Life can be full of challenges and stress. We all have a choice to make when faced with a difficult situation: we can choose to see it as an opportunity for growth and self-improvement, or we can allow ourselves to become overwhelmed and victimized by our circumstances.
When we decide to view a challenge or obstacle as an opportunity for growth and resolve to handle our emotions in a healthy way, we are choosing a path of resiliency. For military families, in particular, this decision can make all the difference in the world.
If you're a spouse:
Remember: the resiliency that has kept your family together through multiple deployments, temporary training missions or schools, and the rigors of military life can also help you through this current deployment. If this is your first deployment, within the challenges presented there also lie opportunities for personal growth. Many spouses, in particular, learn that they are even more capable, creative, decisive, and independent than they ever fully realized they were before.
If you're a family member or friend of a service member:
Remember: your love and friendship have probably already been tested by your service member's decision to join the service. Perhaps his or her military obligations prevented him or her from being at social or family functions, and it was the strength of your devotion, patience, and understanding that has allowed your relationship to continue to be as strong as it is today. This deployment can enable your relationship to strengthen, not weaken; it's merely a continuation of your existing journey of resilience as family members or friends. The best way to demonstrate your support and friendship is to help the spouse, partner, and close family members who are left behind.
What Is Resiliency?
Resiliency is the ability to withstand, recover, and grow in the face of stressors and changing demands.* Psychologists have long recognized the capabilities of humans to adapt and overcome risk and adversity. Individuals and communities are able to rebuild their lives even after devastating tragedies.
Being resilient doesn't mean going through life without experiencing stress and pain, however. Resilience is not a static state; people feel grief, sadness, and a range of other emotions both during and after adversity and loss. We might struggle with one challenge, such as a deployment, while easily handling another challenge. And some challenges are difficult for even the most resilient person to cope with. We can all be overwhelmed at times, but the road to resilience lies in working through the emotions and effects of these stressful and painful events.
Personal resilience is not something that you're either born with or without. Rather, resilience develops as people grow, become more knowledgeable, and strengthen coping and self-management skills. Most important, resiliency can be learned and increased over time.
* CJCS Instructions at www.dtic.mil/cjcs_directives.
Factors that enhance resilience include:
- Having a positive view of yourself and others
- Showing confidence in your strengths and abilities
- Being able to manage strong feelings and impulses
- Developing good problem-solving and communication skills
- Feeling in control
- Seeing yourself as empowered rather than victimized
- Coping with stress in healthy ways like exercising, as opposed to unhealthy ways like substance abuse
- Finding positive meaning in your life despite difficult or traumatic events
- Expressing gratitude
- Being optimistic and realistic
- Focusing on the present
- Reconnecting with your faith and religious traditions
- Creating plans and goals
- Maintaining close relationships with your family and friends
- Seeking help and accessing resources
- Helping others
Yes, a prolonged deployment can be challenging, but with the right tools it's nothing that you can't handle. You may not have realized it before, but you have the power within you to become resilient, to master your emotions, and to achieve positive outcomes.
During a deployment, part of that resilience is going to come from identifying your emotions and handling them in a positive, healthy manner. Try to shift your thinking from "surviving" a deployment to "thriving" during the experience by learning and growing.
"When you are going through this you learn to not sweat the small stuff. The important things in life really do come to the forefront when you are in this situation."
—Coast Guard spouse
This excerpt is provided courtesy of the acclaimed free digital resource "Everyone Serves". Download your free copy with additional media content today at everyoneservesbook.com.