Married to the military - How being a military spouse can impact your mental health
Though rewarding, life as a military spouse can be hard. Military spouses and partners are often the backbone of the family and the main support for the service member. Since the nature of the military calls for service members to place much of their energy in their work, it is not uncommon for a spouse’s needs to come last.
This lifestyle of military families can be really challenging with long separations, frequent moves, and constant uncertainty. With all of the difficulties faced, military spouses’ mental health is often put on the back burner and can increase psychological health risk factors. Many military wives are often reluctant to seek help for their own mental health and can encounter barriers when trying to find a relatable therapist.
The challenges of being a military spouse and mental health
Many people are able to settle down and develop long-lasting connections, however military families uproot every few years. While these moves can come with a sense of adventure, they also present the difficulties of multiple life transitions.
With these moves, military spouses can experience the loss of employment and/or disrupted career development, increased parenting demands due to the military service members' obligations, loss of friends and support systems, and even a loss of identity. This can lead to loneliness, overwhelm, and the general feeling of a loss of control over life decisions.
Research indicates that military wives are at higher risk for depression as a result of these factors. Military spouse depression may also be a result of feeling disconnected during deployment and the challenges of navigating military family life. All of this can be exhausting and is only the tip of the iceberg for what many spouses experience.
The importance of caring for military spouses' mental health
Maintaining mental health and wellness are essential for all, but especially for military spouses. With the unique challenges that military spouses face, it is important to not only take care of your mental health but be proactive in maintaining balance. The constant life transitions, relocations, career shifts, deployment stress, parenting, and partnering (this list could go on forever), can have a significant psychological impact on the military spouse and family members.
It is crucial to practice self-care when coping with the changes that accompany this lifestyle. Taking time out of your day for you can help mitigate stress related to the ever-changing circumstances of military life.
Tips for managing anxiety and depression as a military spouse
Research indicates that as a military wife, depression and anxiety may be more prevalent than women in the general population. As a result stress management and taking care of your mental health is vital to living fully and healthily. The lifestyle of military families and the multiple stressors that military partners face, can lead to anxiety as well as major depressive disorder. It important to be aware of such where there's anxiety, you may also find major depressive disorder.
1. Caring for your physical health - It is important to find effective ways to keep healthy and manage stress, such as exercise, proper diet, getting enough sleep each night, partaking in enjoyable activities, and building strong social support systems.
2. Creating connections - Surrounding yourself with a supportive network of family members, friends, and other military spouses who understand what you are going through can provide an emotional outlet to discuss worries or anxieties that come with this lifestyle. These daily habits will help spouses tackle the challenges that come along with military life.
3. Making yourself a priority - it can be hard to ask for help and reach out when we're struggling with mental health challenges. However, having a safe space to process and talk about the challenges you're facing, can give you the tools to cope with such difficulties.
Mental health resources for military spouses with depression and anxiety
If you decide you need a little more help than the easier said than done go-to’s of proper sleep, exercise, and diet, the military has resources and support available for you. These can be found through Family Readiness Groups offered by some branches of the military, calling Tricare, or even consulting among military spouses that you know for referrals.
While taking the first steps toward therapy can be scary, engaging in mental health treatment with a licensed therapist is an important part of creating balance. It provides a safe space to openly talk about experiences and work on developing effective skills to help manage the unique challenges that military families face.
Make yourself a priority - how to find a therapist as a military spouse
Though the military offers resources and support for military spouses’ mental health, it can be difficult to find someone you're comfortable with in the military community and system.