This post is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs/Make the Connection. The opinions and text are all mine.
I stared at the wall in our new apartment and I cried.
Behind me towered a wall of boxes that wouldn’t be unpacked for at least another four months.
Ahead was a white, undecorated wall.
We had just gotten married and moved into an apartment that we’d only occupy for a third of a year and decided that it didn’t make sense to unpack anything other than the bare necessities.
John was at C School and was gone all. The. Time.
We only had one car.
I had left my job to get married.
I was not in a great place.
I wasn’t even in a good place.
I was having a pretty rough time adjusting.
And I know that I’m not the only one in a military family who has experienced difficulties associated with military life.
Self-care is a buzzword lately, but the truth is, taking care of yourself just makes sense. Military life is hard, and you deserve to take care of you–not just the people around you. Here are some easy, but necessary, ways to practice self-care, without spending money.
You don’t need to be a crazy Crossfitter or a marathoner to exercise. Taking a 30-minute walk, going for a bike ride, or playing with your kids on the playground or in your backyard is enough to trigger endorphins. If exercise isn’t your thing, go laser-tagging, take up geo-caching as a hobby, or try out an option like Wii Fit or Dance, Dance Revolution. Caring for your physical health is a great way to help care for your mental health. (Of course, it is not the cure-all for everything and I am not suggesting that it is.)
2. Screen-free time
It’s easy to glue yourself to devices, especially during a deployment. Make a plan to have some technology-free, social media-free moments. It’s best to do this at night and in the morning, but we all know how technology and separation works. Sometimes the only time you have to talk to your loved ones is late at night or early in the morning (thanks schedules and time zones!). If you need to be on your tech at night, use the blue light filter (you should be able to find it in your settings) and make a commitment to have a break at other times in the day.
3. Treat yoself
In the immortal words of Parks and Rec’s Tom and Donna, “Treat yoself.” You don’t have to spend on expensive spa trips, gadgets, or clothes, though. Sometimes treating yourself is deciding you’ll have an ice cream sundae (all things in moderation!) for dinner or hang out with your kids instead of cleaning the bathroom. Give yourself the gift of a break and a treat.
4. Practice good self-talk
All too often, we spend time criticizing ourselves. We’re not pretty enough. Good enough. Skinny enough. Fit enough. Together enough. I don’t have to keep going on; you know the litany too. Make a rule for yourself: if you wouldn’t let someone else say those things to you, don’t say them to yourself. You don’t deserve that kind of abuse.
5. Take a break from the military
If you live on-base, take some time to get off of it. Spend time thinking about things other than military life, especially during high-stress times like deployments and PCSing. There’s something refreshing about watching a movie that doesn’t have anything to do with the military, reading a book that takes place on another planet, or just sitting on the beach and allowing yourself to enjoy the moment. Taking care of your mental health is vital to your overall health and your family’s well-being, and it’s okay to reach out for professional help when you or someone you love is struggling. Military life is hard but you don’t have to go it alone. You can find more resources at Make the Connection, one of the VA’s mental health campaigns.