As if the dumpster fire of 2020 wasn’t enough, many military families added the element of family separation to it with deployment. Deployment on their own can be stressful time periods – anxiety and stress for the family members left behind and the active duty service member. Surviving deployment in the winter where it is cold outside (not you SoCal or Okinawa – temperatures in the 50s don’t count!) is hard. Throw in a pandemic where each state has different guidelines and regulations, and that adds just a touch more stress. Here are some tips from families who have survived deployment, albeit from the “before times.”
- Have a routine. Even if you have older kids where this doesn’t seem to be as necessary, creating a routine can keep everything running as smoothly as possible. It helps adults create a predictable pattern that sets up appropriate expectations. Curate monthly care packages to your deployed family member if you can keep the school schedule organized to help keep things on track. Whatever you have going on, keep the routine going.
- Have something to look forward to. Maybe on Monday it is movie night every week (check out your local library for access to digital movies for free movies) or monthly you virtually visit somewhere new. Creating an event creates a smaller, more manageable countdown to something exciting and fun, and makes a fun and easy way to countdown to the return of homecoming.
- Meal plan. Whether you use a meal service where boxed groceries come to you, or you do crockpot meals, make mealtime easier. If you have a new address, ask around to your neighbors to see if they have a meal box service as sometimes your first box can be free. Planning out meals can help limit grocery trips out in the cold.
- Be Flexible. While this may sound like the anti-thesis of having a routine and planning meals, it is crucial to survival. Planning is a great and useful tool, but things do happen, and being able to go with the flow when the crockpot wasn’t plugged in or one of the kids needs to head to the ER will help.
- Don’t forget about that resource YouTube. If you have cabin fever and just want to try something new – there is a bevy of tutorials on YouTube. Want to try a new hairstyle on one of your girls or want to draw Captain America? They are on YouTube!
- Do something for you. Whether it is a Zoom call with a friend on a regular schedule or reading a book for yourself – remembering self-care matters no matter what is going on in the world. It can be difficult to carve out time depending on work, school, or children’s schedules, but make sure to take time for yourself.
- Avoid the news. While things like the weather are useful during the winter times, avoiding the news is a tried and true piece of advice for all deployments. Avoid the stress-fest that is the news will prevent you from going crazy.
- Embrace creativity. Art can be done indoors, no matter the weather outside. Paint, draw, journal, mold with clay or playdough. There
- Ignore Debbie Downers. There are 1000 ways to survive a deployment, and some tips will work for you and some won’t. Ignore the tips that won’t work for you, and rock the ones that do.
- There is help if you need it. Deployments are stressful, add in the winter and a pandemic, it can be overwhelming. Virtual visits are available with unit Chaplains, Military Family Life Counselors and through Military One Source.
When the weather outside is cold, and deployment mixed with a pandemic makes life frightful, we hope these tips help just a little. What are your favorite tips to surviving deployment that can be used during the pandemic-lifestyle in the winter?