Military spouse, I think you need some time out.

“Time out.” Sounds like something you’d say to a stubborn three-year-old, right? “You need a time out,” you say, as the little one collapses into a heap and wails on the floor. We’ll all experience this as parents — and heck, years ago, we’ve all been that kid.

The thing is, I think there’s a part of that child in each and every one of us. Indeed, as we get older, most of us learn to control these writhing, shrieking urges. But sure enough, it’s there, when we’re just a little bit “done” with things, exhausted with the world, and inside we become the same petulant toddler yelling, “no more!”

We each have our own limits, and in many ways, it’s important to challenge and push them. As military spouses, we’ll all experience times when our limits have been pushed without our consent; learning to embrace that, however grudgingly, is a lesson we have all learned. Having to change plans, for the “nth” time, at the very last second. Struggling to find a new home before a PCS. Being the must-have parent. Trying to keep some semblance of faith despite a long, hard deployment. As military spouses, we adapt and overcome, we push our personal boundaries, and it is something to be proud of.

That said, keeping yourself on your own team is paramount to happiness; taking the appropriate time to do this, every so often, is an investment in that happiness. Nine times out of ten, the best remedy for stress is just a little bit of good ol’ fashioned peace and quiet. Here are four key steps to exercise when you feel like you’re beginning to crack from the pressures that life places on your shoulders.


Recognize when you need space.

We all reach a point when enough is enough. When my sister and I were small children, my mum used to call it “over-tired,” and she was spot on. You know what I’m talking about: those moments when even going to a simple spouse event, or meeting a friend for coffee, seems like a struggle. Those moments when really, truly, all you want to do is curl up on the couch, block out the world for an hour, an afternoon, or a whole day. You’ve been working really, really hard all week long — making sure all those silly little errands are run, going to work, oiling the cogs so your life carries on running like clockwork, all with a smile on your face — and, all of a sudden, you realize that you need to press “pause.” No more.


Replace “selfish” with “necessary”

Sometimes, it really is vital to be “selfish,” and realize that what we might perceive as selfishness is actually a necessary step towards self-preservation. Sometimes, taking the time to care for yourself is a more valuable use of precious time than an extra hour in the office, or that community meeting, or the dinner party you glibly agreed to attend. Replacing the negative words you associate with “time out” with more positive ones will subtly change your perception of it.


Make sure to create time.

Our lives are often so busy that we have to physically create that time, and sometimes that means a “no” to other people, or we wouldn’t be able to carve just a couple of peaceful hours out of our schedules. Go out and buy a really gorgeous little personal organizer, if you haven’t already got one. Write down all your commitments for the week, then add in the chores that need to be done, and all the other “bits and pieces” that you’ve also got going on. Is there any time left over? Make sure you bookmark in something for you, too. Wednesday evening looks free, so make it your own, and don’t let other plans get in the way of it.


Overcome the fear of “no”

Overcoming the fear of saying “no” is difficult, but if it needs to be done, then so be it.The problem is, we’ve been programmed to believe that saying “no,” is wrong. We shouldn’t be quitters, we should be “yes-men,” we should feel selfish if we cancel plans with no better reason than, “I needed some time to myself.” To some degree, this is true: A hardworking mentality is indeed a virtue, and taking the time to nurture our relationships with others is also incredibly important. But in an age where we are constantly communicating with others — phone calls, Skype calls, text messages, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter — it’s important to remember to shut off once in a while. It’s important to say an occasional “no.”

Nevertheless, explaining this to other people is hard. Of course it is. We’ve learnt from our parents, our peers, and through trial and error that running our lives like clockwork, appeasing other people, and “keeping busy” are all paramount to being a functioning adult. We don’t want to offend our friends and family by telling them that we can’t make new plans simply because we’re tired. Breaking the cycle and saying, “actually, I just need some time alone” is really much harder than it looks on paper.

It’s time that we made peace with the fact that it’s okay to be imperfect, to slow things down a little bit, and to look out for number one. It’s okay to be selfish once in a blue moon. It’s okay to put life on hold for a bit, to pause and reflect, to indulge in something so gloriously mundane as a glass of wine and some trashy television with the curtains closed. If it’s enough to recharge your batteries even just a little bit, then it’s doing you a world of good.

now read… Keeping it real, in a fake world…

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