Mindset Shift and How Rephrasing Can Help You Find Joy Again

A Mindset Shift Changes Everything!

Life as a Military Spouse is not easy, so when someone mentions the term “Mindset Shift,” we might immediately roll our eyes, scoff and revert to internally scrolling through all of the not-so-easy things that come to mind. There are unexpected challenges, periods of resentment, anger, isolation, new chapters beginning with every move, the exhaustion of starting over with a new job, career and our child’s school, maintaining the home front as a single, yet married parent, the task of trying to remember to take care of ourselves and the list goes on and on. The only thing that ever remains consistent is inconsistency. Routines and schedules often become a joke as our spouse’s work routine and schedule is constantly changing. Deployments pop up, missions are sporadic, shifts can change in a heartbeat and the demands at work can mean missed family dinners and flying solo while taxiing kids from one extracurricular activity to the next. All of this, accompanied by the demands of daily life, can really suck the joy out of our days and leave us to wonder if there even is a “bright side” to anything anymore.

As a Military Spouse, I have often times found myself placing blame on inadequate objects or people who actually have no control over what happens. I’ve had my moments of cursing the government for not seeing me as contributing member of our family. I’ve had my share of venting to other spouses about how things would be different if women ran the military (#girlpower), I’ve hated my share of planes for breaking down in Hawaii when my husband “has to drink one more Mai Tai” on the beach and I am at home dealing with a sick child while the other feels compelled to throw a tantrum every 15-30 minutes. I’ve developed resentment and anger towards my husband for being able to continue to live his dreams while mine have all been crushed just like so many of our household goods. As someone who has inadvertently (or genetically) been a glass half-empty type of person, this way of thinking was part of my everyday life – until one day, and years of therapy later, I refused to allow it to continue stealing my joy. I mean, where has it gotten me?

A Mindset Shift Can Be Powerful!

Let me preface the rest of this by saying: The ability to create and maintain positive thinking and a mindset shift if you are not used to seeing the better side of things is downright HARD! It can even be torturous at times. I am not at all trying to over dramatize this nor am I trying to set you up to think that this is going to happen overnight. For me, this mindset shift has been years in the making – 18 to be exact! When I first met my husband, one of the things that drew me to him was his upbeat, positive attitude. He was (is) ALWAYS happy – almost annoyingly happy. The Ted Lasso, “I think things come into our lives to help us get from one place to a better one” kind of happy. It was encouraging and helped me to see that sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side. But then, after being married for a few years, the positivity became completely one-sided. My life felt halted while his seemed to be in constant motion. The struggles and challenges I mentioned above compounded into emotions that I buried deep inside of me until I realized my mindset was part of my problem. The way I looked at life and our situation was not the same as how my husband saw things. He was excited, loved the adventure, progressed in his career and adapted easily to change. I was depressed, disconnected, miserable, and a complete fun sponge. Nothing, absolutely nothing brought me joy.

Ironically, as an educational coach and consultant, my main purpose is to encourage parents and teachers to see the positive contributions they are making to their students and children while overcoming challenges and thriving in adversity. A joke, right?! It’s kind of like taking healthy eating advice from a doctor who is severely overweight. We never know the full story, but some things just do not make sense. Other times, the teacher becomes the student and the light bulb moment just hits! After years of helping others, but not seeing the same results with myself, I knew something had to change. Maybe I had prevented myself from developing a growth mindset because I knew how much work it was. Maybe I just knew how much easier it is to remain in a negative state of thinking. Maybe it was because I am stubborn, and I didn’t want my husband to know that he has been right all these years and that positive thoughts really do lead to positive results. Maybe it’s because my role as a military spouse turned out to be way more responsibility than I ever knew existed. Maybe I just kept telling myself the lie that my life was so much harder than anyone else’s. None of those thoughts were doing me any good. I can’t exactly pinpoint what flipped the switch. All I knew was that it was time to start practicing what I preached and my mindset needed to shift.

Shifting your mindset is a process. It takes time and consistent practice. You can find yourself easily reverting back to your old way of thinking because that is where you are the most comfortable. I will stress to you, though, that if you stick with the idea that you can find way more joy in this life with positive thinking and if you practice it regularly, your entire outlook and perspective on life will change!

 If you find yourself relating to anything that I have said here or you just know you could use a little bit of a mindset shift yourself, I encourage you to begin trying to focus on the positive by practicing something I call the “rephrasing method.” I practice this almost daily (because, again, if life wasn’t hard enough being a military spouse adds that cherry on top) and I can attest to how much of a difference it has made. When you first start, you might even write down your thoughts, so when you find yourself struggling to the extreme, you can remind yourself of the days where rephrasing helped guide you back towards the light. Here are a few examples of how I have used the rephrasing method to work through difficult moments and challenges.   

  1. Establishing medical care and starting over every move is time-consuming, frustrating and daunting. REPHRASE (Mindset Shift): Finding new care is time consuming and frustrating, but I have learned how to ask questions and advocate for my children and myself. Starting over is not easy and has so many challenges, but this will not last forever and one day we will be settled and laying down roots.
  2. I am so tired of fixing things, taking care of the kids, maintaining the home front and doing “all the things” while my husband is deployed or on a mission. REPHRASE (Mindset Shift): I am so thankful I have learned to fix a multitude of things, am fully capable of taking care of the kids and maintaining the home front on my own (even if clean laundry sits on the couch for a week) and can do “all the things” because my husband and family would be lost without me (even if the military doesn’t see me, I see me…and YOU!).
  3. I’ve had to sacrifice my career because the military continues to move us and continuing to start over is exhausting. REPHRASE (Mindset Shift): Although my dreams of being an elementary school principal seem long gone, the military has provided me with the opportunity to teach across the nation, which has now allowed me the opportunity to gain a better understanding of education and a unique perspective that very few other educators will ever have. I am now establishing my own coaching and consulting business that became a new dream of mine and I credit the military for opening this door to me.
  4. My husband is gone, I am completely exhausted and I have no idea what to cook for dinner because my kids won’t eat it anyway. REPHRASE (Mindset Shift): I am so tired that I cannot cook, so praise Jesus that my kids will love having cereal for dinner…again!
  5. My husband is gone, I just ran out of gas on a California freeway, my kids are in the car, I may not be in a safe spot, and I only have 3 people I can call. REPHRASE (Mindset Shift): Take a deep breath and assess the situation. Luckily, I have 3 people I can call and am not in the middle of the freeway. Everything will be fine. You got this!

How about you? Are you able to take control of your mind and try the rephrasing method? I am no Ted Lasso, and I certainly still have my share of mommy and military meltdowns, but with all of the things in this crazy life I cannot control, my mind is something I can. After all, I would be lost without it! It takes practice, but I promise it will work. And if you learn to practice it early on in your military marriage, you will be way better off than me. Sending positive vibes!

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Erin Stock
Erin grew up in Widefield, a small town just south of Colorado Springs, CO. Although she was surrounded by the military, she did not meet her husband, an Air Force Pilot, until they had both graduated from college. Erin has spent almost 20 years in education working as a classroom teacher, Literacy Specialist and Coach. Although Erin holds a MA in Educational Leadership and is also a National Board Certified Teacher, the best education Erin has ever received has been the gift of teaching across the nation. She credits the military with providing her the opportunity to learn more about education than she ever could have throughout her college years. Erin is a woman of faith and a mom to two young children. She is passionate about mental health support for spouses and also raises awareness regarding the dangers of Fentanyl. Erin and her family are currently serving their 7 th assignment in New Hampshire. She enjoys reading personal growth books and researching educational topics, but ends up spending the majority of her time playing with her kids, creating systems in her household, building a supportive community for spouses and dreaming of her forever home. She is also an occasional podcaster.