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Stress Management Tips for Military Spouses

We have all faced various stressors in our busy lives. It comes from many facets and from every direction. This is especially true for our military families who face changes and challenges at a rapid pace.

Note: Please keep in mind due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) some social activities that are mentioned in this article to help reduce stress may not be an option. Alternative physical distancing options may include virtual, phone, email or texting activities.

I can tell you that I have seen firsthand how our military spouses have been resilient time and time again. As a military spouse myself, I had to learn the importance of stress management.

I am still building on my resiliency. To me, it is a lifelong journey. What I have learned over the years is that stress management is crucial to avoid serious health problems. Some stress can be good and motivating; however, a lot of chronic stress can be serious. Key aspects to stress management include how to listen to what your body is telling you and how to adapt to those messages in stressful situations. This will work effectively in tandem with learning how to develop both a healthy mind and body.

In my younger years, I didn’t really pay attention to my stress triggers. I didn’t make time. It was my routine to internalize and deal with it later. I had to find out the hard way to listen to my body and take my first step.

Identifying Stress

I learned the first step was to identify the things in my life that caused my stress. I did this by asking myself a few questions:

  1. What are my internal and external stress triggers?
  2. Do I pressure myself?
  3. What and how much do I want to control?
  4. What are my expectations and how perfect do they need to be?
  5. What are the major contributors in my life; am I facing a move, a career change, or a deployment?

Dealing with Stress

So now that I identified all the things in my life, how do I deal with them? Much of what I learned throughout my life was based on coping and dealing with the day-to-day challenges that each of us face. I realized that I wasn’t on this journey by myself. As a military spouse, I had an incredible resource: my military family. Many of my “Battle Buddies” were dealing with the same challenges that caused stress within my life.

While we were stationed at Fort Carson, I had the opportunity to attend “Master Resilience Training” with a few of my fellow Army spouses. Here I learned skills about building mental toughness, character strengths, and strong relationships to include the understanding of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. My favorite takeaway from the course was “Hunt the Good Stuff”: writing down three positive experiences from each day and reflecting on them. Another thing I remember about the course was the experiences each of the other students shared. Listening to them talk about the things that caused them stress and how they coped was an invaluable experience.

Ultimately, it is important to keep in mind that you can – and should – reach out to your “Battle Buddies.” We are all one big military family who live through similar experiences with similar lifestyles. Your “Battle Buddies” will be able to relate to you in ways most others can’t and thus can provide invaluable advice and guidance.

Here are a few things I personally learned along the way from some experienced Army spouses I have had the privilege of knowing throughout the years:

  • You have to learn how to relax. I focused my attention on the things I was passionate about. I had to learn to make time for myself and do the things that made me happy, especially if I wanted to be healthy enough to help others.
  • You have to rejuvenate. I have learned to appreciate my cup of tea. My husband would bring me different kinds of tea every time he came home from a trip or deployment. When I had a tough day - when things just were not going my way – I would grab a cup of tea. Try it! Those ten minutes will make you feel brand new!
  • Practice time management. I know, everyone says that. Who has the time for time management? Making a list and keeping it realistic can go a long way. I found that keeping a list and checking things off as I got them done helped me prioritize. This gave me a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, and a to-do list for the next if I didn’t get everything done that day. Before you know it, you’ll get through them all, and if you don’t…have a cup of tea.
  • Realize you need to set limits for yourself. You may have to politely say “no” to some things. That’s ok. My favorite saying (from a dear Battle Buddy) has always been “quality over quantity.” It’s better to do a few things really well than a lot of things poorly.
  • Utilize your positive support system. You can find support in many places, including right at home with friends, family, your prayer group, fellow military spouses, etc. Surround yourself with positive people. There’s nothing better than reassurance from a positive friend that everything is going to be ok.
  • Get plenty of sleep. I can’t stress how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. I know this can be challenging, especially if you are playing both roles as a parent and a caregiver. But you have to stick to a sleep schedule and get plenty of it. Other than food and water, sleep is the most important part of living healthy.
  • Exercise! Every expert in the world will tell you that the best reliever of stress is exercise. I learned to carve out time in my schedule to go for a run or walk on a daily basis. The best days were when I got to walk with a friend who could provide me emotional support, too. Take the kids with you, get them out of the house. Our son would ride his bike or run on the same path while I walked and talked with a friend.
  • Learn to eat healthy. Healthy eating can help your body through stressful periods. This is important to teach our children at a young age. One activity I enjoyed doing with our son was making all our meals in one day and then freezing them. This gave me the opportunity to teach our son healthy cooking skills, to pass on tradition, and to spend quality time together. Having frozen healthy meals available also left a great option in reserve for those busy days yet to come.
  • Have more fun! Find a sense of humor about things and have fun every day! It does wonders both physically and emotionally.

The Bottom Line

To me, the importance of stress management is learning how to be in tune with yourself and how to build and enhance resiliency. It is a continuous process. Remember that we all experience stress and that you are not alone on this journey. If you are having trouble managing your stress, take that first step - reach out and ask for help.