Finding ways to deal with feeling on edge

Many Veterans feel on edge after returning from deployment or living through a stressful situation. Hear Veterans discuss situations that set them on edge and how, after seeking out support, they were able to manage their triggers and cope better with daily life.

What is feeling on edge?

Feel on edge in crowds? Overwhelmed by an unexplainable sense of panic? Do you find it hard to stop thinking about safety? Are you on a short fuse?

Feeling on edge is also called hypervigilance, a symptom experienced by some Veterans who have returned from war or experienced traumatic events during their time in the military. Hypervigilance is a state of being on very high alert — constantly “on guard” —  to possible risks or threats. It may be the result of an experience in a combat zone, a noncombat training exercise, or another type of traumatizing event in your military or civilian life.

“When I went out for dinner, I always wanted to have my back to the wall and be able to see the door from where I was sitting.”

Your military training taught you the importance of being observant and alert when you need to be. Hypervigilance goes beyond that — it can interfere with your ability to enjoy life or even just get through the day. Some people have trouble concentratingfeel irritable, become easily upset, or react strongly to sounds and sights around them. Other symptoms can include physical effects like a pounding heart, headache, or upset stomach.

Hypervigilance can also contribute to sleep problems or the avoidance of places that make you feel uncomfortable, like busy grocery stores, social gatherings, or sports events. It may also lead you to distrust other people or try to control their actions, putting a strain on your personal relationships.

If I’m feeling on edge, what can I do about it right away?

  • Breathe deeply.
  • If you’re with other people, tell them what you’re feeling so they can try to help you work through it.
  • Try grounding yourself by focusing on details of your surroundings or neutral physical sensations, such as the feeling of your feet on the floor.
  • Practice relaxation exercises, such as taking slow, deep breaths.
  • Get up and move around, have a drink of water, or wash your hands.
  • Calmly remove yourself from the situation.

Talking to your family and friends can be a first step — turn to them whenever you are ready. They may be able to provide support and help you find treatment that is right for you. You can also begin letting people know when certain places or activities make you uncomfortable.


Call The Veterans Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255 And Press 1. Or Send A Text Message To The Veterans Crisis Line At 838255.

Free, confidential support 24 / 7 / 365.
















Give the San Jose Vet Center a call, at (408) 993-0729 to get back to your best life.

In Addition to the VA, here are some Community Mental Health Resources
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