By Carole Van Holbeck, MSAN Mental Health and Wellness Advocate
“Wow, this is freakin’ hard.”
“I was an irritated and tired mama. Did I mention I was crabby?”
“I think for moms raising military brats, something snaps somewhere in between the unexpected trainings, the deployments, constant moves and crazy schedules. The military can take its toll.”
The excerpts above are quoted from various blogs that popped up when I entered “overwhelmed military spouses” into the search engine of my computer. I believe these accurately describe how many military spouses truly feel. Life seems just a bit crazy and beyond their control.
Take heart! There are ways to simplify your crazy military life in 2017. It just takes an open mind and willingness to change.
Learn to live with less stuff.
I recently went to visit a young mom who lived in base housing. As I walked up to her door, I couldn’t help but notice all the items sprawled about on her porch. The entry into her home was also disheveled. Too many toys, too many clothes, too much stuff for the little home she lived in.
I think for many military spouses, stuff equals comfort. Life is tough and things can make you feel better. But in the case of this young mom, stuff equaled chaos.
If possible, learn to live with less. Declutter your home and donate the useable items to a local charity. You might be surprised what you can live without and I guarantee you will be grateful when you get your next PCS orders!
Evaluate your commitments.
Military culture is forward leaning. The emphasis on excellence has many military spouses feeling the need to jump in and lead the charge. In doing so, many of them overcommit their time and talents.
This is where you need to be honest with yourself. What are your limits? Have you reached them? What should you let go?
Remember, it really is okay to say, “NO.”
Yes, I know this is boring. And predictable. Yet routines go a long way in creating stability, especially for children.
When my husband was deployed, routine got me through the day. The children knew when they went to school, when to do homework, when dinner was ready. They knew our nightly rituals of play, bathing, and bedtime. I would pack school lunches after they went to bed and have an hour or two before retiring.
This consistency helped us get through the days and weeks and months apart, mostly with our mental health intact. The beauty about establishing a routine is that you can tailor it to your family situation. It can be uniquely yours!
These two words can make a huge difference in simplifying your life. Living here and now in the moment keeps you aware of what is going on around you and within you. It helps you stay in control.
As military spouses, we worry. We worry about our partners, the effects of this life on our children, about world situations, about family members far away. Understandably so. However, worry is usually associated with situations beyond our control to change and it robs of us of experiencing what is happening right now.
Try this exercise. Set aside a 15 minute period every day to worry. Set a timer. Worry about everything. Keep a written diary of your worries if you’d like. When the timer goes off, stop worrying. What usually happens is most people cannot fill up the entire 15 minutes.
Being present takes practice, but you will be surprised how centered you will feel when you master it.
Change is scary and uncertain. What you have now may not be working the best, but you know how to operate within its parameters. Don’t be afraid to simplify your crazy military life in 2017. You’ll be happy with the results!
What do you do to make military life more manageable? Share your tips with our readers here!
Carole Van Holbeck is a retired Air Force spouse, veteran (1978-1990), and former military dependent child. She is a mother of three sons, stepmother to three adult children, and grandmother to nine. A registered psychotherapist, she works as the Office Manager of Warrior Counseling & Consulting, a veteran mental health practice in Colorado Springs, Colorado started by her husband Ken in 2011. In this role, Carole engages with active duty military, veterans, and their families and understands current issues affecting this population.