Pre-Deployment: Looking Forward

Marines in line.

Don't think for one minute that you have to do all of this alone. Open yourself up to accepting help from others—friends, family, members of your spouse group or community network, people at your children's school, colleagues at work, or those in your faith community.

"I have learned that you have to be willing to ask for help. There are usually a few people that offer to help with 'anything' but they need me to suggest something specific. I used to just say, 'Oh, we're fine,' but now I'm happy to suggest that they bring over a meal or take the kids for an afternoon or come mow the lawn. Accepting help can be hard, but you have to do it if you want to make it through." —National Guard spouse

We know that there are many guides and websites with information about helping you through deployment that delve into local and national resources, special programs, and other functional aspects. That's why we're interested in looking at deployment from a purely emotional standpoint.

If you start developing strategies now, you'll pave the way for a less stressful deployment and better mental health and wellness for your entire family. Another benefit of developing routines is that you will focus less on your worries and more on all the things you would like to get done.

The service member isn't the only one with a mission to accomplish during this deployment. You have a mission, too: understanding and educating yourself on the distinctive demands of military deployments. Whether this is your first deployment or your fifth, each deployment experience is unique and introduces new and different challenges; maybe you didn't have children previously, maybe you've started or changed a job, or maybe you're adapting to some other change. Dedicating yourself to your own important job of maintaining mental health and wellness will help everyone around you—your service member, your family, your friends, and, of course, you.

Worksheet Activity

Assess and Respond: Coping With the Stress of Deployment

A common approach to confronting stress is to 1) identify how you are feeling; and then 2) identify how those feelings impact your thoughts and behavior. This information can help you find the best ways to respond to stressful situations as they arise.

To start, use this worksheet during the pre-deployment stage to help you manage your feelings and develop personal coping behaviors. Continue to use the worksheet throughout the deployment cycle. And use what you've learned to communicate with your service member, family, and friends about your feelings, thoughts, and reactions around deployment.

Write down responses or complete the exercise mentally. If needed, you can print the worksheet. If needed, you can and should complete this worksheet multiple times throughout deployment.

Step 1: Assess

Identify a major stressor that you're coping with right now. This is usually something stressful in your life that you are trying to manage.

Identify your reactions to the stressor you identified above. Consider your automatic responses in each of the following areas:

  • How does your thinking change?
  • How do your emotions change?
  • How do you change physically? (e.g., increased tension, headaches, stomach problems, sleeplessness, etc.)
  • How does your behavior change? (e.g., drinking, smoking, etc.)

Step 2: Respond

Think about the healthiest and most positive responses in the face of this stressor. If you can change the stressor so that it no longer bothers you, that's great. If you cannot, then the best response would be to react in a way that is healthy for you and others around you. Sometimes, it's useful to consider how someone you admire might respond to this stressor, or to think about what has worked for you in the past. Try to understand what the optimal response in each area of your life might be.

  • What would you need to help you react in a healthier way? (e.g., Are you resorting to old habits? Are you using the resources you have?)
  • Who can you get assistance from? Sometimes, it helps to get assistance from others (e.g., talk to your spouse or practice role-playing with a friend before going into the actual situation).
  • Are there any skills you could learn to help yourself cope better with the situation? Sometimes it helps to learn a coping skill (e.g., anger management or relaxation training).
  • Is there anything you are not doing now that would help you in this situation? (e.g., relaxation techniques, exercise, talking to friends or relatives, keeping a journal)

This excerpt is provided courtesy of the acclaimed free digital resource "Everyone Serves". Download your free copy with additional media content today at

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