By Kimberly Bacso, Army Spouse and co-founder of InDependent
Behind the strong demeanor military spouses exhibit, we are crumbling due to neglect of our personal wellness. We support our families and serve our communities often while chasing lofty goals of our own. Something has to give. Research from Dr. Kendra Lowe, Air Force veteran and military spouse, found that one in five military spouses are experiencing clinical levels of stress. Fearful of being perceived as weak, we’ve been letting the falling apart happen behind closed doors.
For over six years, InDependent, a nonprofit organization, has been dedicated to making wellness accessible to all military spouses. During that time, we’ve been able to construct a positive community of trust. We’re now able to dive into some tougher wellness topics like body image, substance use, mental health, and loss. Military spouses are bravely allowing themselves to be seen as a whole person. They’re standing on the platform of our new Wellness Unfiltered™ program to tell their stories as part of their healing process and to let other spouses know that they are not alone. We pair the stories with helpful resources and vocabulary to facilitate conversations within the community around each topic.
As spouses open up, we’re better able to understand the deep, often hurtful undercurrent of wellness narratives that impact our community. As thin women share the comments and attitudes they encounter when they begin an exercise program, we start to see that they don’t feel welcome in some fitness environments and that many people believe that exercise is just for weight loss. As new moms share how they were shut down when they reached out for support during a deployment, we recognize that it’s hard to offer help to somebody when we had to make it through a similar situation alone.
InDependent offers fitness programming like challenges, tutorials and fun workouts suited to the military lifestyle, and social media prompts to go out and be active. But, we’re working to get deeper than that because we recognize the invisible benefits of exercise.
One of those benefits that’s crucial to military spouse wellness is the in-person social connection. We hear repeatedly that spouses establish regular fitness routines at their duty stations because of the social network that comes along with the workout.
Another important invisible benefit of exercise is the mood boost. Sybil Jones, Navy spouse, wrote, “We now have two teens and one tween and they are constantly telling me to start working out regularly again. They say I don’t fuss as much when I’m on a regular workout routine. Working out helps me relieve the stress of life and parenting.”
We at InDependent believe that military spouse wellness matters and that we collectively deserve an organization dedicated to uplifting all the dimensions of our wellness.
Military spouse wellness matters because…
…one life lost to suicide is one too many. We want to vanquish the stigma attached to seeking help and educate ourselves on the warning signs that come up in our community.
….we’re often the decision makers in our homes when it comes to food and activities. Military spouses who focus on their personal wellness can in turn positively impact the wellness of their service members, their children and their community.
…our service members need to focus on the mission and they can better do that when they’re confident that we’re OK. Military spouses have a special kind of strength and often have a changing support system, which can present challenges.
…we’re people with hopes and dreams, vulnerabilities and fears. We need to build a firm foundation of multi-dimensional strength. We can do that by offering help to others who admit they’re struggling, asking for help when we need it and educating ourselves on the resources available so we can access them easily when a situation calls for them.
We invite you to join our wellness community at InDependent for friendship, accountability and inspiration. Joanna Guldin-Noll, digital influencer at the blog Jo, My Gosh! wrote, “You have worked so hard to cultivate a welcoming, non-judgmental space online (honestly it feels like going to a spa to me).”