If you’re anything like me, self-care is something that often gets pushed into the ‘nice to do’ pile rather than ‘must do. This is especially true during deployments but I often find it slipping at other times too. One of the joys of being the ‘default parent’ is you often end up looking after everyone else first.
But it’s time to stop! I’ll say that again because it’s so important. STOP PUTTING OFF SELF-CARE! I know it’s a cliché, but you can’t pour from an empty cup.
However, I do know that saying that is often easier than doing it. Especially when you are the only adult at home for months on end. So what can we do to make sure we don’t burn out?
First off, I think it’s worth saying what self-care is not. It is not going to the bathroom, having a shower, or going to the grocery store. In fact, it’s not doing chores of any kind…even if you get to do them in peace!
There might even be times when you have to prioritise self-care over chores. Yes, you need to make sure you have food so you can all eat, but could cleaning out the cupboards wait? Try one of these things instead:
Connecting with friends/family
If you can, connect with people in person. Grabbing a coffee together could make the world of difference to you both. Not just from the caffeine hit either!
Talking to people improves your sense of belonging and self-worth. A sense of belonging isn’t always easy to achieve in military life so grab these opportunities while you can.
More importantly, connecting with others gives you the opportunity to share. Talking about the things that are hard or challenging, makes them seem a little less overwhelming. In the military community, you’re also likely to be talking to someone who ‘gets it’ too. This will validate your feelings, making them easier to manage.
Even if you don’t particularly want to talk about your challenges, this is still a great form of self-care. Connecting with others reminds you of the emotional support that is available when you need it. Your friend might need a rant about their own challenges too. Listen, and give them the support they need.
If you can’t connect in person, or just haven’t made those connections yet in your posting, give your friends a call. Videochat with family. Wherever you have those connections in the world, pick up your phone and say hi. You won’t regret it.
All that for the price of a cup of coffee? What a bargain.
A great way to boost your self-esteem, especially during a deployment, is to challenge yourself to learn a new skill or complete a project.
When my partner is away, I often think of projects that I could complete by the time he gets back. It doesn’t always go according to plan, but it helps to have something to aim for and I enjoy the sense of achievement when I do pull it off!
It can often feel like you’re short on time when you’re looking after everyone else but a little time spent on self-care is time well spent.
Move your body
This can be tricky, especially when you feel like you are running around after other people all day. But if you don’t exercise, you will actually feel more lethargic and have less energy to look after your family.
The great thing is that it can be done at home if getting time to yourself away from the house is difficult. There are plenty of workout channels on YouTube, from line dancing to HIT workouts. It shouldn’t take long to find one you enjoy.
Exercising regularly, at whatever level of fitness, has great benefits for your physical and mental well-being. Seeing changes in your strength and progress towards goals does wonders for your self-esteem. Plus, exercising releases endorphins which help to improve your mood. You can’t argue with science…
Make a plan, for you
This might seem like a lot to think about but you can combine these elements. For instance, you could try a new exercise class or routine and challenge yourself to work out 2 or 3 times a week. Could you arrange to meet a friend for a regular coffee date (or wine date, no judgment here)?
Little changes like this will help you prioritise your self-care, even when you’re looking after everyone else. I find those connections with friends also give me something to look forward to each week and help mark the passage of time.
Whatever you decide to do, make a self-care plan for yourself. You’re worth the time spent on that and choosing to make yourself a priority is a confidence boost in itself. If you have children, you are also teaching them to look after their own physical and mental health as they get older. That’s a pretty good side effect if you ask me.