Learning how to take care of yourself, what we call "self care," is a critical necessity in life because without it, the inevitable stresses that come with being a military spouse can be overwhelming. And being a military spouse offers up many challenges and the importance of taking care of yourself physically, mentally and even spiritually is often overlooked and underappreciated.
When your spouse is away training or deployed overseas, the negative impacts of those stresses intensify and can bleed into your personal and professional lives.
How to take care of yourself in 4 easy steps:Daily exercise. Yes, it’s difficult to get into an exercise routine, especially when you have small children. Once you find your rhythm, you will find that your body will begin craving the workout. Push through that initial barrier that is preventing you from committing to an exercise routine and you will not regret it.
“Not having any time” to allocate 45-60 minutes a day to working out is almost always a simple excuse that we trick our minds into believing. When the kids are in school or napping, turn off the social media and television, and replace that with some cardio. There are also programs like Stroller Warriors that allow you to workout with your kids.
After a few repetitions, you’ll find that exercise will give you more energy, improve your mood and improve your physique. Additionally, you will find yourself looking forward to your next workout. Rather than looking for ways to avoid it, find where you can carve an hour out of your schedule and get it done. It's not always going to be the perfect setting and under the best conditions -- especially when small children are involved -- but the advantages of consistent exercise are important to both your physical and mental health.
Eating right. It's no secret that eating right can change your body but did you know there are many studies that say eating right can change your mind, too? I started eating a "whole-food, plant-based" diet the day my husband left for deployment. Many of my friends called me crazy because I started such a drastic way of eating the very day he left. But I knew I needed to take care of myself to be able to take care of my three kids while my husband was gone.
Get a babysitter. It can be difficult to pick up and leave the house without the kids and pay for a babysitter on an already tight budget, but you need to allocate time for yourself as you learn how to take care of yourself. Whether you're going window shopping sans children, taking a long, hot shower without worrying about what the kids are doing, joining your spouse and/or friends for a night out, treating yourself to a massage, getting your nails done or simply grabbing a cup of coffee alone, pay for a break. These are all good ways to reset the mind and provide an opportunity to enjoy yourself. I know that a babysitter can be costly, but you might be pleasantly surprised to find that many other military spouses (and their teenage kids) who live on post will babysit for very reasonable prices. Even hiring a sitter once a month can have a positive impact, and it will give you something fun to look forward to on a regular basis.
Develop a new hobby and challenge yourself. We all have something that we have thought about taking on or trying out. Working from home, taking online classes, creating a scrapbook of family memories, painting, reading -- these are just some options to consider if you are looking for new challenges in your life. Making time to do something you've always wanted to do or investing in your personal development can go a long way for your mindset.
The results of ignoring the concept of self-care and not learning how to take care of yourself are oftentimes extremely difficult to reverse because you are allowing your body and mind to weaken. Feelings of depression, being constantly tired, disinterested in community activities, obesity, ignoring your personal and professional responsibilities and perhaps even struggling to find joy in things that should bring you happiness, are just some results of ignoring self-care. Our spouses who serve must be physically and mentally agile to do their jobs. As military spouses, we too must take our responsibility seriously and ensure that self-care is a top priority.