Look after yourselves and your loved ones this Christmas

Christmas can be a challenging time for all of us, but it is particularly hard for those struggling with physical and psychological wounds.

Below are some ways to try to make the emotional, financial and personal pressures of the festive season more easily managed to have the best possible Christmas.

Gifts and shopping

Budgeting will always see you coming out on top. Make sure you work with what you’ve got. It may be a cliché, but it really is the thought that counts!

When shopping, try to avoid peak times such as weekends, after work hours, or in the days leading up to Christmas. Online shopping is always a great alternative, or shopping during business hours and avoiding the lunch rush can mean smaller crowds and less stress.

Also know your limits, so if you’re feeling anxious or you’ve had enough of shopping, know how to finish your trip on a positive note. Try to limit the time shopping, and have a plan for what you want to purchase and where to go. If you’re shopping with family or friends, talk to them beforehand about how they can help you to cope. Letting them know that you might want to leave early is a good idea, and talking about a signal to them about how you’re coping when you’re at the shops is also helpful.

Finding a quiet spot and using breathing exercises can also help with coping in stressful situations.

Christmas Day

Plan ahead for Christmas Day. If you have a busy day planned or lots of cooking to do, make sure you plan your day before you tackle it. Also make sure you can take time out, and if you’re celebrating with others, try to locate a quiet space for you to breathe away from all of the noise and activity.

If you don’t have plans for Christmas, think of ways to celebrate the holiday anyway. Treat yourself to a nice meal, go for a walk, watch a cheesy Christmas movie, or call your family, friends and other supports to let them know you’re thinking of them over Christmas.

Try to avoid bad holiday habits

Make sure you’re doing things to look after yourself during the holidays. Some good ideas are to exercise when you can, even if it’s a short walk each day, and watch your alcohol intake.

It’s important not to drink excessively or spend too much time indoors during the holidays, as it can often leave you feeling less than festive.

Plan some activity for each day you are at home, and set small goals you know you can achieve.

Have fun and don’t be afraid to reach out for help!

If you need help, make sure you reach out. Some great resources are available at https://www.soldieron.org.au/need-help/, or you can call VVCS on 1800 011 046 or Lifeline on 13 11 14 at any time of the day or night.

Merry Christmas from all of us at Soldier On, and we look forward to seeing you all in 2016!


Some useful links for more information:

Tips to reduce stress over Christmas – https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/christmas-tips-to-reduce-the-stress

Breathing techniques – http://www.anxietyaustralia.com.au/treatment-options/slow-breathing-to-decrease-anxiety-and-panic/

Soldier On Mindfulness session – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsJXFehg8Bc

Christmas Crisis Care – http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/mhdao/Factsheets/Pages/christmas_crisis.aspx

Exercising for recovery

Exercise has been proven to be an excellent way to enhance recovery from psychological wounds.

Soldier On is well known for its cycling programs, which encourage veterans to get out of the house, join some mates and explore their local area on a bike in communities across the country.

As we grow, more cycling events and opportunities to get outside and exercise will be held by our teams in each of the States. Just keep an eye out on social media and on our website.

More information:

Australian study on exercise and veterans with PTSD – http://www.georgeinstitute.org.au/media-releases/exercise-helps-ptsd-new-study

Soldier On veterans ride with Cadel Evans and Hamish Blake, 60 Minutes – http://www.9jumpin.com.au/show/60minutes/videos/4346339742001/

Psychologists at Soldier On

Soldier On employed its first clinical psychologist in late 2014. Seeing the great success of the early programs and support provided by this staff member, Soldier On will be hiring psychologists in each of the Centres across Australia as soon as adequate funding can be found.

Soldier On Psychologists have specific experience with veterans’ issues and provide their services free of charge for those who have served and their families. The services are completely anonymous and sessions have filled in the ACT much sooner than anticipated.

Frontline staff are vital, as these psychologists provide acute care for those who need it the most. They can provide referrals, schedule regular sessions, and work with veterans and their families to cope with some of the massive challenges they face in their recovery.

When our clients are ready, the psychologist also works with other members of the Soldier On team to link them with other programs such as women’s or men’s weekends, family retreats, educational opportunities and much more.

We are also working hard to ensure we do not repeat existing services, working with organisations like the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) to achieve the best support for wounded Australians.

Psychologists are working from our Canberra Reintegration and Recovery Centre, with plans to roll out this support to all our Centres across the country. Click here to find out more!

If you aren’t in Canberra, and need psychological support, please click here for services you can connect to for help.

Why yoga is good for you.

Yoga is not the first choice for many of ex-serving men and women, however thousands around the world have found it a positive way to enhance their rehabilitation.

Mindfulness and meditation are common techniques used by psychologists when treating people with issues such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Yoga is very similar and brings groups of people together to challenge themselves physically, take some valuable time for themselves, and become aware of how they can manage some of the symptoms of their mental health issues.

In the USA and UK, Yoga has been proven to have a significantly positive impact on veterans. A study of men and women who were deployed to Iraq was conducted, and the major results of the study showed Yoga was effective in reducing anxiety and participants showed significantly greater improvement in mental health and quality-of-life factors.

Here in Australia, Soldier On have had families join us in sessions across the country and they have sad the classes are relaxing and great for veterans, partners and families alike. We have also had veterans become so passionate they have studied to become yoga instructors themselves, holding sessions at the Soldier On Reintegration and Recovery Centres.

So give Yoga a go at home or at one of our Soldier On Centres. You may feel a bit self-conscious at first, but the classes are a great way to look after yourself!

More information:

Yoga for veterans with PTSD – http://theconversation.com/yoga-helps-war-veterans-with-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-31662

US study into Yoga for Iraq veterans – http://ajot.aota.org/article.aspx?articleid=1851541

Study in to Yoga’s effects on people with depression and anxiety – http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression

Photo credit: Shea Photography.

Soldier On response to Royce Hardman of Triggers Big Trek

Royce Hardman has raised $57,000* for Soldier On, asking that it be spent on veterans in WA. In response to this request, we have been able to put a lot of work in to motion. With one staff member already employed in Perth to provide face-to-face support for veterans with PTSD and other physical and psychological wounds. We are now recruiting a second staff member to enhance this work and connect with more veterans in WA.

Next year we will also be opening a new Centre which will eventually house a clinical psychologist, facilities for physical rehabilitation (yoga, PT, etc.), workshop spaces for educational opportunities, and offices for other ex-service organisations to work from. These are vital support services that are needed in the area, and that we’re excited to be able to provide.

We expect that we will be spending more than $150,000 of donated money (including Royce’s) on this work in WA in 2015/2016.

Royce was able to see this type of Centre in Canberra when he visited, a Centre that provides assistance to more than 100 veterans each month. He saw that we have three staff members working to assist a vibrant community of families throughout the state. He met our clinical psychologist with a full caseload of clients, as well as a group of veterans seeking support from Soldier On, who may have otherwise not been supported.

We have placed regular calls to Royce, sourced sponsors and in-kind supporters for him along the way, given him the chance to share his story with Prince Charles and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and helped spread his story online.

Soldier On respects his decision to separate from Soldier On, but we want it to be clear that we are proud of his work, proud of what he has achieved and proud that he chose Soldier On to support.

Soldier On raised more than $3 million for veterans last financial year thanks to hundreds of fundraisers, corporate sponsors and grants. Our financial statements are available for the public to view at http://bit.ly/SO-Financials. Every dollar we raise, contributes to our work to help our wounded men, women and families. We have never hidden how we spend our money and are proud of the hundreds of veterans assisted through this work. We will also be publishing our Annual Report for 2014/15 next week.

We also secure a lot of pro-bono support to keep our administration costs low, this includes our accounting, legal, and HR expenses, which means that we have more money for frontline staff, programs for our veterans and direct support for their families.

If you have any questions about how we spend our money, please check out our independently audited financial reports at http://bit.ly/SO-Financials, watch out for our annual report that is coming out next week, or you can email the team at admin@soldieron.org.au.

This is a response to a post on social media by Royce Hardman of Trigger’s Big Trek. You can see the post by clicking here.


* It should be noted that a portion of the money raised, around $5,000, was spent by Royce on his trek. This is relatively normal, as many fundraisers have costs they need to meet as they raise money for Soldier On.