By Colleen Marchi
The cost of freedom and defense of our country lands on the shoulders of the brave men and women who choose to serve our country. As military spouses, our role in helping our service members fulfill the mission often renders in the form of a silent support system to our spouses and broader military community. We so often lose sight of our own priorities and personal identity as we take the helm of life on the home front. The emotional toll of deployments and TDYs that permeate the entire family can be difficult to manage. Should one factor in employment and financial challenges to an already strained lifestyle then the burden becomes even more difficult to bear. Our families endure challenges compared to civilian families, therefore the importance of prioritizing one’s mental health cannot be understated.
October 10th marks World Mental Health Day and serves as a reminder that we must prioritize our mental health as military spouses for the benefit of ourselves, our families, and the mission of our military.
Keep these five tips in mind to help make your mental well-being a priority:
- Connect with your community: Feeling isolated at a new duty station can be difficult. While it is challenging to break out of your comfort zone, having a support system of your own will make hard times easier. Consider connecting with others through local groups on social media or volunteering for a charity.
- Maintain your personal identity- This can be challenging as we often fall into the background but keeping our own sense of self is crucial to our wellbeing. Stay in touch with friends, even if it is long distance. Find a hobby or interest that makes you happy outside of your being a spouse or parent.
- Move your body daily: Physical activity is one of the best ways to support physical and mental wellness by reducing stress and anxiety. It can feel impossible to squeeze in a workout but try scheduling a 30-minute walk as you take a phone call or 15 minutes to stretch before bed.
- Remember that self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity: Keeping this mindset will serve as a necessary reminder that you cannot pour from an empty pitcher.
- Ask for Help: This may be the most difficult to execute (I know it is for me). Sometimes it feels like asking for help is a sign that we can’t do it all. It is so important to know what your limitations are and ask before you feel too overwhelmed. It is not easy to be vulnerable, but it is critical to our well-being. Sometimes it may be as simple as asking for help with laundry or cleaning or it could be as important as asking for help with your own mental health.
Military spouses are strong, resilient, and brave but that does not mean we do not need to take time to prioritize ourselves. You matter, your mental health matters and you are not alone.
Colleen Marchi is an author, Army spouse and mother of three boys who has dedicated her life to helping families with their emotional health. Her lifelong passion to help children and parents reduce stress led her to the field of psychology where she worked in schools helping young children reduce their anxiety and improve their sleep. She is the founder and CEO of The Magical Order of Brave Knights, an award-winning product and book that helps children identify and overcome nighttime fears.