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Stressed? You're not alone
Notes from an almost-military wife
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This week, I had a moment of revelation. After a particularly stressful month, I was on the phone with my mother during a rare evening of unfettered free time.
"I'm trying to think what I should be getting done right now, but I can't come up with anything," I told her.
Her solution was blissfully simple, and yet was one I never would have found on my own: do nothing.
“You're going to hang up the phone, and spend the rest of the evening watching TV and relaxing," she said.
Do nothing? Relax instead of finishing my to-do list? It was a hard pill to swallow at first, but I did finally heed mom's advice. And after a quiet evening with my feet up in front of the television, I felt refreshed and energized for work the following morning.
That evening reminded me of the importance of taking time out from the daily routine to catch our breath and unwind. And sadly, the vast majority of us, myself included, don't do this nearly as often as we should. The bills pile up, the kids need to be shuttled, the house needs cleaning — with such hectic lifestyles, who has time to relax?
But, as military spouses, we need to be especially mindful of the negative impact stress can have on our health and well-being. Military life, despite its many wonderful aspects, can unfortunately create a host of stressful situations — deployment, relocation and uncertainty about the future, just to name a few. And the more spouses are exposed to such stressors, the more vulnerable we become.
The American Psychiatric Association released a study in April concerning the mental health of service members and their spouses, and the likelihood of these groups to seek treatment for mental health issues. The results were troubling. While the majority of those polled rated their mental health as good or excellent (71 percent of service members and 75 percent of spouses), nearly half reported difficulty sleeping at least twice a week, and just over one-third reported a lack of interest in daily activities at least twice a week. Sixty-two percent of spouses reported experiencing either a little or a lot of stress from handling domestic issues and raising children alone.
The results of this study come through loud and clear: we military spouses must reduce our stress.
But how? While effects of stress such as headaches, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping or concentrating can be easy to spot, the solutions are often less obvious. Here are a couple ideas from the online forum that will get you started down the road to relaxation:
• Skip the comfort food and get moving. When we are stressed, our first impulse is often to forgo the gym and reach for the ice cream instead. This only makes matters worse by draining energy and lowering immune systems defenses.
• Eliminate one stressor. Is something hanging over your head? Pick one bill to pay or area of the house to clean and set a time to tackle it.
• Make time for hobbies. Even just reading for 10 minutes can have a significant positive impact.
• Breathe. Pause what you're doing and take a few deep breaths.
• Laugh. Turns out laughter is the best medicine. The average 5-year-old laughs 400 times a day, and we'd all do well to aim for that number.
So the next time you're feeling overwhelmed, remember mom's advice: relax. It'll all be OK.
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