance to your overall health and fitness. The above tips and measures will help you stay active and maintain a healthy body and mind. Remember, the key to long-lasting health lies in your own hands. This is why it’s equally important to continue these healthy practices for the rest of your life and get prompt medical care if you see any signs of health deterioration.