February marks National “Time to Talk Day.” This day brings our attention to mental health and the importance of reaching out to others, helping people open up and be honest about their mental health, without the fear and stigma often attached to the topic.
It can be daunting to express personal struggles and because of this, many people keep everything bottled up. Does this sound familiar in your own military spouse experience when you’re going through a difficult time? By opening up, the likelihood of the person suffering seeking help increases, which can be crucial to the healing process.
On “Time to Talk Day,” we all can help raise awareness about mental health and be a part of changing the narrative. I hope this article can serve as a reminder for military spouses, that we can and should prioritize our mental health and reach out to others, for the benefit of ourselves, our families, and the mission of our military.
The cost of freedom and defense of our country falls on the shoulders of the brave women and men who serve our country. As military spouses, our part in helping our service members fulfill the mission often comes in the form of a silent support system to our spouses and to the military community. We often lose sight of our own priorities, our own mental and physical health and sometimes we even lose our personal identity as we take the helm of life on the home front. The emotional toll of deployments and underway time that permeate the entire family can be difficult to manage. Our mental health should take priority in this challenging and changing life that we lead.
Here are some ideas to keep in mind to help make your mental well-being a priority:
Move your body daily
Physical activity is one of the best ways to support mental wellness by reducing stress and anxiety. Sometimes even finding time to move can be overwhelming – take small steps, try scheduling a 30-minute walk as you take a phone call or plan to stretch for 10 minutes before bed.
Remember that self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity
Keeping this mindset will serve as a reminder that you cannot fill the cup of another without first filling your own. Self-care can take on so many different simple forms – meditate, schedule a haircut, a moment to walk and talk with a friend, a massage or anything that fills you up without adding stress.
Work to maintain your personal identity
Keeping our own sense of self is crucial to our wellbeing. Find a job, a hobby or interest that makes you happy outside of your being a military spouse or parent.
Connect with your community
Feeling isolated at a new duty station can be difficult. COVID has only made this more challenging, but having a support system of your own will make hard times easier. Consider connecting with others through local groups, volunteering, or through your hobbies and special interests. Join your FRG (if you have one).
Ask for help
This may be the most difficult to follow through on (I know it is for me). Sometimes it feels like asking for help is a sign that we can’t do it all. It is not easy to be vulnerable, but it is critical to our well-being. It is so important to know your limits and ask before you feel too overwhelmed. Sometimes it may be as simple as asking for help with laundry or cleaning or it could be as important as asking for help with your own mental health.
It’s time to talk
Military spouses are strong, resilient, and brave but that does not mean we do not need to take time to talk, to check in with ourselves and make sure we are doing alright mentally. I always think of the moment when I’m on an airplane before takeoff and the flight attendant reminds me to place my oxygen mask on myself before placing one on my kids — a reminder that we cannot help anyone if we are not okay. You matter, your mental health matters and you are not alone.