As a military spouse, it can be easy to lose yourself. You are usually “so-and-so’s spouse” or “dependent”. In a system where you are rarely known by your own name, and personal decisions are based on mission requirements, you can easily forget who you are and what makes YOU happy. And, since military spouses are a fairly selfless group of people, the loss of identity can go on for years with only a nagging feeling that something isn’t right.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Military spouses can be amazing at supporting their active counterpart while also staying true to themselves. To do so, it’s important to take time to care for yourself outside of your military role. In other words, treat yo’ self. It will be a great thing not only for you, but for those you care for as well. Here are a few ideas:
Start a new activity.
What sorts of activities do you enjoy? Any sports that you like to play? Maybe you are artistic? No matter your path, a new activity that is all about you can help gain back some balance in an often unbalanced world. This is where I lack, but know a new activity would do me good. Eventually, I’d love to join a roller derby team.
Set a date with yourself.
Setting a date just for you can feel scary and a bit embarrassing – but it shouldn’t. At the end of the day, you are the one that has to live in your skin and live the life you have. Why not spend it getting to know yourself and loving yourself. Sometimes that means being alone and exploring who you are. It might only be a few hours a month, but you should strive to set some time apart to just let you be you in a way that is relaxing and enjoyable. Maybe it’s indulging in your favorite pizza, or time alone with a good book. You don’t have to get fancy with your plans. My two favorite “dates” include: a couple of hours on a Friday night locked in the bathroom painting my nails while enjoying a bath and wine and binge watching shows on Netflix, and the other is getting to drive country roads in a manual transmission – preferably with the windows down and the music up.
Date your partner.
A part of who you are is knowing who you are when you are with your partner. Ideally, you can ditch the kids (or any other responsibilities) for a few hours and enjoy each other’s company away from the military. You know, be the people you are when you don’t have uniforms involved. Again, it doesn’t have to be extravagant. This part of caring for yourself is all about who you are as a partner – who you were before the military and who you’ll be as a couple after the military. My husband and me will always be adrenaline junkies. When we get the chance it’s roller coasters, cliff jumping, and skydiving.
As spouses, and if you are a parent, you likely find yourself putting others’ wants and needs in front of yours. It’s important, though, to spoil yourself too on occasion. Maybe it’s getting tickets to a concert you’ve always wanted to go to, or an outfit you’ve been eyeballing even though you have no idea where you’ll wear it (wear it for no reason at all! Wear it because you LOVE it!). It’s okay to love yourself and give yourself some of what you want.
Explore your passions.
Let’s be honest here for a minute. Adulting is hard, and sometimes it sucks. The monotony of life can weigh heavy on your soul. This is especially true when your life is packed full of tasks and activities that you don’t particularly enjoy. Finding your passions can help you enjoy the person you are and bring happiness into your world. It also gives you some of your identity back because you are doing it solely for you.
Volunteer or get a job.
This probably sounds a bit ridiculous, but a lot of spouses find their calling through professional activities. Whether it’s volunteering or landing a paying job, many spouses gain a bit of their independent nature back when they have something they enjoy putting their time and energy into. Yes, it’s work, but with a flexible job that works with military life, a job or volunteer activity could be the perfect outlet to help you feel better about yourself.
Don’t be afraid to speak up.
I don’t like stigmas, so this is a no brainer for me to include. Part of treating yourself kindly and caring for yourself is knowing when something is wrong. If you aren’t able to get out of a slump or find yourself overly anxious (or you notice this of a loved one or friend), speak up. Talk to anyone that will listen, and demand the help that you are entitled too. There’s NO shame in getting help. Rather, it proves how incredibly strong you are.
Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be time consuming or focused entirely on your physical self (although exercise is great for self care too!) Something as small as spending a bit of time meditating can do wonders for your emotional well being. And, although every bit of self care requires time out of a busy schedule, you’ll find that your improved mind, body, and spirit will have more love and energy to give to the people and activities in your life – including yourself.
Written by: Jessica Howington, MilSpouse & Blue Star Families Volunteer
P.S. Interested in volunteering? Why not volunteer with BSF!