Deployments and separations are unavoidable parts of military life that can present unique challenges. The prospect of having to manage things by yourself that you are used to sharing with your partner can be overwhelming. Rest assured, there are things you can do and support you can tap to help you navigate deployment challenges. Whether you are single or have a family, the following tips and resources can help you (and your children) build resilience and stay deployment strong.
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One of the most important things you can do in the face of any challenge is to be positive. Being positive doesn’t mean you ignore difficulties or hide your feelings. Being positive means you accept whatever the situation is and trust that you have the power and resources to get through it.
Two ways to practice being positive are:
- Get comfortable with change. Try to see difficulties as puzzles to solve rather than impossible obstacles. Change may be difficult and uncomfortable, but it is an inevitable part of life. Change is also necessary for growth. Recognize that even though you may feel nervous or stressed, challenges can also present opportunities to build skills, self-confidence and connections and to grow — as a person, a couple and a family.
- Focus on things you CAN control instead of worrying about things you can’t. It’s natural to dwell on what’s going wrong, but a key part of resilience is learning to pay attention to what’s going right as well. When you find yourself getting carried away by negative thoughts, stop and remind yourself of five positive things — maybe five things you’re grateful for. Count them off on your fingers. They can be simple things — the sun is shining, you’re breathing, your children are healthy, you have food in your fridge and a roof over your head. Learning to see the positive and practice gratitude helps reduce stress and build resilience.
If you have children, remember they learn as much from what their parents do as from what their parents say. When parents learn to be positive, they show children how to be positive too.
Practice healthy living
Healthy living practices are other things you can control and model for your children. If you don’t already get enough sleep, eat well, exercise regularly, practice stress management and stay connected to family and friends, deployment can be a great time to start. Think about it as adding new tools to your wellness toolkit.
Pick a healthy living practice that appeals to you and start adding it to your daily life. Even small steps can make a big difference — like eating one healthy meal a week, giving up your favorite snack until the weekend or exercising for 10 minutes a day. Setting new goals and learning new skills can help reduce stress and build resilience.
If you want to try a new wellness practice and aren’t sure where or how to begin, it can help to have a little support. Use these resources from Military OneSource to jump-start your healthy living practices:
These DOD recommended wellness apps can help you and your family build resilience anytime, anywhere. Try Breathe2Relax, Virtual Hope Box, Provider Resilience and more. Sesame Street even offers an app for children — Breathe, Think, Do. All apps are free and downloadable on iOS or Android devices.
Get out and connect
Your comfort zone might be at home, especially if you’re feeling stressed, but research shows that getting out and connecting is good for both mental and physical health. Here are some ways get out and connect:
Research shows that spending even 10 minutes outside can help reduce physical and mental stress and make you feel happier. So try taking a short walk or just sitting outside for 10 minutes.
Deployments can be an ideal time to visit friends or family members or have them come to visit you. This can also be an opportunity to start new routines with family or friends, such as regular get-togethers or special outings.
If you have children, you might try setting up play dates with neighbors and children from school. This gives you a chance to meet other parents, make new connections and maybe find friends you trust to trade babysitting with.
Your installation Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs are a great resource for entertainment and recreation. Offerings vary by location but can include yoga, cooking and other classes and activities, as well as military youth and teen programs. You might also consider volunteering. Volunteering provides an opportunity to serve the community, learn new skills and create lasting friendships. Your installation Military and Family Support Center can help you find volunteer opportunities both on the installation and in the community.
In addition to practicing healthy living and being positive, here are some other tips for building resilience during deployment.
Always have pancakes on the weekend? Try to keep it up, because consistency is good for helping children manage transitions. But maybe you can add some new family activities to get everyone involved. Try family movie or board game night or initiate after-dinner family dance time and let your children take turns picking the music. You might also get your children to help with menu planning and cooking or let them take turns choosing a weekly family activity. Getting everyone involved in planning and activities can be a good way to build confidence, learn new skills and stay connected.
While your spouse is deployed, you can expect to receive extra money. Try to avoid retail therapy, and set up a system for saving some of that extra cash. Learn more about setting savings goals and the MilSpouse Money Mission. You can also contact your installation personal financial management services office or call Military OneSource for financial counseling.
If you can afford it, even a simple getaway can be something to look forward to and talk about with your family while your partner is deployed. Learn more about Family Life — Benefits for discounted travel, entertainment and recreation activities, including Best Kept Secrets: Joint Services Campgrounds and Facilities.
Taking good care of yourself helps you stay strong so you can take care of others. Try to schedule time for whatever kind of self-care you find most nourishing – take time for a relaxing bath, get a massage, find a babysitter and go out with friends – whatever works for you.
Reach out if you need support
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out for assistance. Military Family Readiness System programs and services provide comprehensive support for all aspects of military family well-being. Offerings include deployment assistance, new parent and exceptional family member support, emergency financial assistance and more. The Military and Family Life Counseling program offers no-cost, confidential, non-medical consultations for both adults and children to help with deployment adjustments, stress management and more. Contact your installation Military and Family Support Center for more information.
If you have questions or need help locating resources, call Military OneSource. Consultants are available 24/7 to help answer questions and connect you with the support you need to live your best MilLife. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS calling options or start a live chat.