The Wellness Spotlight Series highlights military spouses and their real world health and wellness journeys in a Facebook Live series. Below is an excerpt of Claire’s feature.
CLaire is a wife, homeschooling mom, teacher, and organization junkie. SHe enjoys reading, early morning outdoor walks, trying out new recipes, and hosting friends and family in her home. Claire also helps military spouses engage in conversations about identity.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY AS A MILITARY SPOUSE.
I came to the military a little later in life than most. At 34, my husband had a career shift and left the world of civilian ministry and commissioned as an Army chaplain. I left the comforts and stability of my world that included a wonderful extended family whom I spent time with regularly and a beautiful hometime that I love (Chattanooga, TN!). We packed up all of our earthly possessions and loaded our three children (then ages four, six, and eight) and moved 24 hours away to Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX. What a shock to our systems. Since that time we have also been stationed at Fort Gordon, GA, Fort Jackson, SC, and are currently at Fort Polk, LA. I came into military life full of naivety and fear of the many unknowns. It has turned out to be a huge (and ongoing) test of my faith as well as one of life’s most rewarding and enriching experiences.
IF YOU ARE A HEALTH OR WELLNESS EXPERT, TELL US ABOUT IT AND HOW IT HAS IMPACTED YOUR WELLNESS JOURNEY.
I don’t consider myself a health or wellness expert as much as I consider myself an enthusiast or cheerleader. Over the first few years of our military career, I began to notice continual, recurring patterns of getting stuck (frustration, anger, anxiety, listlessness), not just in myself, but in many other spouses around me. I happened upon a personality typology called the Enneagram and paid to take an extensive test to determine my results. I began deeply researching and realized that many of the patterns I was getting stuck in had very much to do with my Enneagram type and how I was responding to stressful stimuli. The more I learned about the Enneagram and applied it to my life, the more I began to see growth and transformation where I’d previously been stuck.
HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED ANY EXTREME HIGHS/LOWS SINCE BECOMING A MILITARY SPOUSE? WHEN HAS YOUR HEALTH (MENTAL AND/OR PHYSICAL) SUFFERED THE MOST, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT?
One of my lowest moments as a military spouse came a few months after we left our first duty station and got somewhat settled at our second. At our first, I felt like I’d been in survival mode. I was acclimating to life away from extended family. I had started homeschooling our three kids. I handled my first deployment. I was heavily involved in volunteering and just trying to learn to speak the language and match the tempo of military life. When we finally left Texas and arrived in Georgia, it hit me that this was our life now: frequent moves, trying over and over to reinvent myself professionally and relationally, and a regular upheaval of our pattern of life. I had a panicked fall apart when it hit me that I may not be cut out for this lifestyle. Did I possess that kind of grit, courage, and strength? Over the course of several weeks, I began journaling and making lists of non-negotiables for Claire. I began really thinking about the things that fill me up—things that I could do to thrive no matter where I lived and no matter how often I had to uproot my life. My “aha” moment came when I set my mind to write and self-publish a book on all of those first rites of passage as a military spouse. I didn’t care if anyone read it, I knew I needed to write it as part of a cathartic and healing process. I spent the next several months pouring out my heart and decided that when we share our stories—the real, raw, and the mundane—others can relate and may not feel as alone or isolated in their own struggles.
As a writer and chronic over-sharer online, I get “highs” when other military spouses read something I have written and share it with others or reach out to me and say, “Yes, me too. I feel the same way.” I am reminded that it is when we can be vulnerable about our struggles (and victories), we are inviting others into our lives as fellow sojourners on this path called life. No matter how difficult or wonderful a particular season may be, we aren’t meant to endure or embrace it alone. Finding community and being open to others is one of the greatest blessings I’ve found. It’s a goal of mine to keep this in mind as we go along in our military service.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FORM OF SELF-CARE?
My absolute favorite thing I do to care for myself is to go to bed early every night. I really get into my nighttime routine of washing my face, brushing my teeth, putting on lotion, pulling back the cool covers, and reading (an actual book) before I turn out my lamp. Restful sleep is so crucial to my overall wellbeing. I find that going to bed early allows for more sleep. More sleep begets more energy, more patience with my family, and more bandwidth to take on whatever life throws my way.
WHAT IS ONE PERSONAL HABIT THAT CONTRIBUTES TO YOUR SUCCESS?
One personal habit that contributes to my success is having (and using!) a paper planner. I am a firm believer, along with Ben Franklin, that “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Keeping track of what is important and then monitoring and tracking those things in real time is a key to accomplishing all that you set out to do. Time is finite and I find that if I say certain things are my priorities, then I must plan for them throughout my week. As the CEO, COO, and CFO of our home, I keep a lot of plates spinning. I try to start my day with the most important and essential tasks. I find that when I show up for myself and do those things as part of my morning routine, I ride the feeling of “winning the day” all day long. I get up at 6 a.m. every day. I go for a walk, no matter the weather (that’s what umbrellas and jackets are for, right?). I come home, drink my coffee, and read my Bible. I spend time checking over my daily plans and tasks, I have a short writing session, and I dress for the day. I literally write these things in my planner as if they are daily appointments to keep with myself. I thrive on structure and I can look back at the end of the week or month and see where my actions have aligned with my intentions. If say I want to be active, spiritually strong, and have a writing habit—then guess what? I have to do those things regularly. When I feel tired or unmotivated, I just look at my planner and it tells me what to do so I don’t have to think too much about it. I feel better and I function better when I structure my days this way.
IF YOU COULD SHARE A HEALTH AND WELLNESS RESOURCE WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
I love the Be Focused app. It is a great way to boost productivity and track certain habits and disciplines you want to practice. It’s a task planner with a built in timer. I have about ten different tasks customized on mine, each set for 25 minutes. I can focus short bursts of work or leisure and knowing that the time is counting down is like a little personal challenge to see how much I can get done. Sometimes just working for time instead of completion on something allows you to feel much more productive. At the end of the 25 minutes, I can set it aside (or keep working) knowing I’ve committed myself to the important things.
IF YOU COULD RECOMMEND ONE BOOK OR PODCAST TO MILITARY SPOUSES, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
My go-to book recommendation for military spouses (or anyone, really) is Ruth Haley Barton’s Sacred Rhythms. It has been transformational in helping me to create my own Rule of Life. It is insightful for spiritual growth, time and priority management, and overall structure for personal transformation.
Claire Wood is a wife, homeschooling mom, teacher, and organization junkie. She is a huge fan of the Enneagram and she, along with her business partner Kellie Artis run www.milspogurus.com, a place to help military spouses engage in conversations about identity. Claire also writes about her struggles to make sense of military life at www.elizabethclairewood.com. She released her faith-based book for military spouses, Mission Ready Marriage in 2015. Claire enjoys reading, early morning outdoor walks, trying out new recipes, and hosting friends and family in her home. Claire is married to Ryan, an Army Chaplain. They and their three children are stationed at Fort Polk in Louisiana.