As military spouses we are faced with many stressful situations. Each PCS, TDY or even a change in orders can have us scrambling for ways to reduce stress. Military life challenges us to handle change, deal with an deployment and adjust to life at a new duty station often on a moments notice. Any one of these things can cause a multitude of feelings or force us into a whirlwind of activity causing a great deal of anxiety and stress.
As military spouses, juggling all of these things can leave us feeling overburdened or overwhelmed. Add on the magnitude or the frequency of change in our everyday lives and it’s no wonder we oscillate between anxiety and stress. Each of us have our ways of dealing with it all; we turn to our battle buddies and family to help us cope and I have been known to turn to a container of chunky monkey or a glass of wine now and again just to deal with those days that just never end – NO judging :)!
The military environment is tough, and for some it’s more difficult to handle than others. It’s common that there are times when the day-to-day events become intense even for the strongest among us especially when they come one on top of the other. The result is stress, that can linger and become chronic if you aren’t careful.
But what does that look like?
- Headaches for no apparent reason
- Poor sleep habits
- You become very moody and irritable,
- Experience stomach distress and so on.
Generally once the situation causing stress has been resolved, you will start to feel better again.
Anxiety on the other hand is different from stress.
Anxiety generally involves more components like emotional and cognitive effects along with the physical symptoms associated with stress – only to a higher degree.
Anxiety can cause
- You to feel very nervous and tense for an extended period of time.
- You to feel out of control and may occasionally experience shortness of breath, some dizziness, heart palpitations and so on.
Anxiety also effects your emotional state of mind and the following things are also often true:
- You may fear that the worst is about to happen to yourself, your spouse or your friends.
- Unlike stress, anxiety can continue for long periods of time.
- Anxiety can come out of no where or be a delayed response to an earlier stressful event
- It can keep you from doing the things you enjoy doing.
- The sources of your anxiety are not always known or recognized which may add to the feelings that you are already experiencing.
But here is the cool thing about stress and anxiety that may surprise you. Stress &/or anxiety does help us cope and get through the tough times! When we are under stress, we become more focused and motivated to deal with whatever is in our lives. Our body digs into extra reserves of energy so we can work longer and harder. Which is a good thing – in moderation.
In fact, stress is one of the most natural ways our mind and body react when they encounter something that is out of the ordinary (which is totally common in our military lives right?)
While stress is natural, it is important that our state of mind and body’s responses return to normal levels once the situation is over.
There are times when we can’t turn off these natural responses and become anxious and stressful even during ordinary times. And that’s not a good thing. In fact our inability to “turn it off” must be dealt with or it can become a real issue such as an irrational dread of normal, everyday situations.
Let’s apply this to military life. It is quite natural for you to feel some nervousness and anxiety before a deployment. However, if you start experiencing the same or even heightened forms of anxiety when your spouse leaves for work or a short training assignment, you may have to consider that it’s no longer something to ignore.
The most characteristic feature of severe anxiety is the enormous extent to which it starts affecting your daily life and daily activities. People suffering from anxiety disorders typically suffer from the following physical symptoms.
- Great Restlessness – the person is unable to relax even during weekends or holidays, whether alone or with family.
- Fatigue – the person tends to tire very easily even without any significant mental or physical exertion.
- Muscle Tension – one can feel the constant tension in the back and neck muscles.
- Frequent Headaches.
- Inability to Sleep Well – the person finds it difficult to go to sleep or stay asleep for long.
- Moodiness and Irritability
As military spouses it’s important to know the difference between situational stress and long-term anxiety. If you are suffering from intense, frequent feelings of stress and anxiety that continue over a long period of time or more importantly, if you find yourself unable to control your anxiety, so much so that it has started interfering with your daily life, you should go and consult your doctor or even a mental health professional at the earliest possible opportunity.
Remember, you are not alone and there is help.
How do you Reduce Stress?
~Judy Davis, the Direction Diva is a motivational speaker, author and entrepreneur as well as a military life and teen suicide prevention expert. Co-founder of DASIUM, Judy’s books Right Side Up and Warning Signs: Is Your Teen at Riskare go to resources for families and her websites are filled with tips, inspiration and resources for those looking for direction. Connect with Judy at TheDirectionDiva.com