Season 4 Episode 157: The Emotions of the Military Transition with Mary Polanco - Part 2

We continue our discussion with Mary Polanco on Part 2 of this 2-part series. On the previous episode, Mary discusses the importance of taking time for yourself during the military transition process and the reality that separating from the military may cause grief. During this episode, we dissect content from her newly published book, Your Final Debrief, and dive deeper into healthy ways to deal with complex emotions that may arise before, during and after the military transition.


Mary believes that questioning your feelings is an important step to understanding the root cause. If you find yourself feeling a certain way, ask yourself where the feeling is coming from and consider the meaning behind the feeling. This type of analytical thinking will help you acknowledge and accept the feeling and move on.


Life is full of transitions - whether it’s relational or job related. It’s important to constantly reflect on where you are, where you’ve been and how you envision your future. Reflection will bring up feelings, and for many people it’s easier to suppress those feelings instead of working through them. As we work through feelings, it’s hard to know in the beginning what is really underneath the emotions. Mary attributes therapy, reading, journaling and meditating to helping her work through suppressed feelings from her Air Force career. These healthy actions create space for things to come up, so you can address them and move forward.


Leaving the military is a choice for some, but for others it’s forced. Some service members get med boarded while others may fail to get promoted. Either way, the last day in uniform can be emotionally charged. For Mary, she was unprepared for the feelings that occurred on her first full day of retirement. She realized she was alone in her decisions. She no longer had someone telling her where to be and what to do. It’s okay to be both sad about your military career being over and excited about your future.


Mary encourages service members to separate their identity with their service. If you are struggling with this, pull out a piece of paper and write down the question, “Who am I?” For you to separate your service from your identity, you have to have an identity to fall back on – which is the real you! For those serving in the military, it’s too easy to put “you” on the back burner. You need to dedicate time to the discovery process of finding out what has been dormant for so long. In her book, Mary suggests 9 questions that could help you rediscover yourself including What brings you peace? What would you do with your time if you had no worries? What is your legacy?


Your Final Debrief is a guide that shows you how to make a commitment to invest in yourself. The military will roll on without you. Take the initiative and start preparing for your next chapter.


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