Military deployments are difficult, not only for the deployed service member but also the families they leave behind. Months of separation and the disruption of established routines can quickly lead to loneliness and increased stress – and that’s before the boredom sets in! One of the best ways to deal with the stress of holding down the home front during a military deployment is to get active and stay busy. Here are a few tips to break out of deployment boredom:
1. Work Out
One of the perks of being part of the military family is free membership to the local on-base gym. Military fitness facilities often have classes available for free or for a small fee. Some even offer childcare or a ‘tot-in-tow’ work out area to cater to the active parent. Want to make the most of your deployment fitness routine? Set a long-term goal like entering a race or mastering an advanced yoga pose. Bonus: the endorphins released by physical activity will improve your mood and you’ll be fit and fabulous in time for homecoming!
2. Help Out
Turn your down time into something productive by offering to lend a hand to others in need. Military bases are ripe with opportunities for volunteer work. Are you good with kids? Offer your services to other deployed spouses or apply for a position with the on-post childcare services. A whiz in the kitchen? Make meals for single or wounded soldiers or families in need. Contact the on-post chapel or your service’s Family Support or Community Service office to find out about the specific needs in your area.
3. Get Out
Head for the open road and explore the natural beauty of your surroundings. Visit your local Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) division to find out about attractions in your area. Many bases also offer low-cost trips and excursions as well as rentals on recreational gear for everything from camping to climbing. Don’t like traveling alone? Consider starting a travel club for other spouses – you’ll see new sights and forge new friendships at the same time.
4. Act Out
Have a taste for the spotlight? Devote your artistic talents to local, community or on-base theater. Many bases have all-volunteer theater companies that draw from and perform to a local audience. If you’re not comfortable on center stage, consider volunteering as a stagehand, usher or prop master. Theater is also a great way to get the whole family involved kids will develop self-esteem and confidence, allowing you to assume the role of proud parent.
5. Branch Out
Deployment down time is the perfect opportunity to pick up a new skill or perfect an existing one. Many military bases offer classes or clubs for everything from swing dancing and jewelry making to carpentry and auto maintenance. Keep an eye on the notice boards at the on-base library or coffee shop, or scan the local newspaper to uncover interesting opportunities. If you want to make the most of your study time, consider pursuing an online degree; the library or Education Center can advise you of available courses.
6. Sell Out
Garage sales, bake sales, flea markets and the on-base thrift store are great ways to turn unwanted items or handmade creations into a little extra cash, while cleaning out a cluttered closet or showcasing a skill. Want to combine commerce with community spirit? Offer your earnings to military charities or dedicate your efforts to raising funds for your unit or Family Readiness Group (FRG).
7. Reach Out
If you’re feeling blue, chances are other spouses are as well. Reach out to others by setting up weekly dinner dates, joining the unit bowling league or the weekend running club. Can’t find an outlet to suit your interest? Start your own club and enlist your friends and other deployed spouses to join. Make sure you seek approval from your spouse’s unit before posting flyers and making your new club official.
8. Don’t Hide Out
It’s tempting to retreat from contact, especially during the initial phases of a deployment. While this may seem like the path of least resistance, it will actually make coping with stress, loneliness and boredom a lot harder on the long run. Fight the temptation to empty your social calendar and forge new bonds outside your military community as well as inside it. Sometimes an outsider’s perspective is all you need to get a new appreciation for the challenges and rewards of military life.
9. Don’t Freak Out
It’s not unusual to find yourself dealing with a confusing mix of emotions during a military deployment. You can expect to feel exaggerated highs and lows as you learn to cope with the absence of your spouse and the increase in your parental responsibilities. However, if you find yourself losing interest in your favorite activities or think that your change in emotions may be a sign of something more serious, you should seek professional or medical help. Visit the on-base clinic or call the Military One Source hotline, available 24/7 at: 1-800-342-9647, to receive personal support and assistance with counseling or medical referrals.
10. Find Out More
Search out your base’s website or visit your on-post Community Activity Center, or similar resource, for more ‘break out’ ideas. The following websites may also provide more tips for dealing with the unique challenges of deployment:
Military One Source: www.militaryonesource.com
Morale Welfare and Recreation (Army): www.armymwr.com
Morale Welfare and Recreation (Navy): www.mwr.navy.mil
Air Force Airman and Family Support: www.afcrossroads.com
Army Community Service: www.myarmyonesource.com
Coast Guard Family Readiness Programs: www.uscg.mil/worklife/ready.asp
Marine Corps Community Services: www.usmc-mccs.org
Navy Fleet and Family Support Center: www.nffsp.org/skins/nffsp/home.aspx