This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Unilever & Operation in Touch via MSB New Media. The opinions and text are all mine.
When John was deployed, I found myself saying, “I can’t do this anymore” more than I care to admit. I couldn’t stand one more minute of deployment. I felt like I was going crazy and that it was absolutely impossible to spend any more time away from him or worrying. I felt like I was drowning. And every news story talking about action on his base made it feel worse. Mortar rounds were shot into his base regularly, sometimes when he was outside. (I know, I know, that’s what happens in war, but it was tough to hear about all the same.) A plane horrifically crashed and news outlets everywhere posted footage of it weeks before John’s homecoming.
I lost a lot of weight because I stopped eating… even peanut butter cups (what?!). I felt like I couldn’t be away from my phone for one second. And I spent a lot of time in the horizontal time machine– you know, my bed– sleeping away hours because I couldn’t stand them awake.
It was bad.
I was banging my head against the deployment wall. And it was terrible.
Learn from my mistakes so you don’t have the same sensation. (It’s not fun, trust me.)
Work it out
Especially when you’re depressed or upset, it can be so tough to get off the couch or out of bed and exercise. But the change of scenery and the physical activity is important to get you feeling better. If you’re intimidated by working out, pick something that you actually like doing and then make it a goal to regularly do that activity. When John was deployed, my weapon of choice was walking on the treadmill or doing the ellipticals. Not something that would win me gold medals (or any medals or even ribbons), but it was something that made me feel tons better about myself at a time when I wasn’t feeling that great about anything.
Collect some quotes
Because I’m a person of faith, I wrote some Bible verses and prayers on Post-Its and put them on my work computer and in my wallet. I can’t tell you how many times I read those notes to myself. They helped to calm and focus me. Depending on your religion, you might find this helpful. Consider uplifting or inspirational song lyrics, quotes, or affirmations, too. Put them in places you’ll see and read them when you’re upset or feeling despondent.
Find joy in small things
The days during a deployment can seem monotonous– waiting for an email or Skype sesh or letter from your partner, making dinner, missing them, doing to work. It really can turn into a blur. But this is a year (or however long) of your life, too. Take time to enjoy the small things that make you happy. Go out of your way to find those things and bring that joy into your life. For me, that sometimes meant buying flowers for no reason or ordering sushi with my sister. Other times, it meant watching really, really trashy reality TV (Dance Moms, anyone?) and just luxuriating in not doing anything for a few minutes.
One of the best things I did for myself was to create a deployment bucket list. I wrote down 100 things I wanted to do in 365 days and worked on ticking them off. My list ranged from books I wanted to read to recipes I wanted to try to accomplishments I wanted to achieve. Without the list, I wouldn’t have walked my first half-marathon or read all of the books by two of my favorite authors. I wouldn’t have started this blog. It gave me something to focus on that had nothing to do with deployment.
Ditch the electronics
…sometimes. I know we live and die by our phones and our computers. But it really is important for your mental and emotional health to get some away time from the electronics. Maybe that means not taking your phone on a run or spending time reading without it next to you. If you’re worried about missing a phone call from your partner, turn the ringer up and put it on the other side of the room. That way, you’ll be able to hear notifications, but you won’t be able to check your phone every 45 seconds.
It is really easy to get sucked into your own vortex of negative self-talk during deployment. When you catch yourself doing this, try to remind yourself of the positive things about yourself, the deployment, and your partner. It’s something small, but it can make a real difference.
Spend time with others
Especially if you’re living by yourself or with very small children, find time to spend time with other adults. They don’t have to necessarily understand what you’re going through, but you do have to enjoy being in their presence. Schedule it in, if you have to. You need human contact beyond Facebook and emojis.
Treat yourself well
Sleep. Eat healthy (at least most of the time). Be kind to yourself. Seriously– be intentional about the way you’re treating your body and mind. It will make you feel so much better, and you’ll feel more empowered to tackle deployment.
Deployment is a stressful rollercoaster that just doesn’t let up. If today feels like a wall, wait for tomorrow. It will be better. When you’re hitting that wall, remind yourself that it will change. Homecoming will come, no matter how far in the distance it seems, and it will be awesome.