The war in Ukraine has made many of our men and women leave their peaceful lives and go to the frontline. The psyche suffers during combat challenges. It can be especially difficult when it is time to return home and start adapting to civilian life. Then the soldier may be disturbed by dreams about the war, and may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects veterans. Adaptation of the military to civilian life is a long process and not always an easy one. Relatives need to know how to talk to a soldier after he returns home. They need to know not only what reactions to expect, but also how to support veterans and help them plan their lives. How to smoothly “enter” civilian life? If you have PTSD, how to act? Military psychologist Andriy Kozinchuk spoke about this within the project of the Center for Strategic Communications.

  • How to psychologically adapt to civilian life?

    For the first two weeks, you shouldn’t do anything too drastic, it is very important to calm down your psychological state a little bit. It should be a place that you associate with safety, for example, home. If there were some scandals at home, it can be your grandmother’s house. Or you can go somewhere in nature, but in any case, this place should be associated with safety. All basic needs should be met in this place. Tasty food, good sleep, walks and meetings with people who don’t annoy you and who are also associated with safety. It is very important not to make any sudden moves during these two weeks: not to apply for a job, not to settle relations with your fellows who didn’t go to war. In other words, you just need to calm down.

  • How to train the body to live without adrenaline in a peaceful life?

    In fact, in order to live a full life and for adrenaline to be released, we don’t have to do any dangerous things. But it can be something related to physical activity. I’m talking about sports. It is very important to choose a sport that suits your health condition, the kind of achievements you want, and in this way hormones will be released, maybe not the same as adrenaline, but there will be something substitutable. For example, if you were very fond of shooting in the war, you can go and learn archery. Because it requires a lot of concentration, you need to master breathing techniques. Our task is not to make the adrenaline release, but to replace it with activities that will meet the needs of the soldier.

  • While you were at war, everyone was living a relatively peaceful life. How to adapt to this psychologically?

    The lives of civilians are an extremely cool indicator of your work. If you were at war, and everyone else in peaceful cities went to discos and ate sushi, it’s great. It means you are doing your job well. And if you come back to civilian life and see that everyone is having a good time and no one is thinking about the war, remember: you are just doing your job very well.

  • After returning, I have dreams about the war at night. What to do?

    If you wake up because you had a dream about the war, restore your breathing. It is not that difficult. It is very important to breathe in and out deeply. Don’t breathe too deeply, just take a deep breath in and out, and do it at least five times.

    If you can, go to a window, focus your eyes on the window pane, and then focus them on what you can see in the distance through the window, even if it’s dark. Do this several times, go back to bed and try to fall asleep again.

    If it is a repeated dream and you can’t get enough sleep, then it is causing you extreme discomfort. Please see your therapist or psychologist in this case. And if you don’t have one, it’s about time you find one.

  • Reaction to loud sounds. What to do with it?

    If you have a reaction to loud noises, you need to understand why you have this reaction. The reaction to loud noises is formed by the action of your body. It is a reaction for your survival, and now that we are in civilian life, loud noises have not disappeared, because they are part of our life. Reacting to loud noises is a normal thing to do. It’s your formula for survival.

    If a tyre explodes or there’s a humming noise and you fall to the ground, it’s okay. Get up, shake yourself off, breathe, realise what happened, realise that you are safe. You did the right thing to survive, and you need to move on. Very gradually, month by month, the reaction will dull. You will react normally to sounds. What do I mean by normal? Instead of half an hour, it will take you a few seconds to recover from a reaction to a loud sound. You just need to realise that this is your superpower – your reaction, and it will pass soon.

  • I want to go back to the front, what to do?

    When you want to go back to your “guys”, it means that you lack security in the environment you returned to. And in this case, you don’t have to go back to war.

    You can ask for help from “yours”: call, write, invite to your place, create “yours” here. Even if you don’t want to go to a psychologist when you are torn to pieces here, you can go to your fellow soldier. Or to someone with whom you served in the same unit, but who also has this experience. When you want to go to your “guys”, you can find them in the place where you live. Running away from home to the front is usually not an option. You can’t run away from yourself. You need to run to yourself, to get help from people who have similar experiences.

  • You break down on your relatives. How to help yourself?

    This means that you have accumulated a lot of resentment and anger that you want to release. Very often, this manifests itself among men. Statistically, men save more on expressing their emotions. And when something makes them angry, frightened or annoyed, as a rule, in most cases, men tolerate it and don’t say anything to anyone.

    So the first tip to prevent this is to express your emotions. If someone is annoying, it’s important to tell them that you don’t like it and it’s not the kind of communication you would like. Or say that you are scared. It’s okay to do that. Because if you keep these emotions inside you, then you explode.

    If you have already exploded, then most likely you have exploded as much as these people don’t deserve. Even if you think so. So immediately after this emotional explosion, go to a safe place. You may want to stand with your back to the wall or stay in the corner. Then breathe, breathing exercises again: 5 to 6 deep breaths in and out to get your diaphragm moving and give your brain a signal that you are getting out of stress.  

    Next, it’s important to talk to your family. You don’t have to apologise, but you should say that you have had an emotional breakdown and feel uncomfortable. And then you can voice your wishes: that you need to be alone, that you will need to discuss this situation in the evening, or any of your options. 

    In any case, even if your relatives are completely wrong, an emotional breakdown at them is not a way out of this situation. There is only one way out of this situation – discussion.