Oh the joys military life brings us. Often towing immeasurable amounts of anxiety along, you know the drill.
In fact, as a military spouse, you are more likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder than your civilian peers. And it’s easy to see why.
Military life is full of unpredictable events, moves, and deployments. It is one of the very few lifestyles where you have minimal control over your own life — where you go and when.
Your life is in a constant state of flux. Even if you are currently not the one who is moving, any friends you make in the military community can move at any time.
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You move away from your hometown, family, and all things familiar. There’s a good chance you married younger than your civilian friends, leaving you with fewer and fewer examples of strong healthy marriages to view and eventually model.
You may also become a parent younger, and even though you are married, you will experience more solo-parenting than co-parenting.
Nothing breeds anxiety more than the unknown and lack of planning — two things that are at the forefront of military life.
How Military Spouses Can Reduce Anxiety During High Stress
With the constant waiting, worry, uncertainty, what you need is a series of simple quick wins to help reduce your anxiety during high stress. Here’s how.
Put your thoughts on paper.
Journaling can relieve the emotional pressure that is building up inside you. Through this simple act, you’ll channel your emotions onto paper, preventing the tension from building into an explosion or public meltdown.
Each sentence written is like another small weight lifted off your shoulders, until eventually, you feel calm and relaxed.
Not a writer?
Try art journaling. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s for your own benefit…nobody else’s.
Expectations can make or break you.
You want things to go according to plan. Each morsel of time and energy put into crafting your future is important to you. That’s why it’s so disappointing when the unexpected happens. You worked hard on that plan, and somehow the military’s plan trumped you.
It doesn’t seem fair.
And it isn’t.
Give yourself options to feel more in control of the situation. Planning for the plan to change can free your mind!
When Plan A doesn’t pan out, you won’t be frantically creating a new plan out of thin air because you’ll already have a few backup plans saved away!
Deep breathing = problem solving.
One technique I often recommend to clients is following deep breathing and guided relaxation videos. These can be found on YouTube or a simple Google search!
When you are overwhelmed emotionally, the logical part of your brain turn off, meaning you cannot problem solve.
By using deep breathing and guided relaxation you can calm down the physical reactions from your anxiety: racing heart, dizziness, sweating, flushed face, and feeling hot.
When the physical sensations subside, you can also calm down your mind and lessen the intensity of your emotions, allowing you to become more logical and able to problem solve.
Train your happy thoughts.
Did you know that if you are in a poor mood and force yourself to smile, you can smile yourself into a better mood?
The same is true when you are anxious. Instead of thinking of all the negative possibilities, try to find the silver lining even if it’s small, and seemingly inconsequential.
It’s ok to be worried about something, don’t is beat yourself up for feeling anxious, it’s absolutely ok.
I know it sounds hokey, like, “don’t you think I have tried this already,” but this is a technique we use in counseling often — thought training.
It takes a while so I would encourage you not to give up quickly!
Your needs matter.
When you feel taken care of you will have more energy to conquer anything coming your way. So go to bed early, grab your essential oils, take a long hot bath, go get a mani/pedi – or give yourself one, read a book that’s just for laughs.
Whatever taking care of yourself looks like for you, do it on a regular basis.
Eat well to feel well
The food we eat directly influences our mood. Before we had medicines, people used foods to heal their minds and bodies.
For example, yogurt, salmon and sweet potatoes are full of essential minerals – omega-3s, copper, iron and more that all influence our moods in positive ways.
These foods have nutrients that are essential for decreasing hormones that stimulate stress and anxiety, and they help boost hormones that are calming. Also drinking tea of any kind has been shown to help people de-stress and calm down faster.
Use routine to create calm
Routine itself can help reduce anxiety, but by adding a few steps to your morning routine can help reduce anxiety even more! Wake up before you have to, giving you plenty of extra time.
Feeling rushed creates anxiety, if you have the extra time you can slow down and take your time. Now is the perfect time of day to enjoy that nice hot cup of tea, while keeping your mind in a positive place – some do this through reciting a list of positive affirmations you have for yourself.
Find the simple.
Like having a routine can help you keep your head straight, so can keeping your calendar free and open. By keeping our calendars simple you can avoid burnout and exhaustion.
Find at least two things on your calendar that are might not be necessary, and give yourself permission to take a step back.
When we have time to rest and get the sleep we need than we can be refreshed to take on anything that comes up unexpectedly. Learn more about living the simple life in this post.
Nurture the rock.
Our service members are our rocks, and we are theirs. When our relationship with our spouse suffers so do we.
There have been numerous studies that show how relationship satisfaction has a direct relationship with our mental health and wellness.
When they are deployed it can be more difficult to do this, BUT rest assured, not impossible! Write letters, emails, share pictures of what is going on, anything is better than nothing. Learn how to keep the interest and romance alive in this post.
Lean on friends.
As military spouses we are often far away from our families; this means when we need help you need to call someone! So call a friend when you need one, and answer when someone who calls you. Embrace the community around you!
You can’t do it alone.
Lastly, sometimes we just can’t do it alone, and that is absolutely ok! It doesn’t make you any less of a fabulous person.
If you are so overwhelmed that you can’t see a way out and you’ve tried everything else, ask for help. As a military spouse there are lots of options for confidential and free help.
Here are just a few options for mental health resources: Military Family Life Consultants (MFLCs) and Family Life Chaplains (you don’t have to be religious) are both trained mental health professionals. A simple Google search can help you find one in your local area.
Not all strategies will work for everyone, but everyone will be able to find or two strategies that work for them. What are your tried and true techniques to reduce anxiety? Let me know in the comments.
Grace Lipscomb is an Army wife and family counselor with an emphasis in marriage and family counseling. She is a volunteer intern with the Family Life Chaplain at Fort Benning, seeing service members, their families, and DoD employees. Connect with her at Adventures of a Young Wife.
Want more on military life?
- One Phrase That Will Help Reconnect Your Military Marriage
- Why Deployment Meltdowns Are Actually a Good Thing
- 5 Things Military Spouses Want Their Far Away Friends to Know
- What You Miss Most During Deployment