It’s been 129 years since the people of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania first allowed a groundhog to predict the nation’s forecast for the arrival of spring. Every year on February 2, the town is flooded with people rooting for a marmot named Phil not to see his shadow. And every year, by the time February hits, the days all seem to run together. As a military spouse going through deployment, I often feel like Bill Murray’s character in the movie Groundhog Day. It’s easy to get in a rut when every day feels like the one before.
How to Beat the Groundhog Days of Deployment
1. Plan milestones.
Whether you’re heading to Disney when your spouse comes home or just out for dinner, thinking about homecoming is enough to warm up the coldest days. However, when you’re staring down several more months of flying solo, a return date can seem way, way, way too far on the horizon to start a countdown. Instead, plan milestones along the way that will allow you to look forward to something in the short-term, as well. Maybe your mom is coming to visit during Month Two. Plan a road trip with an old friend during Month Four. Buy concert tickets for Month Six. Host a baby shower for a fellow spouse, launch a new business, find events on your city’s calendar, join a book club. Having shorter increments to get through will make the time feel more manageable. Also, you’ll actually have to know what day it is in order not to miss something.
When the days blend into weeks, and you only look at a calendar to know how long the leftovers have been in your fridge, you’re in need of a change. Volunteering gives you an opportunity to meet new people, mix up your schedule, and most importantly, do something for others. In giving, you’re getting something too: a way out of the deployment rut.
3. Find a new hobby.
Take a break from pinning things on Pinterest and actually start doing them. Make a goal to do a project a week. Maybe it’s the kids’ footprints on canvas, the stash of wine corks you swear you’re going to do something with, or learning to knit. Using your time to create projects instead of just looking at them through a screen will boost your sense of accomplishment. If you have children, there’s a good chance they’re feeling the Groundhog Day effect, too. Sign them up for a new activity, find a class for them at the library, or rope them into your projects. If you don’t have any more room in your schedules, find a way to make things different, for them and you. Whether you have them make dinner one night a week or let them plan a weekend craft, helping them liven their routines will make everyone feel a little less stir-crazy.
4. Run toward the finish line.
Sign up for a race. Whether your walls are plastered with running bibs or you haven’t bought tennis shoes since high school gym class, register for a race a few months down the road. Not only will the finish line give you something to look forward to, a training plan will help keep your days varied. Investing your time in your health will have lasting benefits.
5. When in doubt, paint a room.
When you feel like the walls are closing in on you and you aren’t sure if it’s Thursday or Tuesday, you need a change of scenery. If packing your bags and flying south isn’t in the cards, take changing things up into your own hands. Painting a room can transform the entire feeling of your house. Rearrange your furniture, read Marie Kondo’s book, Spark Joy and start decluttering, or finally frame some of the pictures you’ve taken. Whether you buy a new painting or paint a room, a little change can go a long way.
When the days start to repeat themselves, just like Bill Murray, you have to find a way to make them different. Whether you run or paint, plan a vacation or donate your time, tomorrow is a new day.
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