The big D is happening, all of the things have imploded, and Murphy’s Law is in full effect. The car has broken down, the dishwasher exploded, and the kids are running wild.
If you are like me, all of these things happen even during short TAD trips or long weekends of 24 hour duty. Once, when my spouse was away for literally four days, the baby and I both got pink eye, the dog ate something gross, and our water heater stopped working. I can only imagine how much more would have gone wrong during a deployment.
Luckily, there are some ways to keep your cool during deployment (and any other time that your spouse is away).
1. Take a Deep Breath
Close your eyes and sit, even if it is just for a moment. Even if it only the time it takes you to use the bathroom or brush your teeth. Even if you have to actually lock the door. But don’t lock yourself in a room unless all kids are secured and safe, obviously.
Once everyone is in a good place, breathe. In and out, in and out. Try to slow down your breathing. Give yourself permission to just be for a few minutes.
2. Check Out
After that deep breath with your eyes closed, try to (safely) tune out whatever is going on around you. If the dog is going nuts, ignore it. The kids are squabbling for the millionth time today? Momma can’t hear that right now.
Create an oasis of peace around you. Maybe repeat a mantra. Mine are “easy does it” and “this too shall pass.” Say it over and over again in a rhythm.
Light a candle or incense in a soothing scent and move on to step three.
3. Relax with a Beverage
Something about a cup of coffee, tea, or cocoa is just so calming. Take a moment, or several moments, during your day to sip and savor something all alone. It might be that the chaos is continuing around you, but you are sitting in a place of calm.
If you need something a little stronger, select an adult beverage of your choice. Force yourself to slow down and savor each sip.
Whatever you are drinking, reflect on the day. Think about thing that went well, things that could have been improved, and things that are out of your control. Focus on the good stuff, and give yourself a pat on the back for conquering today. Then repeat your mantra.
4. Treat Yourself
Sometimes all the mantras, coffee, and deep breathing in the universe just aren’t cutting it. It’s time to level up your stress reduction game play: outsource it.
Find a local massage therapist, a day spa, or a super luxurious nail salon and book yourself an appointment. Listen to the soothing music, sip the cucumber water and let a trained professional relax your worries away.
Getting out of the house for your pampering appointment also serves as a mental break from the routine of every day life. You get a good chunk of time away from the kids, the pets, the bills, the household repairs, and just the stuff that you are handling. When you return, your mind will hopefully be calmer, your muscles soothed, and your nails painted an uplifting color.
5. Occupy the Children
A busy child is a child who is not causing trouble. Set up a variety of activities to keep your children occupied throughout the deployment. It could be research projects on the country your spouse is deployed to, watching movies that share the culture of that country, or tracking their other parent on a wall sized map.
Once you introduce the activities or show them the supplies, chances are that your children will build it into something much bigger all on their own.
Or go the non-deployment related route at all. Create a Movies Based on Books Club and invite all your friends and their kids to join you. The idea: read a book that has a movie version, then watch the movie as a group when you are done reading. The kids will be reading, you will get social time, and everyone will be enjoy a movie night at the end.
6. Get Active
Endorphins make you happy. You can create endorphins through physical exertion, like running, hiking, biking, swimming, or getting your sweat on at the gym. However you like to workout or be active is perfect.
You also don’t have to spend all day drenched in sweat either. A quick 10 minute YouTube exercise video can do the trick. So can a four hour hike or a marathon.
Make it a family activity by getting your children involved. Many military bases have Stroller Warriors chapters where you can combine a workout with a playdate. All installations have on-base gyms with equipment and classes available to spouses. Some on-base gyms even have child care or mommy/child workout spaces! Or take the dog for a walk around the block together.
7. Phone a Friend
If or when all else fails, call in reinforcements. Get your deployment buddy on the phone and set up a play date/ lunch date/ dinner date/ whatever date ASAP.
Having someone to talk to about the nonsense of your life can be cathartic and helps to release pent up emotions. Bust out the chocolate, salty treats, or your beverages of choice (see item 3). Vent together about how generally awful the deployment has been.
If your pal has kids, it’s a double bonus. All of your collective children will be occupied with play together, lessening the burden on each of you individually.
For me, my deployment or TAD troubles were helped by having good friends to call on, making sure to take time for myself, and with a lot of chocolate.
How do you help to relieve deployment stress?
Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger, and freelance writer/editor. She is published on Homefront United Network, National Military Family Association, NextGen MilSpouse and the Education Tourist. Meg currently writes about all things education at MilKids Education Consulting.
Want more on military life?
- 10 Things Strong Military Spouses Do Differently
- The Real Reason Being a Military Wife is So Hard
- You Know You’re Living On Base When…
- The Biggest Mistake a Military Spouse Can Make