Self-Care When Your Loved One Deploys

Soldier with family in woods.

If you don't already make your own self-care a priority, it's important that you start now. You can't be a reliable source of support for anyone else if your own physical and emotional systems are falling apart at the seams. On the most basic level, try to maintain healthy eating and sleeping habits; both are essential for overall good health. Then consider incorporating some of the following tips into your daily routine. These self-care practices can help rejuvenate you emotionally and physically.

"I am not sitting around festering. Taking care of myself physically by working out is key as well as relying heavily on a solid social network of friends and family. Meditation and prayer are also a part of it." —Army spouse

Self-care tips:

  • Personal goals. The deployment experience can provide an excellent opportunity for self-improvement. Articulate what you would like to accomplish during the deployment period and build support to achieve these goals. For example, if you haven't earned a degree, this could be the ideal time to set the goal of doing so and to begin the process. Or you can enroll in continuing education classes and use this time to explore something you always wanted to learn, such as a new language or hobby.
  • Time for yourself. This is time for you to spend alone, with no distractions, taking care of yourself. You can meditate, write, take a bath, practice yoga, listen to music, or explore your artistic side. All that matters is doing something for yourself that you enjoy. An hour a day would be ideal, but if that's too much, aim for fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes at night.
  • Humor. Laughter can be an invaluable stress reliever, so identify people and activities that bring you joy. Although you may not feel it's appropriate to "have fun" while your service member is in a combat zone, allowing yourself to do things that bring laughter into your life can, in fact, balance out your emotional state during an otherwise tumultuous time.
  • Physical fitness. Figure out what activities you enjoy that burn away excess energy. Physical activity has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to combat negative emotions and maintain a feeling of well-being. Find a workout buddy if that will help you stay motivated.
  • Good nutrition. Eating well helps you feel well. Start your day with a sensible breakfast; eat healthful, balanced meals; don't skip meals; and choose healthful snacks.
  • Peer support. It's important to identify people or groups either similarly situated or who otherwise can be a sounding board for your emotions. Choose your peers wisely.
  • Medical allies. Before your service member deploys, it's important to make sure you have a primary care provider with whom you feel comfortable and who understands the strain of a deployment. Few things can be more frustrating than having a doctor you find unsympathetic.
  • Routines. Especially if there are children in the home, routines can provide a sense of normalcy.
  • Sleep. Getting regular, plentiful sleep can help keep your spirits up and boost your immune system.
  • Music. Whether you play an instrument or just listen, music can serve as an important self-soothing tool.
  • Emotional and mental wellness. Counseling and therapy, yoga, and stress-management programs are all outlets for channeling positive mental health.
  • Hobbies. Reading, writing, gardening, games, or taking a knitting class are wonderful outlets for expression of emotions.
  • Substance abuse. Sometimes people turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with their problems, but this can result in worse outcomes. Steer clear of destructive habits.
  • Spirituality. If you have religious or spiritual beliefs, you may want to reach out to members of your spiritual community for support.
  • Volunteer work. Consider volunteering for a cause you care about. Altruism and being connected to others have demonstrable mental health benefits.

"I plan projects. This time I wanted to completely clean out and organize the house, sell what we didn't need, and get everything organized. Then, instead of moping on the really lonely days, I have the option of losing myself in a project." —Air Force spouse

You may also want to explore keeping a journal, as it is an excellent way to check in with how you're really feeling at any given time.

Why journaling?

A journal provides an opportunity to reflect on your feelings while collecting your thoughts through writings, photos, or drawings. It's also a way to capture memories so that you can express your thoughts and feelings in the moment and revisit them later. Journaling has been found to be particularly useful in helping to let go of things that are clouding your thoughts. It can help chart a path, create a plan, crystallize a vision, or explore possibilities. When you write in a journal, you reflect on past, present, and future thoughts and dreams, engaging the imagination.

Purchase a small journal, use a word-processing program on your computer, start a blog, or utilize an online site devoted to journaling or social networking. Find a quiet location with few distractions so that you are able to fully engage in the journaling process. A great example of an online journal program is www.livejournal.com. For blogging, you can visit www.blogger.com or www.wordpress.com. If you blog, please keep OPSEC and PERSEC in mind and discuss with your spouse how much information he is comfortable sharing online.

Journaling is also beneficial to children. If you think your child would enjoy writing and drawing in a journal, you can purchase a binder, use a spiral-bound notebook, or let the child pick out his own. Encourage him to express his thoughts and emotions through writing and drawing.

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.

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