Finding Yourself Somewhere you Never Expected to be: Being a Stay at Home Wife

Finding yourself somewhere you never expected to be. For me that is being a stay at home wife!

Have you ever found yourself somewhere you never planned to be? That is me right now. I always envision myself being a stay at home mom, when the time came. My mom was home with us till I was in the 8th grade; and I loved it as a kid! But I never envisioned myself as a stay at home wife. I always envisioned myself working towards a career for a few years before I turned to being a SAHM. Yet, here I am! Master’s degree in hand, in a state I can’t get a license in (For full story check out this post!) So I am a stay at home wife.

I know what some people might say about this. Some will call me lazy, unmotivated, free loader, and probably some worse things. Some might even be jealous that I don’t have that extra stress, pressure, and responsibility of a job AND kids. But it’s ok! It’s not like I sit at home all day napping and binge watching Netflix. Ok, you caught me, Netflix is on, but I am most likely doing something productive at the same time. In some ways this has been challenging for me. I am not working towards a career at the same rate my friends are; working in their field, gaining experience, and making contacts. This is the first time since I was like 16 that I don’t have a job and earning my own money! Sometimes I might even be a little jealous of them. Here are some of the blessings I have received and lessons I have learned being in a place I never expected to be!

I had time to spend with my Hubby

If I was working on my career, I would probably still be in South Carolina, separated from my husband because he would still be here in Georgia no matter what I chose to do. I wouldn’t have made some of the best friends I’ve made. And even though I am not working towards my career or counseling license, I have had doors open to me in the Army as a service provider through the Chaplains. But the best blessing is that these months have given my hubby and I wonderful adventures and opportunities to connect. If I had stayed in South Carolina to work on my counseling license we would have ended up spending two years apart as we are now facing a yearlong unaccompanied assignment. It makes me even more grateful for the time we have had together over the last few months!

Growing my faith to a Mustard Seed

It has also given me the opportunity to grow in my relationship with God. If I was working full time I wouldn’t have the flexible schedule to attend a weekly Bible study, as stuff for military spouses only seem to take place during the day when people with full time traditional careers are in the office. This has been awesome for me! Not only to grow in my faith but I have made friends and come closer to others during my time here.

Growing my Community

I have had the opportunity to meet other Army wives and families; and I have had time to spend connecting with them. Some have become mentors and friends as I am learning to navigate the complexities and weirdness Army life. I’d be lost without them. Some ladies I’ve met that are here and work full time have told me they feel like they are missing out because they don’t have the time to make those relationships. Also they typically are not working in their field. I know I am blessed to have this luxury of staying home. So I have worked to make the most of it!

Blogging on my Blogging Progress

I have had the time to start and grow this blog. At first it was a way to fill my empty time. I never expected to get so into it. So much so that I’ve creates social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, StumbleUpon, Bloglovin). I am intentional about writing and engaging with other bloggers in multiple different niches as I figure out and learn how to grow my own community. And it has definitely been incorporated into my Vision of Future for 2017. Adventures of a Young Wife has turned into more than I imagined and I am so excited to continue it as we go about our newest adventures.

Health has been a major focus

And finally it has given me the opportunity to work on my health physically. I am not perfect here by any means I mean just remember my hiking story (find it here). But having the ability to not have to get up and immediately crank it out before being at work at 8am or after I get off at 5pm. I can add it to my morning routine in a stress free way which makes me more likely to actually see it through. Even though sometimes puppy snuggles win out!

In the end…

But look at all these wonderful things! I could never have imagined this life. All though out college and grad school I never dreamed my life would take a path like this; but, I wouldn’t change a thing. And I get to do the one thing I love most, love my hubby in person for the next 7 months before he leaves and support him always. I know you don’t read my blog to just find out about my life, well some of you might, like my mom.

But I am hoping that by sharing my experiences with you that you can learn something too. For me, being a stay at home wife is a major shift in plans. I don’t know what that major shift for you is – maybe it’s getting married, having a baby, losing your job, or a loved one; whatever that unexpected life shift is for you remember that good things can come from it. If only you allow yourself to be open. I could have been sulky and sullen and stayed on my couch and I wouldn’t have gained anything but I worked hard and put myself out there! And I am so glad I did, and you will be too!

What unexpected situations have you found yourself in that turned out great?

My story of how I found myself somewhere I never expected to be. My life as a stay at home wife and how I made the best of the situation

The Military Spouse’s Guide to Embracing the Suck

Life can be sucky sometimes. But don't worry there are ways to keep plugging along embracing life to the fullest!

I was looking back at my content. It has been a while since I have written something specific to being a military wife. I think it’s because our situation is so stagnant right now I didn’t know what else to write about- no PCS’s in the works, no deployments, no anything. And I have already written about most of my other Army Experiences. We know we are leaving Benning in the next few months, but we don’t know when and we don’t know where, but we know things are a changing! But until they tell us we are just hanging out, waiting, in a holding pattern.

Also I have been focusing on writing some guest posts for military specific blogs so a lot of my ideas went there! But as we get more pieces of the plan, not all of it has been great, and some of it down right sucks! When I talk to friends outside the military, the phrase I am greeted by over and over is, “that sucks!” Whether it’s in response to I haven’t talked to my spouse all week, he is in the field; we can’t make a plan for more than a week or two out; deployments, or whatever! I am reminded as a good military spouses and soldiers, we are supposed to suck it up and embrace the suck.

Embracing the Suck, I think this is one of my least favorite phrases associated with the Army. The phrase itself sucks, if I do say so myself! Why does Army, or any military life for that matter, have to be so negative that we need to saying just convince people that its ok it’s negative. Why aren’t we working on making it more positive?  Well first, change requires that the system wants to be changed, or enough people call for change. Well since neither of those two things have happened yet, we need to find ways to embrace the suck, get better at waiting, and not just survive military life, but truly thrive!

So here are my tips on how to embrace the suck, Military Spouse Style, so that it doesn’t have to suck anymore, because none of us deserve to live a life full of suck, we deserve the life we want- full, vibrant, and beautiful!

Embrace the suck by making the most of every situation.

While we maybe in an awful, undesirably long holding pattern, I am grateful that at least my husband is home with me. As we all know in military life, this is not always the case. Over the spring and summer, my husband was gone in the field 12 out of 14 weeks. But for now we are together and that is enough!

Knowing that its ok for you to think it sucks.

Just because you are supposed to embrace the suck doesn’t mean it doesn’t actually suck. In fact, it does often just as much for our service member spouses as it does for us! In my current situation, so many of my friends are sending or have already sent their spouses to Ranger School! While my hubby didn’t get to go to ranger school (read his injury prevented it – although he isn’t torn up about it!) I have watched so many of my friends and clients face this. Embracing the suck doesn’t mean ignoring or denying the suck! It sucks and its ok to say so!

Lean in all the way. 

If you know that you can make the suck go away faster by working harder and getting it done, then work as hard as you can and get it done. Obviously this doesn’t work for everyone – deployments don’t get cut short if you work extra hard, no matter how early you start prepping for that PCS the date won’t get moved up (ok well it might, but not just because you are all set!). But sometimes it does – like when it comes to unpacking after the PCS. Unpacking can definitely suck especially if your furniture doesn’t fit like you want or you don’t have enough curtains for this house! If you just stay focused you can get done quicker!

Find a friend

Embracing the suck requires a team effort! We can’t do it on our own. Some might argue with me on this point but I have written several posts about the importance of community and making friends. To me it is Mission Critical to have a few good friends you can really rely on to be there for you! As much as we rely on our spouse to help us get through these sucky periods, they are not always there – because mission comes first. Besides who else shows up with wine and chocolate after those kind of days!

So you see, it’s possible to Embrace the suck! It takes time and its ok to throw ourselves a pity party! But after that we can put our big girl panties on and trudge alone! If you are struggling to trudge on check out my 15 Healthy Coping skills here!

How do you embrace the suck?

Life can be sucky sometimes. But don't worry there are ways to keep plugging along embracing life to the fullest!

My Vision of Future

See how I created My Vision of Future through coaching to make my Goals for 2017

 

 

A few weeks ago I attended an online workshop hosted by my very talented friend, Amy Watts who is a Life Coach for the John Maxwell Team. Even before she was on official life coach, she was in some ways mine and she is as close to a big sister to me that you can get without being related to me. Her workshop was all about envisioning our future, mapping out our goals for 2017. What I loved most about the way she helped us do that was we spent 25 to 30 minutes meditating and imagining what our lives will look like on Dec. 24, 2017. I mean what a better way to map out our goals than by envisioning our future! We also were encouraged to put pen to paper and write down what we envisioned.

Each step of this process was purposeful! We used our imagination to create in our minds the picture of what we want to achieve. Imagination is a powerful too. One question I ask in counseling a lot, often referred to as the “Miracle Question” is, “If you woke up tomorrow and your problem was solved, how is your life different?” I encourage my clients to imagine what their life would look like, what is better, what is the same? Thinking about the possibilities. That is exactly what Amy had us do when she had us envision how our lives looked at the end of 2017.

Then we wrote it down, we put it out there, we are making ourselves accountable. So I wanted to share my Vision of Future with all of you. One because there are goals in there that for my blog and growing this community. And two because I thought it was such a great exercise to help plan out your year! So if you want to maybe it’s something for you to try too. Mine is in written as a letter to myself.

Dear Grace,

What a year it has been! We have moved, had yet another period of separation! And in some ways I am thankful we endured that. It means B’s career is finally on the move again. He’s had a promotion and now we are living, well I don’t know where we are living exactly because that part just really isn’t up to me (HURRY UP ARMY!). But we are finally moved into our new home, boxes are unpacked and we are settled in! 3 bedrooms is a lot of space for us, but we are planning for the future even now. But we have a Queen sized guest bed finally, so wherever we are, we are ready for visitors.

Right now I am sitting on the couch with B and Lucy watching Christmas movies in our new home freshly decorated for the holidays! If we are somewhere cold, maybe we have a fire going, if we have gone tropical maybe our windows are open to let the breeze in. But either way we are all together. 2017 is a year of growth for our family, I don’t know if you’ll be pregnant when Dec 14, 2017 rolls around but you and B will be working on maybe adding that little one to the family.

The blog has taken off, and is starting to bring in bits of income! I am so excited; I can’t wait to see how much farther I can take it. The community that has been built around it is wonderful. There is something out there to be a support to other military spouses. I know how hard it can be to be alone, loss of friends, distance from family, unanswered questions, and lots of lots of waiting. But I am coming to learn more and more and I want to have the opportunity to help others!

Your counseling has also developed. The new post is also allowing you to serve the military in this way. Even though it doesn’t bring in much it is something and now it’s also counting towards a license!! YAY! It’s still part time so its gonna take a while, but I still find ways to fill the time!

While I may come and some P.S. to this letter I think I have given you a pretty good idea of what 2017 has in store for you! But you are going to rock it! All the challenges will be tough but you are a strong person. Celebrate the successes! And enjoy life!

What would your vision of future look like? Share with me here!
If you are interested in life or business coaching, Check out Amy Watts here! (p.s. I am not being paid to say this!)

Wellness Challenge Part 5: Living a Healthy Life

Living a Healthy Life

So I saved the hardest one for last, well at least the hardest one for me. I am not the poster child for fitness 5x a week and when my favorite online fitness and nutritional coach challenged us to 28 days no diary, gluten, added sugar, processed food, and alcohol (that is the only one I can easily omit). I actually laughed at my computer screen. That would mean 28 days without ice-cream and chocolate, 28 days without my favorite snacky foods- fruit snacks and granola bars. Sure I could replace all of those with healthier, no processed foods, but I can’t afford for my grocery bill to go up $50 or more to shop like that.

But all that being said, I am not terribly unhealthy, I eat fruits and vegetables daily, we don’t eat a lot of refined flour – my hubby doesn’t eat carbs and for the most part I eat three balanced meals a day. Most of my grocery list is fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats, so I think its ok to buy the more yummy, and probably less healthy snacks, just being honest.

Exercise on the other hand kicks my butt. I hate being sweaty and am way too self-conscious to go to gym. I try to do Pilates at home, but since I hate to sweat I generally skip cardio day on the calendar (let me tell you big mistake!) I thought I was doing just fine with that arrangement… until my brother took us hiking while we were visiting them over Christmas. It was beautiful, but I struggled big time! I had no endurance, I guess I shouldn’t have skipped cardio! I gave up about 10 times, thankfully I started 11 times and so I made it to top, and I am so glad I did, just look at that view! But I was in rough shape huffing and puffing my way to the top, while my dad, brother and husband all looked cool as a cucumber. I guess there is something to be said for cardio day!

View from the top of the mountain in Hawaii Kai

I know exercise and diet are probably two of the biggest New Year’s Resolutions that Americans make each year! But they are also probably the quickest to be given up on. So this year we are not going to make them resolutions, we are going to make them goals. My fitness goal for 2017 is cardio (obviously)! Our New Year’s Resolution shouldn’t be crazy diets, or hard core work out plans. We have to start small and be realistic. I know that cross-fit isn’t for me, (hello sweating) so why would I start there? I am going start small, I can do cardio dance in the privacy of my own home! So that is where I am going to start!

So I think this goal here should be balance: you can have ice cream and chocolate and all the good stuff as long as you also eat healthy as well! You don’t have to give anything up to make room for exercise in your schedule, start small, maybe it’s at home, maybe you and a friend agree to walk the neighborhood together a few times a week!

But why do we need to live a healthy lifestyle! Well besides the idea that regular healthy diet and exercise is an obvious path to wellness, diet and exercise can reduce mental health problems especially anxiety and depression. Has anyone watched Legally Blonde? Remember, “EXERCISE GIVES YOU ENDORPHINS; ENDORPHINS MAKE YOU HAPPY” Elle Woods knew what she was talking about! Happy people are less anxious and less depressed. I am not a dietician, but from having worked with families and individuals in my time counseling, I have noticed that diet can play a huge part in mood and affect. Also having a healthy diet, and knowing you are consuming food that is good for you can increase sense of self-worth and self-esteem! Making decisions that you know are good for you will make you feel better about yourself. The same is true of exercise. Even if you don’t see immediate results, you will feel better about yourself for having done something that is a good for you!

As we finish the wellness series today as we move out of the first month of 2017 already! In writing all of these posts and making goals for myself in all these areas and am hoping that 2017 will be the best year yet! It is already shaping up to be a really great year! I hope this Wellness Challenge has been as inspiring for you as it was for me! And my final hope for you is that you can make good on your goals! Take time every few months and evaluate where you are, and if you aren’t where you want to be, don’t get yourself down, just figure out what you need to do to get back on track.

How are you going to make 2017 your healthiest year yet? Did you enjoy the wellness challenge? Let me know in the comments!

Find weeks 1, 2, 3, and 4 here for challenges for your marriage, mental wellness, making friends, and living simply!

Living the Healthy Life to feel good inside and out

Wellness Challenge Part 4: Living the Simple Life + FREE Printable Cleaning Schedule

Living the Simple Life - How to simplify our homes and our calendars + Freebie

Raise your hand if the clutter and messiness of your home overwhelm you? Raise your hand if the business of your calendar has you down? I knew I couldn’t be the only one! And that is exactly why Week 4 of the Wellness Challenge Series is going to focus on living the simple life! Simplifying your obligations, your calendar, and your home will help reduce anxiety in your life because there will be fewer tings vying for your time and energy! If you dedicate your time to a few essential tasks: work, family life, house cleaning; then you will have more energy to devote to each task. This will leave you feeling more accomplished and less anxious! If you simplify your home, keeping the necessities, and finally purging all the things you always mean to thrown away but don’t then there will be less clutter to stress you out, and will take less time to clean in general! This post will also contain my simple daily and weekly cleaning schedule that helps me keep the clutter to a minimum! There are two main places that we need to focus on when it comes to simplifying our lives: our calendars and our homes! I am going to speak to how to simplify and remove extraneous obligations and possessions and how doing so will promote wellness in you and your family! And as promised I will also be sharing how I am doing so in the New Year to help simplify my own life.

Simplifying your Calendar
Who else’s calendar already looks like this??

My busy calendar

I know I am not the only one, and those are just the regular obligations like work, that doesn’t include spontaneous events or those events yet to be planned (obviously)! But what would happen if we didn’t have something scheduled every day? You know what would happen, we wouldn’t be run ragged, we could rest, and much to contrary belief our heads won’t fall off and nobody will be disappointed in us! Now we can’t give up work or spending time with family, or taking care of our pets (that is most of what is scheduled on my calendar right now – and its already jam packed!) but, we DO NOT have to say YES every time someone asks us to help organize a function, attend a function, be classroom mom, volunteer at the homeless shelter 4 times a month, and attend every exercise class that we are invited to. While none of these things are bad in and of themselves they can distract us from our priorities in life. So Step 1 in simplifying your calendar is IDENTIFY YOUR PRIORITIES. The priorities I have are: my work, this includes babysitting (my only form of paid income at the moment), volunteer work, and my blog (which I hope to grow into a source of income); family time-  both extended and with my husband; and bible study (I attend weekly bible study one day a week – PWOC for those in the Military Family, it is a wonderful source of community).

Step 2 is now that those priorities have established, figure out what events on your calendar align with your priorities and which don’t. If you have an overwhelming amount of events on your calendar that don’t align with your priorities then it is time to examine why you are involved and if you can step back from those commitments. IF you have to step away understand that while it may be difficult and uncomfortable to have those conversations, most people will understand and appreciate your honesty. And in the long run, nobody will be disappointed in you. So know that it is 100% ok to step back from activities, committees or groups.

So now we have simplified your calendar so you can focus on your priorities! YAY! What a relief to think about starting off the year with less commitments! Leaving you more time to relax and enjoy the spontaneous parts of life (like a night out on the town with the hubby or trip to the dog park with a friend)! You will have more time to spend with the kids so you won’t look back and say with regret all the things you missed when they were little or whatever else you feel like you are missing out on now because of the business of life. Now let’s turn to simplifying your home!

Simplifying your Home

Now I am not the poster child about livin’ in a minimalism style, that’s just not me. If you were coming to my house, well right now it’s still decorated for Christmas, but normally would be a rustic chic style with lots of pictures everywhere. It’s full of memories in still life form and trinkets from all parts of our lives. But I try to declutter as often as I can. Knowing that I will be moving this summer I am already mentally prepping for the purge, even though we just went through one last summer when I moved here! So here is the list of things I will be purging this time around: duplicates of anything (I have 156 cups in my kitchen or so it seems anyway); old files, bills, pieces of paper that are not necessary; old calendars (I am so guilty of keeping my old calendars and agendas when I get a new one); anything that is broken (I am the queen of I will fix it one day); clothes I don’t wear- that don’t fit, have holes in them, stained beyond repair; books I have read and will never read again.

If I threw away (or gave away or sold) just those things, I could probably fill several garbage bags, the big black ones. And it wouldn’t take me very long if I just sat down and did it. I am a sentimental pack rat so for me I have to take emotion out of the process or find a way to consolidate –  I think this is where my scrapbooking hobby comes from! If you can’t throw it away yourself ask a friend or your husband to help, as the items may have less sentimental value to them. Now I am not talking about throwing away memorabilia from your wedding or babies or any other special moment, but do you really need to keep your notes from your high school classes (yes, I graduated in 2010 and just threw them away, still have my college ones though…) or that rock collection you have that came mostly from your grandmother’s gravel driveway (yup, guilty again).

Finally, and this is really the biggest point: Do you feel relaxed in your own home? If the answer is yes than you are doing ok! If the answer is sometimes, figure out why sometimes you just can’t unwind – is it because it’s cluttered, messy, things don’t have their own place, it’s not cozy. Then just work on that area. If it is clutter, then get rid of the unnecessary stuff, garbage on the table and counters, put pens in a jar, use baskets to organize like items so it looks neat on the shelves. If its messy then find a cleaning schedule that works for you. HERE is the cleaning schedule I try to follow in my house, it’s not a deep clean, but it makes the house feel neat and tidy. If it’s not cozy then try adding fun pillows, blankets, candles and lamps so that your living spaces are warm and inviting!

You don’t want your own home to make you anxious, you want home to be a safe haven from the crazy world outside The less your home makes you anxious, the less you will schedule to keep you out of the house (see how I put those two together)! Having down time will allow you to recuperate, relax, rest and recharge for you to tackle your next task! Without that you will run yourself into the ground! Obviously exhaustion is the opposite of wellness, our goal of happy and healthy selves in the New Year. So give yourself a break, you don’t have to do everything & you don’t have to have a Pinterest worthy home, as long as its relaxing for you!

Living the Simple Life - How to simplify our homes and our calendars + FREEBIE

Wellness Challenge Part 3: When Making Friends in the Military is Hard

When Making Friends in the Military is Hard

So far we have covered, marriage, mental wellness, and now onto friendships. As a marital relationship, friendships  also contribute to over all well being. Friendships increase a sense of belonging and purpose, boosts happiness, reduces stress, can help you cope with traumas, and encourage you. However, we do need to be careful about the friends we choose. Toxic friendships can influence us in negative ways, dragging us down, increasing stress, and discouraging you from positive behaviors, and encouraging negative behaviors. As you see friends are important, but its more so the quality of friends you have that make your life better.

My husband just hit his year active duty mark in the military, just two weeks after our one year wedding anniversary. I knew moving around was part of the life-style before we got into it. And I felt like I was prepared because I had moved around a bit as a child; however, I was not prepared for how quickly I would make meaningful and lasting friendships with some wonderful ladies (I guess having to rely on them when your husbands are never home for months does that to you!) and how quickly I would have to say goodbye. I have been here for 6 months and I have already made life-long friendships and I have already had to say good bye to many friends! How could 6 months bring so much change? I saw on my Facebook page this morning a video for my “2016 in Review” and in that it showed me how many friends I had added this year, 76. That is crazy to me! Basically that means 76 new ‘friends’ (I don’t hang out with most of those, but still that’s a lot of new connections in just 6 months).

So it kind of seems like friendships are hard to come, easy go; which is extremely difficult if you are not already an outgoing person, eager to constantly be putting yourself out there, making new friends. For some people this is really discouraging. How do you cope with the constant flux of friendships that we experience as military spouses? It can be difficult to deal with, especially as a new spouse, I had no idea how quickly this would hit me. I was not prepared for having made friends and them leave so quickly. Here are some simple ways I have found to cope with transitions:

  1. Celebrate the friendships
  2. Its ok to be sad they are leaving
  3. Make sure to spend some time together before they leave if possible

Finding Community
When the friends we initially make begin to move away, it is hard to find motivation to go out and cultivate new friendships. In my work as a counselor with military families I have heard many women say, “what’s the point of making friends here, we are just going to be gone in a few months anyway.” And I have felt that a few times myself. I am especially feeling that now with many of my friends having left or are about to leave. Furthermore, we are only looking at being here for a couple more months. But, I am here to tell you what the point is! The reason you make friends even if you are only going to be around a short time is that friendships help combat loneliness. And prolonged loneliness leads into depression. Now not everyone who is lonely will wind up depressed, but it certainly doesn’t help! We can’t get trapped into fearing putting ourselves out there and refuse to make new friends. As hard and uncomfortable as it is we need to continue to grow friendships regardless of how much time we have left at a duty station.

Friendships breed community. We as humans were not designed to live in isolation; we were meant to live as a community. That is why people thrive when they are plugged into their surroundings. We cannot be our best self in isolation, we will not feel good about ourselves. Self-esteem and sense of self-worth both take a hit when we try to function in prolonged isolation. Community is important no matter if you are a military family or not, but it is my experience that military families are more heavily reliant on outside communities than civilians are because they are more likely to be far from any kind of family support.

When you don’t have any family around there is no one else to rely on in times of trouble other than the community that you have built up around you. Just recently I read a Facebook post written by a spouse here at Fort Benning. She was pregnant and sick, her husband was working and unable to get home immediately, she couldn’t drive herself to the ER and had no one to watch her kids all because she had not built up a community around her. Now she is totally dependent on her husband who can’t be there for her right now. This is the kind of situation that results when you rely on far away family and friends to be your emotional support and social interactions, there is no community surrounding you when you need someone.

Just as phone and video interactions with far away family members can’t be the entirety of your social interactions, neither can your husband. Your husband cannot be your sole source of social interactions and validation. You will soon wear him out because he is not meant to be your sole emotional support; primary yes, but only, not so much. If we are not the best versions of ourselves, we cannot provide the support and validation that our husbands and children need. This creates a vicious cycle of neglect of emotional wellbeing. Now I am not saying that having friends will fill the void that might be left by relying solely on your husband, only God can do that when we lean on him. But a husband cannot be your community as much as you try to make him so. It will only leave you feeling isolated.

Your Challenge – Putting Yourself out there
I know it’s hard ladies, it takes me out of my comfort zone, just as much as yall. It can seem unfair when some really extroverted, outgoing people always seem to have friends and all the resources in the area! And you are sitting there all alone just hoping for a semblance of friendship. Now I am not saying you have to be friends with everybody. But we do have to leave our little nest of blankets and pillows on our couches (and turn off the Netflix, it will still be there when we get home) be vulnerable and open ourselves to the idea of making friends and finding community. We have to leave our comfort zone every once in a while or we will begin to feel isolated, lonely, and depressed. So maybe one day you respond and accept someone’s invitation to go to Starbucks or attend an event you normally wouldn’t. Take a chance, maybe that should be your New Year’s Resolution. You’ll probably be surprised how having a community around you will make you feel more secure.

How are you prepared to make friends this year?

Making friends can be hard. Especially when you move around every few years, and so does everyone else around you! Here are some great ways to motivate yourself to get out of the bubble!

And don’t forget to check out Week 1 and Week 2 here!

Wellness Challenge Part 2: 15 Healthy Coping Skills to try this Year

15 Healthy Coping Skills

So who is ready for part 2 of the Wellness Challenge! This week I wanted to focus on mental health and take it a step further into mental wellness. As a trained marriage and family counselor, this is my area of expertise, helping people learn how to cope with their circumstances in ways which will help them overcome and grow rather than avoid or be manipulated by their circumstances. While mental illness is definitely a big deal (it is a subject for another time because it is so important it deserves its own space), we don’t want to just avoid mental illness, we also want to thrive, and that is mental wellness. This is a preventative measure against developing mental illness.

For those struggling with anxiety and depression, many of these unhealthy coping mechanisms may look familiar to you, but it is definitely possible to incorporate the healthy coping mechanisms I listed below as well!  So that is why my week two goal is to continue to incorporate these Healthy coping strategies into my everyday life. And you should too, because mental wellness is affected and effects every part of your life. As we saw last week, it affects your relationships, especially your marriage; it affects work, parenting, it even affects your physical health.

I recently read a blog post, 15 Unhealthy Coping Skills,  written by Jackie over at Laughter & Loving Life. And it got me thinking there are so many unhealthy coping skills that we all engage in on a daily basis. I have seen so many unhealthy coping skills in my experience as a family counselor, used by both children and adults. But what I have noticed is that no matter what strategy they used, the point to these unhealthy coping skills was to avoid the problem and having to deal with it. Here are the 15 unhealthy coping skills Jackie came up with:

Unhealthy Coping Skills

  1. Leave without warning
  2. Fighting & negative comebacks
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Flight-mentally
  5. Sleeping away the problem
  6. Passive-aggressive behavior (ultimatums)
  7. Negative body language: crossed arms, rolled eyes, crossed and closed off legs and arms
  8. Not listening but jumping in waiting to talk
  9. Avoiding eye contact
  10. Over-eating
  11. Under-eating
  12. Lack of sleep
  13. Letting go of reality
  14. Lack of proper hygiene
  15. Lack of communication

If we always use unhealthy coping mechanisms, we will never feel as though we have overcome the situation that is causing the stress in the first place. In fact, it will probably cause more issues and we will continue the cycle of unhealthy coping by avoiding those extra issues by using the same unhealthy patterns. It may temporarily make us feel better, but in the long run we have solved nothing, but avoiding a problem. And until the problem is solved, we will continue to be plagued by the circumstances we are actively avoiding. That is not a way to live well; which is something we should all be striving for!

So from a family counselor here are 15 Healthy counter coping strategies to try out instead of the ones above. I have compiled this list from talking to clients about what works for them in difficult situations and other suggestions that other counselors often give their own clients, as well as things that have worked for me in the past.

Healthy Coping Skills

  1. Stay present in the moment, take in as much information as you an – it might help later
  2. Maintain a positive attitude – being negative has never solved anyone’s problems; positivity breed creativity for ways out of the issue
  3. At least try to identify the role you play in the situation – and share it if you can
  4. Maintain healthy sleep hygiene – only stay in bed to sleep, make your bedroom a safe haven
  5. Be confrontational (this is not a negative) if necessary, this simply means pointing out discrepant facts
  6. Be an active listener – engage in the Speaker-Listening technique 
  7. Eat Healthy – fruits, vegetables, protein, healthy carbs, avoid sugars and alcohol
  8. Exercise – even if it’s just a little bit, every small amount helps
  9. Talk to somebody, but don’t just bash the stressor (especially if it’s a person), but talk about your feelings about the situation
  10. Shower, brush your teeth, brush your hair, put some clothes on (other than yoga pants)
  11. Make a pro-con list, weigh the options of the whatever decisions might need to be made – don’t avoid them
  12. Take some time for self-care – pamper yourself a bit, go get a mani/pedi or do one yourself or whatever makes you feel good
  13. Check out for a bit, but don’t let it be for too long – checking out can be helpful in extreme stress situations, but maintaining that position is just avoidant
  14.  Seek support, don’t isolate yourself
  15. Relax, take a deep breath, practice any sort of relaxation technique that works for you: deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, etc.

So there you have it, 15 healthy coping mechanisms that I would recommend to any of my clients. Not all coping skills will work for everyone in all situations, but I am sure there is at least one or two that can be used in any situation by any person. With the New Year just starting, here is my challenge to you, try to replace one of your unhealthy coping skills with one of the healthy choices from the 2nd list. Try it out and see if it helps!

Let me know if it does or doesn’t and why it did or didn’t work for you! But it is my suspicion that while it may be more uncomfortable in the moment, it will help you solve the issue more quickly which will remove an even bigger discomfort! So choose emotional health this New Year! And don’t just settle for the absense of mental illness or lessened severity of mental illness, strive for mental health and above that mental wellness, and just maybe you’ll find yourself growing in the year 20171

So your challenge this week: pick 2 to 3 unhealthy coping mechanisms and try to replace them with 1 or 2 Healthy Coping Mechanisms. Try it for a week and see if it makes a difference for you! For more detailed tips see my Guest Post for the Military Wife & Mom on how Military Spouses can Reduce Anxiety in Times of High Stress
​What are your go to coping mechanisms?

Stress can be hard to deal with, but with these 15 Healthy Coping skills you can grow from your challenges!

Check out Week 1 and Week 3 here!

Welcome to the Wellness Challenge: Taking Control of the New Year

Welcome to the Wellness Chalenge

We have made it to 2017! It is going to be a great year! And to help it start off on the right foot (because we all know that when we have a good morning, our day is better off), each week the during month of January I am going to flesh out the biggest, most common new year’s resolutions: better marriage, mental wellness, friendships, healthy living, and more organized life and living space! Every year we pick one resolution: exercise every day, eat healthy, be a better, wife, mother and friend, be more organized, and get rid of our junk – living more simply. The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that often even before Jan 15th we have left them behind! Why? Well A) because change is hard! And B) because we don’t always understand the holistic benefits to our wellness. While they are all great resolutions and all good things for us, really they are all just sub-components of living a lifestyle of wellness! They all work together to create a whole happy, and healthy person! Dieting is great, but are you doing it to lose a few pounds or to be a healthy person? And answering that question is why I am doing this wellness challenge.

Rather than having the best job, marriage, or body our New Year’s Resolution to be a happy person, a whole person! And all of those things listed above are great! But the ultimate goal is to be a happy and whole person! So that I what I want to help all of us accomplish this New Year, in a way that might last past Jan. 15th (even if in part it’s just because the Series goes through the end of January!) We can all do this, if we just keep that goal in mind, we don’t need to reinvent ourselves, we are already lovely and wonderful people! That is the mindset we need to maintain. So often our New Year’s Resolutions fail because we are trying to be something other than ourselves, and we are not made to do that; but we are made to be wonderful versions of ourselves, happy people!

So Week one we will look at our marriages and how they influence our overall wellbeing! Week 2, our mental wellness and how coping in healthy ways can help us grow and be bigger and better than our circumstances. Week 3, friendships and how we cannot live in isolation and our community is important. Week 4, living organized life, by taking control of our surroundings and our calendar we can prioritize our life, simplicity is all we need. And finally Week 5, healthy eating and exercise, saved this one for last because food is my kryptonite and I hate exercising!
So let’s do this together and hold each other accountable. Each week I want everyone to answer the call, and I will do the same!

Where Anxiety Comes from & Why it Won’t go Away

Where does Anxiety Come from & How we can make it go awat

We always think, once that test I over, once my husband gets home from deployment, TDY, the field; my kid grows out of this phase then I won’t be anxious any more. As soon as that event ends and we think we can relax. We just find something else to be anxious about. Why can’t we just relax? Well I will tell you.

The reason we have so much anxiety in our lives is because the society we live in perpetuates it. Just watch any TV commercial it will tell you all about the products you are missing out on and that you just have to have, and you will see that it is breeding grounds for feeling like we are missing out. We are constantly comparing our lives to everyone around us, who we assume always has everything perfectly together. And we suddenly feel very inadequate. Sure, come January first and we are making our new year’s resolution we will vow not to compare ourselves to other, but January 2nd rolls around and we go to a friend’s house and their house is already un-decorated, put away and cleaned. And we go home to our house filled with boxes of unfinished, unorganized Christmas decorations and we fall back into the trap.

So what can we do about this vicious cycle? Because we are imperfect people, we will never rid our lives of anxiety fully, but if we recognize the cycle and can identify it in our own lives then we can get one step closer to living peacefully alongside our anxiety. Wait what did you just say you might ask? Living peacefully alongside anxiety? That sounds like an oxymoron. In some ways maybe. There is always going to be a new product out. Our friends will always be doing something different from us. We are always going to have that anxiety in our lives; and that’s ok. It is how we respond to our anxiety that determines whether or not we live peacefully.

Often we think we are in the wrong for feeling anxious, because everyone hides their anxiety from everyone else; trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. By acknowledging it we gain power of it, we are no longer acting out of anxious reactivity we can choose how we respond to the anxiety. Reactivity to anxiety is what keeps us in the falsehood of as soon as the circumstances change our anxiety will lift; keeps us constantly purchasing the next “it” item of clothing, make-up, toy for our child; it’s what keeps us constantly looking for something else to satisfy our void. Reactivity will never make our anxiety go away it will just shift the focus of our anxiety. Recognizing our anxiety, operating knowing that we have control over it means freedom.

We own our anxiety by recognizing that its present and choosing to act despite it. It is the push to try something new, dare to be different, and own and accept your life for what it is and what God has given to you. Way easier said than done I agree; however, with prayer, patience, and knowing we aren’t always going to get it right we can live peacefully alongside our anxiety instead of imprisoned by its constraints.

After we recognize our anxiety what are we supposed to do about it? Here is where our coping skills come into play. Below I have linked to another post all about coping skills. I wanted to talk about one in particular that seems to be helpful for just about everybody. And that is talking to someone! A lot of us have someone we can trust that we can turn to. But sometimes that person may be gone thanks to Military Life. If you are looking for someone to talk to and don’t know where to turn, Better Help has some great suggestions.

Here are some more handy coping skills when you’re struggling with anxiety!

We all face some anxiety, some of us more than others. But despite our levels of anxiety if we don;t know how to address it we can never learn how to live with our anxiety.

The Art of Learning to be Content Where You Are

The Art of Learning to be Content Where you Are

“Hurry up and wait,” was not a phrase I was all too familiar with prior to getting married, yet sometime I now feel like it’s my life anthem. In the last couple months I have gotten all geared up for one possibility or another only for them to all be for not. And here are again gearing up for a change only to get so far and now we wait again.

But waiting is not my strong suit. I am impatient, I want things done and I want them done now. And clearly the Army does not cater to me, how dare they!

But waiting for the Army to tell us the next move means waiting on more than just for the next move.  It means waiting to find the perfect job, finding the perfect house, making plans for the future. And that’s hard for me. I like to be in control of my life and this has left me feeling completely out of control as I hurry up and wait.

If I don’t learn how to be content and happy right where I am in life now, it’s going to be a long military career for us. I will be setting myself up for a lot of disappointment and will make my husband crazy in the process trying to please me despite his career.

So how am I learning to be content and waiting for the future. The answer is very slowly and not very gracefully if we are being honest with each other!  Thankfully I have a husband that has endless grace for me when I am not patient. But, what I have learned is that I need to have more grace for myself in that it’s ok for me to get my hopes up and dream about our future, and that disappointments are okay.  However, what we do with those disappointments is more important. By owning our disappointments and monitoring our reactions we can learn to be content in our current situation.

For me, knowing that our joy  does not come from within but is a gift from the Lord is the biggest reminder of how to be content in my current situation. I know it’s not my timing but the Lord is in charge, even when it feels like it’s the military. Relying on him to supply our joy in times of difficulty and disappointment makes all the difference in the world. So no matter what circumstances we are in I will continue to “hurry up and wait,” for the blessings that the Lord has in store for us!

How are you learning to be content where you are in life?

The Art of Learning to be Content Where you are