11 Ways To Calm Down (When Freaking Out!)

During deployment, we don’t just worry about our service member’s safety, we worry about the house burning down for good measure.

We don’t just worry about the deployment being extended, we worry about the freckle on our elbow that will probably turn into cancer.

If that isn’t enough, we also worry that six hairs clogging the drain are probably a sign of a sudden case of male pattern baldness and that even if we are female we will spontaneously grow a mustache. And a beard. And be chased down the street by Jerry Springer.

So at the first sign of a freak out, of course we go for our first fixes: Food! Wine! Reality TV!

But what do you do when the first fixes don’t work? During the support segment of a recent deployment retreat, spouses who have actually experienced some real worries came up with a list of ten things they do to calm down when they are over the edge and need to pull themselves back.

Here is the list of what works for them, how about you?

11 Ways To Calm Down Now

1. Admit that deployment is hard, then decided to move forward. Before you can really calm down, spouses said that you have to acknowledge that what you are trying to do is hard. This isn’t a time for pretending. It isn’t a time for avoiding. This is a time for deciding that you will move forward as well as you can no matter how hard things get.

2. Call your mother (or a trusted friend). Sometimes you need to talk to someone who will listen to all of your worries, then pat you down. You need someone who can be trusted to come through with reassurance and comfort and a little love for your deployed partner. Who do you know who fits the bill?

3. Take a nap. Sometimes you are really worried because you are just really tired. If you haven’t been sleeping much, take a nap. If you can’t take a nap, even a few moments alone in a darkened room make a big difference.

4. Try Bionic Woman breathing. Every woman’s magazine recommends deep breathing in times of stress. Some of our fellow spouses actually do it. One spouse said that she learned this by watching reruns of the Bionic Woman. She breathes in for six counts and out for six. You can also use a tool like Alison McConnell’s Breathe Strong app, which can help users pace their breathing wherever they are.

5. Swim. Dance. Walk. Run. Bike. Yoga. Move! They say food is the most over-utilized anti-anxiety drug in the country —and exercise is the most potent but underutilized aids for anxiety.  That’s because “working out” sounds painful. Sit-on-the-couch-with-clam-dip-and-chips sounds like a kindness.

During our last deployment, I finally figured out that I eat the chips, I am in for a miserable evening. If I go to dance class (even when I don’t feel like going to dance class), I feel great afterwards and I tend to have a really good evening. Any exercise works. Find one you love.

6. Add a little warmth. Research from Yale University shows you can boost your mood and also fight loneliness with physical warmth as a substitute for social warmth. Think about hot tea, hot lemonade, hot coffee. A hot shower or bath. A heating pad on your lower back. A wooly sweater. A warmy blanket.

7. Dive into a work project. When you are worried, it is hard to focus on work. But some spouses at the retreat said that the demands of work are enough to keep your mind off your troubles. Start with a no-brainer project and then move into work that really needs your attention.

8. Garden. Paint. Quilt. Cook. Scrapbook. Bake. Craft.  One of our spouses says that she goes outside and works in her garden when she is worried. According to the experts, any activity that requires that creative part of your brain stimulates a better mood. As an added bonus, if you start the creative activity in a bad mood, you often do your best work. Go figure.

9. Organize (or clean) something. There is a theory that disorganization in your environment causes anxiety in your mind. No matter how worried you are, bringing order to some small part of your world helps you focus. So clean your kitchen sink. Organize the silverware drawer. Fold some laundry. Arrange your shoes by color. Sort socks. You won’t feel like doing these things, maybe, but once they are spouses say that you feel a little more in control.

10. Go for a long drive. Sometimes the cure for a bad mood is a long drive to a pretty place. Roll down the windows. Open up the sunroof. Connect to a play list of favorite tunes. The movement and sensation of escape help spouses (and kids) hit the reset button.

11. Hit the beach. Nature is the ultimate cure for a bad mood. Experts say that time in nature can even help alleviate depression. So pile up the kids and beach towels and a couple of good shovels and head for the beach. Or a nature preserve. Or take the kids to a new playground where they’ve never been. Even in the rain or the mist, nature is a friend to worriers!

No matter what you do, the trick is to consciously do something.  Stand back from yourself and pick one of these activities.  Then note how it goes.  Repeat what works for you -- and pass it on.


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