The Deployment Chronicles: Five Ways to Combat Loneliness
We have all been through rough times, especially when dealing with military life. There are disappointments, fears, and the all too common feeling of loneliness.
Recently, the idea of loneliness has crept into my thoughts on a daily basis. You see, right now my husband is deployed, making me feel a little out on a limb. But, I know that family and friends are just a phone call or text away. What really did me in lately was saying goodbye to my lab-mix, Maggie. She was almost 15 years old. She was faithfully by my side through almost half of my life. Saying goodbye to her was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.
The feeling of loneliness at that point was and still is very real to me. No matter what was going on, I usually had my husband or Maggie around to remind me that there were others that needed to be tended to in the world. But now, it is just me. What I struggle with every day is how to overcome this feeling, not only for my sanity, but for my health during the remainder of my pregnancy. Maintaining control over my ever volatile emotions and health are major concerns.
Whether by myself or with tons of people around me every day, I came to realize that I can still feel very lonely. There are a few things that have helped me cope.
• Take one day at a time. When people ask me how I am doing, I still get a little choked up. As my husband likes to tell me, I am stubborn. I like putting up a strong front, but I am working on being more honest about when I need help. When I get asked this question, I find it hard to answer honestly, but the best way I can respond is by saying that I'm taking one day at a time. I have to constantly remind myself that I can't control the future. No one can. Each day I wake up and tell myself that today I am going to do my best and what gets done, gets done and what doesn't can wait until tomorrow. The world is not going to fall apart if I don't get all the dishes in the sink washed and put away the same day I use them.
• Make your health a priority. Easier said than done most days. I had one break down day where I totally ate my feelings (yes box of Moon Pies, I am talking to you). If you are feeling lonely then you need to make yourself a priority. If you need to change something with your physical, nutritional, or mental health, then by all means do it!
o Physical Health – Stay physically healthy by joining a workout group or participating in a workout challenge for the time your spouse is deployed or gone for a long period of time. I have found that I am able to sweat out a good amount of the stress that has built up around me. This has meant that sometimes I have been crying or on the verge of tears in a yoga class or at the gym. If this has happened to you then just do what I do and tell yourself that it is okay. Everything is going to be okay.
o Nutritional Health – Sometimes focusing your energy on eating particularly healthfully can help you mentally, especially if you can pinpoint the way certain foods make you feel. I have foods that I keep around for comfort like pasta and rice. When I make a dinner that includes these items I find that I am happier, but eating a tub of ice cream brings on the opposite emotions and I just want to crawl in a bed and cry myself to sleep.
o Mental Health – Often, when I'm upset, I tell myself to put my big girl panties on and deal, because there are people out there that have it worse than me. But other times, I still need to have my breakdown moment. I know that if I have more than a few breakdowns in a short time period it is time to call my mom or talk to a friend. You need to acknowledge when you need help and when you need to talk to someone. I am lucky and I have a great support team that has offered advice on numerous fronts, like losing a pet, have a child while your spouse is deployed, and just living alone.
• Get some shut eye. Getting one or two extra hours of sleep can do wonders for your health. There are so many health benefits to getting a good night's sleep. So why is it that sleep seems impossible when you're feeling lonely? I wish I knew. But, when I feel lonely I know that sleep is one of the things that can help me the most so I order myself to set a routine — in bed by 10 p.m. and lights out by 11 p.m. This helps for those mornings that I wake up early and feel like getting in a yoga practice or a run (I loved a run in the morning before I had morning sickness!).
• Do something for yourself. Designate a day for pampering, whether that is a spa day or just a day when you sit on the porch with a cup of lemonade. Decompress. The idea is to get out and experience something that makes you happy. This can even mean giving yourself the day off from the gym to sit on the couch, watch movies all day, and eat those sweets you have been craving.
• Make sure to see people. This has been my lifesaver these last few months. I have friends and family who have scheduled time to either see me or call me on the phone on a regular basis. This helps provide accountability in my schedule. Often it's the weekend when I find I haven't talked to a single person all day. That is when I realize that I need to get up and get out and go to the gym, the grocery store, or pick up dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. It's great to have weekly events when you see the same people. For instance, I try to make it to a yoga class every Thursday. And on Sundays, I have an open invitation from some friends who let me drop by in the evening just to talk for a few hours. If you're a mom, Hello Mamas, a free social site, can help you find like-minded moms in your area so you can grow your local support network.
How do you combat loneliness? If you have any additional recommendations please leave them in the comments below. The more suggestions, the more we can help each other.