You may feel pride that your child, grandchild, brother, sister, significant other or friend is serving our nation. At times, that may also cause you stress. Your concern can grow during deployments, trainings, relocations and other life events.
Stress is both normal and understandable. But know your service member is well trained for their military job. Part of your job as a key member of your loved one’s support network is to have confidence in them. As a result, consider taking steps to reduce your own anxiety to get a handle on it before it affects your mental health, or the health of your loved one.
Identify the signs of stress
The first step in keeping a healthy emotional balance is recognizing the signs of stress:
- Difficulty completing tasks or concentrating
- Extreme hunger or lack of appetite
- Difficulty making decisions
- Fear and anxiety about the future
- Crying for “no apparent reason”
- Apathy and emotional numbing
- Headaches or stomach problems
- Irritability and anger
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sadness and depression
- Excessive drinking or drug use
- Feeling powerless or withdrawn
If you notice one or more of these symptoms on a regular basis, then anxiety may be impacting your health.
Practice mindfulness techniques
By focusing on the present moment and accepting your feelings, you can cope with anxiety and worry without it overwhelming your life.
You can do this by finding a relaxing and “mindful” hobby such as yoga, tai chi, meditation or journaling. Even just doing something calming – such as gardening or coloring – can make the difference between a day spent worrying and a day focused on positive actions.
Take care of your physical health
It may seem simple, but remember to take care of your body as well as your mind during times of stress. Are you drinking enough water? Allowing yourself enough time for sleep? Are you eating well?
Something as basic as walking the dog or going for a jog can make big difference in your mindset.
Lean on your community – and ask for help when you need it
You don’t have to face your worries alone. Just like you provide support for your service member, your personal support network can help you stay well and manage stress.
Talk with your friends about your concerns and worries. Tell them what they can do to support you – and accept their help when it is offered. If you’re spiritual, consider reaching out to your local faith community.
It may help to find a military-focused support group. There are many social media groups for parents, siblings, friends or significant others of service members. Or, you may find other military-minded people in your community by volunteering your time to help at a military-focused charity.
If you feel that you are not able to manage your anxiety, reach out to a professional health care provider. Knowing when to ask for help is a sign of strength, not of weakness.
Learn more about military life – especially your service member’s experience
Doing what you can do to feel connected to military life can help make your concerns more manageable. Try not to let your mind run in circles with unknowns and “what ifs.” Instead, learn more about military life by:
- Researching and looking up things like your service member’s branch of the military, their specific unit and military job. Subscribing to official publications for friends and family of service members, like the Friends & Family Connection eNewsletter.
- Learning some military acronyms and common military traditions so your next conversation with them is easier to follow.
- Understand that your service member may not be able to tell you everything about their location, job or mission. This is for their protection.
Also, be aware of your news consumption. It’s important to stay informed about the world, but focusing on negative news, or paying attention to rumors on social media, can add to your anxiety and harm your well-being.
Be reassured that as part of the world’s best prepared and trained military, your service member understands their job and has been trained for their military life. They are a professional.
Set a good example
While they are serving, members of the military must trust their safety and well-being to their training, their unit and their command. But you are still a part of your service member’s network of support, and your well-being and your example matter. Stress and worry are a part of military life. Practicing good self-care, and reaching out for help if you need it, is a healthy and productive way to manage your worries and improve your life.
After all, if your service member sees you making your own health a priority, it can serve as a powerful reminder that despite occasional stress and anxiety, you both can thrive.
Stress-Reduction Resources for Your Service Member
As you take the steps to reduce your own stress levels, know that Military OneSource offers a wide variety of services and resources to your service member so they can keep their own stress in check.