“You are very shaky” was the unsolicited observation I received from the computer-generated trainer during my last session of yoga on Wii Fit. “Thanks lady, I appreciate the insight,” I grumbled sarcastically under my breath.
Her statement felt so unfair. Didn’t she know that I was trying to squeeze in a workout after working all day? Couldn’t she see me trying to hold the best Warrior pose I could while dodging the Nerf bullets flying around my head from my two little darlings? Why didn’t she recognize that I was doing this sub-par Yoga workout from home because I was pulling single-parenting duties due to my husband’s extended training with his unit?
After putting my boys down to bed and settling in with a cup of steaming peppermint tea, I thought more about her statement: “You are very shaky.” I realized it didn’t bother me because it was unfair; it bothered me because it was true. I was shaky trying to balance in my yoga pose, but more importantly, I was shaky in trying to balance all of the demands of being a military spouse. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful every single day for the blessings we have received in this life and I would never, ever trade our journey for another. But this gratitude doesn’t negate the fact that maintaining an appropriate work/life balance is shaky ground at best.
So how do we as military spouses get off the shaky ground of juggling competing priorities and on to the firm foundation of living a balanced life?
1. Schedule in downtime
Building in 10 to 15 minutes of planned downtime everyday in absolutely critical to achieving balance. This downtime allows you to recharge you batteries by serving as a time to reflect on the day’s experiences and plan for the next day. As an achiever (someone who work shard and possess a great deal of stamina, they take immense satisfaction in being busy and productive) it can be extremely hard to stop “doing” and start “being.”
But once I was able to reframe the downtime as not wasted time, but actually time gained — slowing down to speed up — I loved my evening quiet time. Also, I was much more successful in actually completing the downtime when I added it to my to-do list. It felt great to regain my balance each night (and check off another item off my to-do list, wahoo) before embarking on another crazy day.
2. Say no
N.O. Those two little letters sound so innocent but they can cause a great deal of anxiety for military spouses. For so long, we have been told to say yes — yes to leading the FRG, yes to a job we are grossly overqualified for, yes to volunteering for the PTA. Separately, all of these requests are fine, but when combined they can cause us to lose our balance and topple over in an exhausted heap at the end of the night. Taking time to evaluate, and then say no to, all of the activities that don’t enhance your career or personal life is absolutely essential in building balance into your life.
It may be difficult to say no at first, but over time it will become easier. It is important to note that we don’t want to sway to far to the opposite side. There are plenty of things that we should say yes to in our lives, so be sure to build in the activities that energize you and benefit others.
3. Self care
Taking the time to ensure that you are eating cleanly, getting enough sleep and exercising is an essential element of a firm, balanced foundation. This reminds me of the instructions you receive before every flight “be sure to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.”
It seems like a simple concept, but military spouses are famous for putting the needs of others before their own. How many times have your children eaten a beautifully prepared, organic meal while you shove a handful of leftover Cheerios in your mouth on the way out the door? Or how many times have you stayed up late to pick up the slack on a group project at work or school? Altruism comes naturally to those in the military lifestyle and is an admirable trait; we just need to be sure that it does not overwhelm our lives and cause us to become unbalance. If we take the time to care for ourselves, we allow our bodies to function at their optimal levels of efficiency, which paves the way for us to maintain balance.
Balance is still not one of my strongest suits — I am no yogi and I still work too much — but by implementing the steps outlines above, I am on my way to restoring balance in my family’s life. I’m happy to report that the frequency of the robotic voice reminding me that I am “very shaky” has dramatically reduced.Subscribe to Military Spouse's Weekly Newsletter