Deployment Stress: Managing The Stress of Military Deployment
Deployments are tough! Leaving your family behind or having your family member leave, both are equally stressful. No matter how much you prepare, when the time comes you go numb.
Not everyone can see through the smile on your face. There are various stressors that affect you differently at different stages of deployment.
Practicing stress management techniques is very important so that you can strike a balance. Without stress management things get way tougher. I’ve tried to put together a list of ways you can cope with deployment stress.
But before we get to that, let’s understand what deployment stress actually is…
What is deployment stress?
For army personnel and their family deployment is not anything new. We are all aware of how deployment works. You can experience stress at different levels of deployment. The stress one experiences before, during and after deployment is called deployment stress.
There are so many things that come to your mind when you start to near deployment. And sometimes you can be so overwhelmed by your emotions that it might result in stress and anxiety.
Stress in such situations is usually due to concerns about your loved one’s safety, taking care of your family single handedly, finance, being away from family, etc.
Nobody likes to be the missing parent. An army spouse has high chances of experiencing extreme stress caused due to deployment. Lack of communication, difficulty in matching time zones, managing home, job and children all alone can be challenging.
Being able to manage your stress can be very helpful in such times. The uncertainty of things can take a toll on your mental health. Being the service member or the family, stress is something that is coming your way.
But don’t you worry, I’ve a perfect stress management plan for you!
Let’s quickly look at the symptoms of deployment stress first:
- Emotional symptoms- there’s a lot of sadness, fear, worry, frustration & anticipation
- Behavioral symptoms- anger, irritation, can’t keep calm
- Cognitive symptoms- poor focus/thoughts/memory, negative mindset
- Social symptoms- peer distancing, avoiding social contact
Also read: Try This Exercise To Stop Negative Thinking
Ways to Cope with Deployment Stress
Let’s begin with the pre-deployment phase.
1. Communicate well. Express your feelings and concerns with each other. Share your expectations, fears, ‘what ifs’, everything! There is so much emotion involved in this situation that only communication can sooth things down. Don’t be afraid of opening your heart.
2. Create memories. Be there for each other. Create as many memories as possible so that both of you can hold on to them during the deployment period. Spending time together is only going to strengthen your relations and will create a relaxed atmosphere, eliminating stress.
3. Look for people in similar situations. Knowing that you are not alone itself is a relief. Get to know other spouses, they can be your support group. You can learn from their experience.
4. Enroll yourself. Do something that interests you. Take up a job, join classes, take classes, social work etc. indulge in something that you can look forward to. Empty mind shelters the devil, keep yourself occupied doing something productive.
5. Create/join a support group. Meet with people in similar situations. You can plan lunch dates, events, get together, etc. to keep a check on how you and others are coping. You can always benefit from one another.
6. Don’t mask your emotions. Suppressing your emotions can only cause trouble. If you have something in your mind, speak up! Let it out of your system. Being able to express your feelings and emotions will only make you stronger.
7. Learn stress management techniques. Look for stress management techniques that work for you. Get to know them and practice them regularly. You can try exercises, journaling, meditation, etc.
8. Don’t try to control things. Trying to control what’s not in your reach is just a waste of time and energy. To keep mental peace try to concentrate on things that you can control. Focus on your family, friends, work, hobbies and whatever that’s close to you.
9. Self-care. Self-care is important at all times. Do regular exercise, take healthy meals, and sleep well. Take time off for yourself, enjoy, don’t drown yourself in work and responsibility.
10. Avoid assumption/judgment about the other. There has been struggle and difficulties at both ends. So try to understand the other’s point of view as well. Having a positive attitude and empathy for each other will result in reduced stress and frustration.
11. Be honest and open. You’ve been apart for a long time. You’ve been overwhelmed by emotions and struggles all this while. Being open about your feelings is very, very important at this point. Both of you must have changed a bit during the course of the deployment. Only being openly honest about yourself can help in understanding the change.
12. Be patient. Be patient with each other. Both of you were functioning at a pace which has now changed. There are a lot of emotions and expectations involved. Being patient can help you get through this initial phase smoothly.
13. Vacationing together. Make plans to go out on a holiday. It can be as small as an evening together or as big as going on a vacation elsewhere. This helps rekindle the joy, admiration and love for each other.
There are a few ways you can eliminate deployment stress from your life. I know this doesn’t look like a huge strategic plan but trust me this works. Because small things make a huge difference.
If life throws lemons at you, don’t just make a lemonade, plant a damn lemon tree! All I’m trying to say is make the best out of your situations. Don’t focus on what is in the past or what is about to happen. Focus on the present, on things that are in your control.
Worrying about something that’s inevitable is doing you no good. So kick that stress out of your life and just focus on doing good and being good. Because what you put there comes back to you.
I hope this article helps you in eliminating deployment stress from your life. If you know someone in this situation do share the article with them so that they can benefit as well.
Do tell me about your special tricks to manage deployment stress in the comment section below!
Remember, you’re not alone!
Take care! Stay safe!