Deployment Series: 8 Ways to Combat Anxiety
Here we are in the fourth installment of the monthly deployment series and also the most difficult topic I never wanted to write about. Introduction, technology, and meal planning posts will catch you right up and bring you to today’s topic of anxiety.
That’s the absolute truth.
A capable, responsible mom of three, 16 years into our military family adventure, I ventured into a season of deployment with every confidence in the world. Organizing, color-coding schedules and meal planning are my spiritual gifts and I could handle it. No matter that my husband is an incredibly hands-on dad and equal partner in the housekeeping and parenting departments. But with him on the other side of the world for the better part of a year? Piece of cake!
Or so I thought.
My body started to rebel. Physical symptoms of stress were going off like alarm bells pretty soon after he left: Facial numbness, racing heartbeat, lump in my throat, jelly legs, tension headaches, etc.
And I would have called baloney on anyone who tried to tell me this was a thing before it happened to me.
I thought something was terribly wrong with me, like a disease or something, but when I realized it was my body’s fight or flight system activated, I knew I had to figure out a way to release the adrenaline and calm the heck down.
Apparently, while I thought I could totally handle my husband’s deployment, my body knew otherwise. I didn’t have family around or any sort of military spouse support. Three children and a house were solely in my care for the better part of a year.
The anxiety hit early on and I learned to acknowledge it, but not fear it. Tackling it head-on with offense, not waiting for the symptoms and then play defense.
Here are 8 ways to combat anxiety:
- Acknowledge: As soon as I learned that I didn’t have a terrible disease and my symptoms were purely from anxiety, I relaxed.
- Breathe: A counselor taught me proper breathing techniques to counteract any tendency towards hyperventilation. It’s similar to the breathing taught in yoga and is instantly calming.
- Music: Crank up the tunes! Music has a way of getting into your soul and altering your mood. If all you hear these days is Kidz Bop, it’s time to switch it up. Introduce the kids to your music. In my opinion, it’s not physically possible to have a racing heartbeat while listening to Billy Currington, just saying.
- Exercise: Hard trail runs, a bike ride, roller skating with your kids, walk to the mailbox. For the love of Richard Simmons, do something. Move your body! Channel that adrenaline to release during daily exercise and you’ll likely keep those pesky anxious symptoms at bay.
- Talking to People: Talking to others face-to-face provides a temporary distraction necessary for symptoms to subside. Focusing on someone else also takes your mind off of your own stuff. Friends can help share the emotional burden of deployment as well as keep you company for dinner or join you for exercise.
- Talking to God: 1 Peter 5:7 says to “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” Can’t argue with that. I’ve read this a thousand times but this verse came to life during a stressful deployment.
- Serve: I’ve mentioned getting the focus off of yourself, and there is no better way than by volunteering. I didn’t want to add anything to my plate during deployment, but simple things like making dinner for a sick friend or joining a church group to serve the homeless community at the downtown park did wonders for my anxiety. I simply forgot about it while meeting the needs of others.
- Podcasts: This is a last resort if you truly can’t find friends nearby to talk with. Sometimes I’d fold laundry and turn on a positive and uplifting podcast like The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey or The Alison Show that made it seem like friends were right there in my living room. Not a substitute for real-life friends, but in a pinch, the distraction totally helped.
You can tell from this list that I’ve chosen a non-pharmaceutial approach to combat anxiety symptoms. That might not work for everyone, but it sure works for me and I wanted to share. For a thorough list of resources available to military spouses struggling with anxiety, visit Soldier’s Wife, Crazy Life. No sense re-inventing that wheel.
Staying positive, hopeful and implementing the above strategies into my daily life has drastically reduced anxious symptoms.
And you know what?
Even without anxiety, I’d rather live with good music, friends, exercise and service to others, so the daily practices are a win/win.