Deployments are always hard, especially your first deployment. The unknown can really eat away at you when your life seems to be in a state of limbo. Most of us know what it’s like to try to continue our education, have a child, move, or get settled in life. Add a deployment on top of all of life’s complications and it can cause a lot of stress. However, there are a lot of things you can do to lessen the stress of a deployment.
- Make connections. You need to have people in your corner. Yes, this means if you don’t know anyone, you’re going to have to put yourself out there. Introduce yourself to neighbors, find your passion. More importantly, hang out with people who have a strong moral compass and don’t get drawn into bad behavior that could possibly fray your relationship with your partner.
- Volunteer. I can’t say how gratifying volunteering can be. Not only are you giving time to a cause you believe it, but it’s experience you can list on your resume. Furthermore, if you are looking to get hired, many job opportunities will open up solely because you volunteered and made connections.
- Get moving. It’s really easy to stay at home and get sucked into watching TV, reading books or crafting. Even on the days you’re really depressed and just don’t want to get out of bed — get up, get dressed and go out. Go for a walk, go window shopping, grab a cup of coffee, or go to the gym. You’ll feel so much better getting a little fresh air and being around people, even if you’re not directly interacting with them.
- Keep busy. Start a playgroup or join MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). If you have a young child, keep them engaged with peers and make connections. If you want to meet other moms outside of the Marine Corps, MOPS is a great way to find a diverse group of ladies. One of the biggest misunderstandings about MOPS is that you don’t actually have to have preschoolers. Many MOPS Moms are pregnant or have just had their first baby. You can have a kindergartner and still belong to MOPS. It’s a great nationwide program with built in support and babysitting.
- Have a plan. Don’t start the deployment without having an idea of something you’d like to do. Set some goals for your family. Do you want to save money this deployment? Pay off debt? Finish a project? Whatever it is, talk to your spouse and set a course of action to make it happen. Don’t forget to call your insurance company to see if bumping down your coverage would be beneficial for you.
- Build your relationship. Use this opportunity of your spouse being away to reconnect with them. I highly recommend reading the book, His Need, Her Needs. My husband and I did this on our first deployment and answered the questions at the end of each chapter. It really gave us insight into what mattered most for us as individuals so we could better understand what the other person needed in order to find happiness in the relationship. I’ve also heard good recommendations about For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men and then the reverse title for men.
- Know when to hold back. If your husband is in a combat zone, you may not want to unload your problems at inopportune times. Before you dish the latest happenings, make sure it’s a good time and they’re ready to listen and digest what you have to say.
- Don’t forget to celebrate. Revel the halfway mark or meet up with some girlfriends for a vacation. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but take those little moments and soak them up. Know that there is an end to the deployment and celebrate how far you’ve come. If you’re one of the many spouses who will be celebrating a milestone or holiday alone, plan for it ahead. Don’t find yourself alone, falling in a downward spiral with no friends around.
- If you need help, ask. Everyone’s stress levels are different and there is no normal. If you’re feeling down in the dumps and are having trouble dealing with the daily issues of life, talk to a doctor. There are a lot of free and anonymous ways to ask for help. I highly recommend connecting with Military One Source. They can provide you with counseling, up to eight times for free off-base, with the option for more sessions. Another possibility is using Tricare for a referral. You don’t need to ask your doctor, just call 1-888-TRIWEST (1-888-874-9378).
- Reassure your spouse. Remind your loved one that you’re in for the long haul and tell them you appreciate how hard they’re working. Don’t forget to write letters and send special care packages. Mail always boosts the mood, even if you talk or email with your Marine regularly.
This article was originally published at USMC Life and Marine’s Blog, the official Department of Defense blog.