The start of a new year is when many of us join the gym, explore new diets, and make other resolutions to improve our physical health. But what about our mental health? Mental wellness is an important aspect of our overall health. As with physical health, mental wellness should be a year-long resolution, not just one made with the start of the new year.
The World Health Organization (WHO), defines mental health as a “state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
Mental wellness incorporates the social, emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual aspects of your life. Your mental health state impacts your attitude, behaviors, relationships and your ability to think, process information and make decisions.
Being a military spouse can be stressful. Spouses often cope with frequent relocations, deployments, separations from their spouse, family and friends and concerns about their loved one’s well-being. Add the fact that they often manage the household and children alone, and you can understand why military spouses need to pay special attention to their mental wellness.
Many studies have been conducted on the mental health of military spouses. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported a few years back that approximately 30% of military spouses suffer from some type of mental illness including depression. Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University's Veterans and Families Institute for Military Social Research (VFI) found that pregnant military spouses report more depressive symptoms at all stages of their pregnancy and all stages of their partner's deployment cycle.
Some early warning signs that your mental wellness may need immediate attention include a decline in energy levels, abnormal sleep patterns, finding that you are distancing yourself from others and outings, experiencing an inability to cope with daily life, and other changes in behavior including anger outbursts, feeling sad or frequent crying, and extreme mood changes.
Incorporating mental wellness awareness into your overall physical health plans will provide lasting benefits and improve your qualify of life.
Tips to improve your mental wellness today:
- Avoid negative self-talk - Learn to practice self-love and work positive affirmations into your daily life by repeating a favorite mantra frequently (“I am worthy”) or posting a quote in your work space or next to your bed. Fill your mind with positive thoughts and adopt an attitude of gratitude for who you are today and the blessings that you have.
- Take breaks and rest throughout the day – Take a walk outside or find a quiet corner in which to close your eyes for 15 minutes to reset your mind and mood. Taking time for yourself is not selfish, it’s necessary. Work self-care into your daily routine.
- Laugh and take time to do things that bring you joy – Share a humorous story with a friend or look up funny pet videos online. Research has shown that laughter can boost your immune system, ease pain, promote relaxation and reduce stress! We all have our “to-do” lists every day – make sure that something on that list is something that brings joy to your life. It can be as simple as taking the time to call a loved one. Anything that brings a smile to your face!
- Exercise - Regular exercise is important to mental wellness. A 15-minute daily walk can have amazing results on your state of mind. Let your mind wander or listen to music or a favorite podcast. Use this time to prepare for the day ahead, or to reset after the day you’ve just had.
- Improve your diet – A healthy diet including fruits and vegetables will go a long way towards feeding our mental health. Limit caffeine and stay away from alcohol.
- Connect with others and spend quality time with family and friends – develop and maintain healthy relationships. Make plans to meet at the park or a local coffee house. Join groups or organizations that will keep you active and get you out of the house. Volunteering and helping others can increase your feel-good endorphins!
- Reduce Stress – many times we are aware of the stressors in our life. Take steps today to reduce those – whether it involves finding a new job, not attending family events that are emotionally exhausting, or stepping back from a friendship that is draining and not bringing positivity to your life.
- Get enough rest- Along with exercise and diet, sleep is a critical element in maintaining mental health.
- Practice meditation or deep breathing exercises to quiet your mind and restore calm. The beauty of these methods is that they can be incorporated at almost any time in your day. It’s like having a personal, private, reset button that you can press at any time!
- Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed – asking for help is a sign of strength. There are times when we are unable to manage our mental wellness all on our own. Never hesitate to look for professional help and guidance.
Mental health and wellness are important at all stages of life. Put the above tips into practice and work on maintaining a state of positive mental health that will benefit you all year long!
For a listing of Mental Health Resources for military spouses, click here.