Life can be difficult. And while that is true for everyone, it can still be hard to reach out for help. You can get stuck in your head, thinking things are worse for others and feel guilty that you are struggling. You can wonder “Why can’t I keep it together?” You can look at the many great resources available and think, “It’s not that bad so I shouldn’t take a spot from someone who may need that resource more.” And you can be afraid to actually reach out. I have had all of those thoughts at various times.
Improving your mental health is important for your well-being and outlook on life. This is a life-long journey that will continually change in the different seasons of your life. You may talk to family and friends, which is incredibly helpful, but sometimes you may need to reach out to a trained professional. And the great news is that there are numerous resources out there for service members and their families. Many of them only require you to make a phone call to take the first step.
REACHING OUT FOR COUNSELING
Some years ago, I reached out to Military OneSource three separate times for their Non-Medical Counseling, which is free. We had three kids who had challenges and our schedule was filled with speech, occupational, and physical therapies, as well as other specialist appointments. Parenting was not what I imagined. We were adjusting from another deployment and I wanted to be a more understanding wife. Life seemed a bit overwhelming.
Each time that I called to schedule the twelve sessions of counseling was for a different reason. And each time I cried on the phone to the triage person who answered. The counseling options work great with busy schedules, and I could choose in person, by phone, via secure chat, or by secure video session. Each round of sessions was equally helpful in learning ways to better manage expectations and perfectionism. Talking with a trained counselor made a huge difference in retraining my thought process and learning to set boundaries. And I was able to change my perspective and not compare myself to others as much.
During my husband’s last deployment, I wanted to make the most of our adventure here on the home front. Four kids, four different schools, extracurricular activities, and a busy schedule had let chaos slowly creep into our home. My mind was full, and I wanted to have a calmer life at home and be less distracted for the kids. The guidance and tips that the counselors had previously given helped immensely. However, after looking at resource options, I decided that the help most needed was focusing on health and wellness. So, I decided to call Military OneSource’s Health and Wellness Coaching.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS COACHING CHANGED MY LIFE
When I called Military OneSource to set up the free year of coaching, I did so with the hope of being more focused, getting more organized, and reducing stress. During our first phone session, the amazing coach prompted discussion on how to get these goals into concrete actions. A checklist was started with ways to create a more balanced home life. These items seemed simple on paper and yet the difference was immediate.
Armed with that checklist, I followed a morning routine and came up with a strategy to tidy the house, and slowly removed the clutter and papers that were visible. Next was tackling things that were out of sight and continuing to reduce the number of items in our home, drawer by drawer, room by room.
It was difficult giving up items that we “might use someday” yet holding on to these items only added to the clutter. Each time an object, bag, or box left the house it brought a new breath of fresh air. I started putting important personal things that used to be in boxes out on display, now that the kids were older. And I used special occasion items more regularly to enjoy them. Being surrounded by items that we love increased my positive mental health.
And then what happened next surprised me. What had started as small steps towards the goal of reducing stress had started me on a whole new journey. History fascinates me, especially the resiliency of military spouses from the past, and more specifically the WWII home front. So as the coach encouraged me to set more goals, I started making personal changes. I started wearing Victory Red lipstick every day as a way to connect to the past. I had a WWII Homefront month where I learned how to crochet, explore rationing, and tried to follow the conservation motto of “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” I learned how to knit and borrowed more books from the library.
All of this inspired me to continue to go through the boxes and drawers and closets and to get more focused on living simply and having balance. Then March of 2020 happened. As things changed and the world shut down, life changed as we knew it. Rationing became real with shortages. Knitting and crocheting was not just a fun skill to learn but served as a way to keep busy at home. And the decluttering process continued on.
FOLLOW YOUR PASSIONS FOR POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH
My family enjoys going to reenactment events and would love to get involved when time, money, and schedules allow it. The small changes made from the Health and Wellness Coaching inspired me to take small steps toward that goal. So, when I turned forty last summer, I decided to do the “40s in my 40’s!” I began to wet set my hair into pin curls and styled myself as authentically as possible. I purchased vintage and used vintage-style clothes while learning about clothing rations during WWII. My vintage pin collection continued to grow. And I continued to learn about the incredible sacrifices made here at home and overseas.
One fascinating fact I learned after buying a collection of pins was the connection with “V for Victory” and Beethoven’s fifth symphony. Morse code for the letter “V” is ‘dot-dot-dot-dash’ (short-short-short-long). These are also the first four notes in the opening of Beethoven’s fifth symphony. BBC broadcasts to occupied Europe would begin with this melody as people listened with outlawed radio sets.
These four notes became a symbol of victory, and the short-short-short-long was hummed, whistled, and tapped as a message of hope and defiance. It was amazing to learn how the letter V, and four memorable notes from Beethoven, gave hope to many. Learning about history has inspired me to change my outlook, and not surprisingly, having more positive thoughts has benefited my mental health. Humming these four notes provides a shift in thought and I am inspired by the resiliency of those who kept on when hope seemed dim.
I am now in the second year of Health and Wellness Coaching offered by Military OneSource and am equally grateful for their Non-Medical Counseling! It has been exciting to pursue a passion that has brought so much joy. Living a more vintage lifestyle and paying homage to the past makes every day more special. The dream of some day reenacting has touched my life in a daily way. Our home is far more organized and tidy, though definitely lived in. My mental health has improved with daily routines, limiting distractions, and continuing to declutter. I look forward to seeing what happens next!
Military OneSource provides free Health and Wellness Coaching for one year and twelve free sessions of Non-Medical Counseling, as well as a variety of services and resources.
For a list of services and eligibility: Eligibility for Military Support Services | Military OneSource
Toll-Free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year: 800-342-9647 https://www.militaryonesource.mil
Elizabeth Fought has been married for 15 years to her husband, who is a soldier in the Ohio Army National Guard. They love being a military family and have four children, from ages 13 to 6. She loves volunteering, reading, learning, and history, and is especially inspired by the resiliency of those on the WWII Home Front. She is grateful for the many wonderful resources and organizations that support the military and veteran community!