Even if your spouse has never deployed, we all know what the deployment blues are. Forming new routines isn't as easy as it sounds, and nothing ever really fills the spot where your spouse should be. On the surface, we military wives appear self-suffiecient and tough, right? Well, we are those things.
But we're also fragile.
No matter how strong we appear, tears are often just under the surface. A tv show or commercial, a song on the radio, a careless comment from a friend... all of those can drag us back into the blues.
It's up to us to keep the blues away. This list is by no means comprehensive, and not all of these ideas will work for you. Heck, maybe none of them will. But it never hurts to try! (Keep in mind: Sometimes the deployment blues can morph into full blown depression. I've listed some common warning signs at the end of this post. If you fall into that category, please seek counseling! All of us need a helping hand once in a while. If you don't know where to start, please check out Military One Source, they offer many options for those in need).
This list includes things I've tried myself, and others are suggestions from fellow military spouses. If you have an idea, please post in the comments and I'll continue to add onto this post.
Okee dokee, here goes! (And, let it be said, these are in no particular order)
1. Get involved with your FRG - I know a lot of wives that don't want to do this. And I even understand why, because I was once one of them. Lucky for me, I got involved (albeit reluctantly) with an FRG that is simply outstanding. And I was soooo happy that I did! The key here is to remember that not all FRGs are the same. Give yours a shot and see what happens. If you absolutely can't stand it, then just stop being so involved. No harm, no foul. Right?
2. Get outside! - Often when our spouses are gone, we tend to hibernate in our caves. We stick to what we know, and then we stagnate and fall into the blues. Get off your duff and step into the sunshine, peeps! Walk your dog, plant some flowers in the yard, visit the park... heck, visit the beach. Take your kids to a playground, or a local swimming pool. Whatever you do, soak up some vitamin D!
3. Think outside of yourself - As pathetic as we feel when our spouse is away, it really can help to think of others. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, or visit a retirement home. Perhaps take the time to visit soldiers in the hospital (though this one may be difficult emotionally). If you don't like meeting strangers, or doing the whole face-to-face thing, try a little spring cleaning and donate to charities like Red Cross or Goodwill. Try being involved with an organization like Operation Thank You... they distribute thank you cards to soldiers serving all over the world.
4. Develop a New Hobby (or perfect an old one) - Always had a yen to knit? Well, now is that time! Deployment can leave us with a lot of empty moments in our day. For me, I run great up until 5:00, which is when the Hubs would generally return home. But after that, I'm at a loss how to entertain myself. Filling those moments with a hobby is a constructive way to work through what could be hours of loneliness.
5. Pick up Extra Hours at Work - I want to preface this tip by saying: Don't work yourself sick! The solution to the deployment blues is NOT an 80 hour work week. However, this is a good one in moderation. Maybe you're only working 25 hours a week... then it's ok to pick up an extra shift or two. Not only are you filling in some time, but you're making extra money, and you're also out of the house for a while. Maybe that extra shift will even lead to other activities, like coffee dates with some co-workers.
6. Do Special Things for Your Spouse - I know this may sound counterproductive, but it really works! Often, spouses drift apart because communicating can be so difficult during deployment. Help bridge that gap by sending your spouse a special care package, or a daily email. Send photos of everyday life, or create a funny video like 'A Day in the Life Of... (fill in the blank)'. All of these help you feel close to your spouse, and hopefully they will reciprocate in whatever way they can. Granted, I doubt a deployed spouse can make a video production, but many would respond to the email system.
7. Get Involved with Your Kids - I know you're likely already involved with your kids. And during deployment, you might feel overwhelmed by being the sole parent. So, this tactic may not work for you. But for some, this could help. Try being the soccer coach, starting a playgroup, or joining MOPS (and other organizations like it). Maybe you start a special 'date' night with your kids. The best part is that these are all things you and your spouse can do together upon his return.
8. Prayer - I understand that not all people are people of faith. But if you are, prayer can be a great comfort. If you're not, are you looking to be? Try out different churches, see what feels right for you. Go with a friend, or go by yourself. If you already have a church home, seek out your pastor, priest, minister, or leader. Join bible studies, or the choir. Look for ways to be involved. (If you're not interested at all, feel free to skip this one, but please don't knock the people who lean on their God)
9. Hit up the Gym - Exercise is a great stress reliever. Even a few minutes a day can be a great help. If you're not into the gym scene, try walking your dog that extra mile or working out in your home. Run up and down the stairs a few minutes, or take up yoga. Many people use weight loss as a major goal during deployment. This can be great, but as with everything, don't overdo.
10. Do Something for Yourself - Treat yourself once in a while. Have a pedicure, go to the spa, or go to the mall. Whip up a batch of brownies, or grab a milkshake from your favorite place. Buy a new outfit, or a great pair of shoes. Of course, don't blow all your deployment money on major shopping sprees! Make this a once in a while kind of thing.
11. Schedule a Day of Nothing - Sometimes you just want a day to sit around and do a whole lot of nothing. And that's ok! (as long as it's not a habit). Pick a day, maybe once a month, that's completely dedicated to nothing. Hang out in your pajamas, watch movies, build tent forts with your kids. Eat breakfast for dinner, and pizza for breakfast. Whatever you want goes. And, if you really want to make it fun, invite all your friends to join the pajama party!
12. Use Your Support System - Don't be afraid to call on your family and friends for support when you need it. Often, we have people around who are willing to help, but we forget to ask for it. Have a battle buddy, someone you can call whenever for whatever. Then use them!
13. Girls' Night Out - Everyone needs a night to cut loose once in a while. Hanging out with your gal pals is a great way to do that, whether you're partying in or having a night out on the town. If you've got kids, make the effort to get a sitter once in a while so you can have an evening of grown-up girl time. And always be sure to pick a DD for your night of fun!
14. Make an Effort to Find Friends - (especially ones in a similar situation as you!) New friends won't just knock on your door, you've got to put yourself out there. Look into your FRG, join a book club, check out the spouse's clubs on post. People find friends online, at church, even in the checkout line at the grocery store! Don't be afraid to say hello to someone new... they might be in need of a friend too.
15. Take a Vacation - This doesn't mean you need to fly off to Europe or something extravagant (though that would be awesome). Even mini-breaks are an excellent way to decompress a bit. Visit your family, or have your family visit you. Enjoy a weekend away with your kids, or visit other military friends that have been re-stationed.
16. Cook a Real Meal - Often when our spouses are gone, we revert to take-out dinners. It's hard to cook for one! Even with kids, sometimes you just don't want to cook, especially when you're already doing the job of two parents. Sadly, McDonalds and ice cream do not a balanced meal make. To counter that, try starting a dinner club with your pals. Once a week, you all have dinner together, rotating houses and cooks as you progress. For example, you cook for the group Week One. The next person on the list cooks Week Two, and so on and so forth.
Each week, you eat a home-cooked meal, but you only have to do the cooking/cleanup once every few weeks. It's win/win for everyone!
|My Secret Ingredient Chili|
17. Pick a Project - With Pinterest the newest craze, it's easy to find a DIY project. Paint your bedroom furniture, or try new recipes everyday. Build a headboard, or a coffee table. Try out a new painting technique, or crochet a new pattern. Whatever you choose, your project helps pass the time and gives you a sense of accomplishment.
18. Start a New Routine - When your spouse is home, you have a certain routine. For example, the Hubs walks the dog when he wakes up, then I walk her later that afternoon. The Hubs takes out the trash, and I do the dishes. We eat dinner around 6:30, and we watch TV around 7:00.
However, when the Hubs is gone, our whole routine goes to crap. Trying to maintain that routine is often depressing, because I notice his absence even more. So instead, I start new routines. The dog and I walk two miles in the morning before breakfast. I eat dinner earlier, and I got to bed earlier. Little things can make a big difference.
19. Seek Counseling - Not everyone needs professional counseling during a deployment, and the odds are you won't. But if you do, don't be afraid. You definitely aren't alone. Being a military wife is hard enough as it is, and deployment magnifies that exponentially. Get the help you need.
Also, not all counseling comes in psychologist form. Sometimes we just need to talk it out because the day has been too much too handle. Speak with your friends, family, and your spiritual guides. Reach out when you need to, I think you'll be surprised at how many helping hands are waiting.
20. Do All the Things You Never Have Time For - This is a big one for me. Use that extra time alone to catch up on all the stuff that builds up. Organize your photos, clear out the garage, or spring clean your closet. There are so many projects that get placed on the back burner... use those extra hours alone to your advantage!
21. A Date with Yourself - Now, I don't mean this in some crazy, weird way, ok? Just take a little time for yourself. Read a good book, have a cup of coffee, or see a movie. Heck, buy yourself flowers! Though it may sound bizarre (and I'll probably regret saying this), I often buy flowers for myself when the Hubs is gone. First of all, it gets me out of the house (to buy them), and then they're so bright and cheerful on my countertop. As an added bonus, I have to keep the window shades open (so the flowers don't wither in less than a day, which has been known to happen to me), so lots of natural light floods into my space, which makes me happy.
Don't judge folks... I dare you to try it just once! You'll be buying flowers all the time, I bet.
22. Plan the Homecoming - Planning out your soldier's return can really give you something to look forward to, especially near the end when you're so antsy that time slows to a crawl. You all know what I'm talking about, right? Yep, you do.
So instead, focus on the positive. Will you have a photographer? Make banners? Plan his favorite meal? Go for it, have fun with it, and (if you're anything like me) make copious use of Pinterest.
23. CRY WHEN YOU NEED TO - This is the biggest one of all. Don't try to hold all your emotions inside, because it will come spilling out somewhere. Cry if you need to. Let it out. WE ALL DO IT.
I really hope this list helps you past some rough spots. There are plenty of moments when I need to make a conscious effort to move forward, particularly when all I want to do is pity myself. Trust me, we've all been there at one time or another.
Of course, there are some things that the above list won't help at all. If you find yourself experiencing any of the following depression symptoms, PLEASE seek counseling right away. We all face depression at some point in our life, and everyone needs a boost once in a while. Don't hesitate!
1. Withdrawing from social activities
2. Isolating yourself from family and friends
3. Feeling empty, overwhelmed, anxious, worthless, guilty
4. Lack of energy
5. Unusual weight gain or loss
6. Lack of appetite or overeating problems
7. Difficulty getting out of bed
8. Extreme Fatigue
9. Increased angry or irritability
10. No desire for physical activity
11. Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
12. Insomnia or excessive sleeping
13. Headaches or body aches
13. Desire to hurt yourself or others
That's all for now, peeps! As always, thanks for reading... I genuinely appreciate each and every one of you, and I'm so glad that we can stick together like the military spouses we are. I have never found a stronger group of women than those I've met through the Army. Love to you all!
Thanks for reading, everyone!