Last spring, with our fifth birthday approaching and with the looming decision to step out from underneath the shelter of our fiscal sponsor and become a stand-alone non-profit organization in front of us, we had to ask ourselves if the effort that we’re putting into InDependent is worth it. Does the milspouse world still need InDependent?
We concluded that even though military spouse wellness is not the hot topic that military spouse employment is, there is an urgent need for accessible wellness and opportunities for spouses to connect for friendship, accountability, and inspiration so that we all may thrive.
While InDependent co-founder and former program manager, Michele Bradfield was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, she had to opportunity to recruit participants for and promote a study being conducted by researchers at Kansas State University. The name of the study that was published in August, 2018 says it all: “Everything else comes first”: a mixed-methods analysis of barriers to health behaviors among military spouses
Military spouses know that demands on our time and unhealthy coping mechanisms often push attention to our personal wellness right off of the to-do list. Now there’s a study to support what we already intuitively know.
The background paragraph of the study states, “Military spouses are integral to the health of their families, but have demonstrated elevated levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. Participating in health behaviors such as physical activity and healthy eating may have a positive impact on spouses’ physical and mental health, but emerging evidence suggests spouses’ participation in these behaviors is scarce. Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine the most frequently reported barriers to health behaviors among military spouses.”
In general, we are not contributing to our personal wellness. But why? What are the barriers?
The study concluded that the number one barrier to physical activity, social connection, and stress management is…you guessed it…time. The biggest barrier to maintaining a healthy diet is financial concerns. Other commonly reported barriers were parent/family responsibilities, transient lifestyle, and deployments.
Yes. We know these things. We live this life.
InDependent can help military spouses knock down barriers to healthy lifestyles by offering accessible wellness prompts and resources, and provide communities that take the work out of making friends. A spouse might not take the time to seek out a local farmers’ market, but he might go if a friend invites him after seeing a Facebook challenge from us. A mom might not have availability to get to the free gym on her military installation, but if a friend that she met in one of our community groups offered to swap childcare she would seize that opportunity to take time for herself. Entrepreneurs might be laser-focused on their goals but decide to set boundaries and business hours after hearing one of our Wellness Wednesday speakers. Exhausted spouses might create some margin for creating lives with purpose after renewing themselves during our annual virtual Military Spouse Wellness Summits that don’t require childcare, travel, or missed work.
Friendship. Accountability. Inspiration. That’s what we’re here to offer military spouses, all within the framework of accessible wellness. Accessible doesn’t only mean available. It also means approachable and attainable. We want to help you find your tribe faster. We don’t promote just one kind of fitness culture or one diet plan. We want all military spouses to walk down their own paths of wellness. For some, that might mean training and fueling for marathons. For others, that might mean eating a packed lunch made from whole food ingredients and using the rest of the lunch hour to go outside for a walk.
This is a pick-your-own-ending story. We’re sticking around after five years to nudge military spouses toward the healthy and happy ending because to impact the heart of the home, the military spouse, is to influence the health of military families’ children, and the health and retention of our service members.
Our guess is that we’ve done a good job connecting with military spouses that are already interested in wellness. Our hope going forward is that we can widen that reach so that all military spouses are thriving because they are doing something to contribute to their wellness. And, we hope that they will be able to say that InDependent was part of their journey.
Tanofsky-Kraff, M., Sbrocco, T., Theim, K.R., Cohen, L.A., Mackey, E.R., Stice, E., Henderson, J.L., McCreight, S.J., Bryant, E.J. & Stephens, M.B. (2013). Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. Us National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
Kimberly Bacso is the operations director and co-founder of InDependent. She began her career as a certified public accountant. After becoming an Army spouse and mom, she followed her passions for teaching and wellness and became an experienced yoga teacher. She also holds certifications in personal training and group fitness. Her backgrounds in business and fitness led to a yoga studio manager position in the busy Northern Virginia market where she led 200-hour yoga teacher training programs. In addition to her work for InDependent, she is the managing editor of Legacy Magazine, a print publication celebrating service member families. Kimberly considers the American West her home. She graduated from Walla Walla University in 1997 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree with a concentration in accounting and a minor in Spanish. In 2001, she earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Colorado at Denver. She is a lifelong vegetarian who loves experimenting with new recipes and enjoying a good cup of tea. She can often be found traveling off the beaten path with her husband and daughter.