During deployment, many military spouses experience increased levels of stress and anxiety. Not only do they miss the friendship and regular help from their spouse, but they also deal with new struggles such as lacking regular communication, frustrating time zone differences, worrying about their service member’s safety, and handling household or childcare issues alone. All of these struggles can put serious stress on a military spouse during deployment.
If you are struggling with deployment stress, the good news is that you aren’t alone. I recently polled a group with hundreds of military spouses going through deployment. Most spouses reported that during a deployment they feel more frustrated or anxious than usual. Thankfully, they were also willing to share their tips and strategies that help them remain calm during deployment situations.
Find an activity you enjoy
Many spouses said that spending time at the gym or having a workout routine at home is important for them to handle their stress levels during deployment. Exercise releases endorphins that combat depression, so even a short run or a weight-lifting session can improve your mood for the rest of the day. If your workout takes place outside, you get the added bonus of soaking up sunlight and Vitamin D, which also help you relieve stress.
Most spouses said they handle deployment stress better when they have a short-term reward to look forward to. For some, this is a day at the spa, a break from their children, or a shopping trip. But it doesn’t have to be an expensive treat. Some spouses enjoy planning a local trip with friends, meeting someone for coffee, or just enjoying a cup of frozen yogurt. Spending time planning and looking forward to an event helps you focus on short-term rewards so you don’t get overwhelmed with the length of the deployment.
Whether you write letters to your spouse or daily reflections in a journal, writing is a therapeutic activity for many people. It’s helpful to express yourself and get some thoughts down on paper, especially if you are feeling bottled up or overwhelmed with deployment emotions.
Deployment can be a great time to explore new hobbies, try out a craft, or attempt to replicate Pinterest ideas. Not only do these activities help pass the time, but they can help you feel productive and accomplished, which is helpful to combat the usual uncertainty and lack of control during a deployment.
Yes, this was a popular answer among military spouses! Of course, alcohol can be a good reward after a challenging day, but it should always be enjoyed responsibly. Other similar answers included dessert, favorite foods, etc. Giving yourself an occasional treat is a good reminder that deployment life doesn’t have to be about loneliness, sacrifice, and depriving yourself all the time.
Netflix or other streaming service:
Binge-watching shows is another favorite way for spouses to deal with deployment stress. It fills the quiet evenings that they would typically spend with their spouse. Plus, deployment can be an opportunity to catch up on shows that you enjoy but your spouse may not be interested in watching.
A long, hot bath can be a relaxing way to recover from a stressful week. In fact, baths have several health benefits, including improved circulation, reduced inflammation, and increased serotonin—the chemical that increases happiness in your brain. So go ahead and take a long soak to wash away your worries.
Talk to someone
Relying on friends:
Most military spouses said they have a friend or go-to person to whom they talk during deployments. This may be a fellow military spouse who understands the challenges of military life, or it might be a family member or childhood friend who has known you for years. Either way, spouses found that talking to a nonjudgmental, friendly person helped them feel better after a bad day.
Prayer and Bible Study:
Connecting with others is important during deployment, so it’s no surprise that some military spouses find support through church activities. Quiet prayer time can help you feel calm in chaotic situations, and knowing you are surrounded by prayers from others can give you the strength you need to face deployment challenges.
If you are feeling continuously stressed or overwhelmed, then talking to a professional counselor can be helpful. There is no shame in seeking counseling during a deployment. In fact, military spouses can get free counseling sessions from Military One Source. You can also get a referral from TRICARE for additional sessions related to health concerns like depression or panic attacks.
Make life easier on yourself
Getting into a routine:
Parents raising kids during deployment repeatedly emphasized the importance of daily routines. Kids love steady repetition. If you have a morning routine, daily chores, or an after-school schedule, kids know what to expect — then they are less likely to whine and act out. Most parents suggested keeping life as regular as possible during deployment, so kids don’t add to your stress levels.
While this may be difficult to accept, many people need to lower their expectations and simplify life during deployment to prevent feeling overwhelmed with stress. This looks different in every household, depending on your job, number of children, etc. However, most spouses shared that they use some kind of shortcut during deployment. For some, that is freezer meals and food prep. For others, it means paying for grocery delivery or hiring a babysitter. Others just use paper plates sometimes or cut back on their volunteer hours. The message is clear: do whatever works for you to get through those tough days. Judge yourself gently, and you’ll be surprised how much less stressful life can be!
As you can see, there are numerous ways military spouses can reduce stress during deployment. Whether you make small changes or take a giant step forward, try some of these stress-relieving ideas during your spouse’s next deployment.