5 Ways to Nurture Yourself When Your Spouse is Overworked & Stressed

5 Ways to Nurture Yourself When Your Spouse is Overworked & Stressed

Let me say it is not just the US and South Korea with tension running through it.  MY HOUSE is running at an all-time high level of tension. In times of stress, it’s imperative that you find ways to nurture yourself. Here’s my story, and some ways that I’ve found to take care of myself. I hope you can use this as inspiration to find ways to nurture yourself when you most need it too.

 

It is no secret the military just finished it’s big exercise in Korea, it is covered in the press.  With that exercise comes even longer and more stressful work for my spouse.  This assignment has been extra tough on him.  He is running on empty.  And that affects the entire household.  He is constantly trying to decompress when he’s home and it is an impossible feat.  The phone doesn’t stop.  The questions over text, the constant ringing/vibrating, it doesn’t stop. Ever.

Our three young boys miss and want to play with him. When he is finally around, they don’t let him have a minute to himself.  Then there is me, I need him too.  I tend to fall to the bottom of everyone’s list.  Not necessarily intentionally, more so out of habit.  I think this is the default response in many families.  Mom takes it for the team. We sink to the bottom of priorities, even to ourselves. Women are so good at picking up and juggling all the pieces.  Our desire is to keep everyone happy and lives running as normal. Because we can do so much, we do.

 I know the military is not the only profession like this.  Many of you know exactly what I am talking about even though your spouse may not be a service member.  The scenario is a common one and I do not think this issue is exclusive to military families.

I have had moments of seriously questioning why we came on this assignment.  Most days it’s like I am a single parent.  If we were living in different locations I wouldn’t expect him to be there.  But we are living in the same house.  Although I know his plate is very full right now, it doesn’t take away from my needs as a wife.

We chose to come along on this assignment with my husband because if we can keep our family together, living in the same home, we are going to do that.  There are enough times the Army will separate us.  We wanted to experience living abroad with our children.  Having the Army provide the option is the only way it would happen right now.  But you go where they say, and our family was basically treated like soldiers on the move here.  So it certainly wasn’t glamorous, not even close.

I am very grateful for our 2 years in Korea which is quickly coming to an end.  I had a lot of personal growth here.  We head back stateside in a couple of months, making our way to Fort Riley, KS.  In the meantime, I am trying to weather the stress storm that is taking over my house.  With an upcoming PCS (military relocation), a lot has to be planned, sorted, and arranged.  There are many layers in this process.  All of that is bouncing around in my husbands head, along with his day to day work.

So where do I fall in all of this?  I am trying to be as helpful and supportive as possible.  I know my husband, he has been my partner for 13 years.  I can’t change anything at his work, but I can pick up some extra slack at home that I would normally want help with.  Like bedtime routines.  Three young boys, all want their individual routines, their favorite songs, someone always asks for a last-second extra drink of water.  Or a favorite blanket can’t be found.  Oops, one forgot to go to the bathroom.  Every time they get up, they want to be assisted back down, with a quick kiss and love-you, again.  After a long day all those little requests can frustrate the most patient person.  I have been trying to carry the weight of bedtime routines until the work stress wains a bit for him.

 

My husband and I love food.  If he comes home from a long day and gets a delicious meal, he is a content, happy man until his phone starts to blow up with the next work issue.  He never complains if I opt for takeout, or wing it with a super simple meal.  But I see how happy he is with a fabulous home cooked meal.  I know that by giving him a delicious meal packed with veggies I am doing more than just feeding him.  I am nourishing him as well.  A sleep deprived, overworked stressed individual needs extra nourishment to keep going.  During his tough times, it is something I can do to make his day a little better.

We don’t see each other much on weekdays, quickly in the morning and a bit before bed.  While that is less than ideal, and we don’t spend quality time bonding over dreams of our future, I know this time is temporary.  It hasn’t always been this way, our last duty station was filled with quality time together and family bonding.  But the duty station before that, was like this one.  I remind myself that I am thankful he has an amazing career, we have healthcare, a roof over our heads and plenty of food to eat.

At the same time, I have to invest energy into my own wellbeing. You need to find ways to nurture yourself. It is a very common scenario for a military spouse, wife, mom, to keep the homestead afloat.  Ensuring household duties, appointments, birthday parties hosted and attended, playdates, school & sports registration/practices are done… the list goes on and on of all that a mother takes care of.  Carefully managing the pieces for the home, kiddos and her marriage.

We carry a lot on our shoulders.  It is imperative that I am nurturing myself, so I am able to bear the brunt of that weight.  Some days I will buckle, (like yesterday, yesterday I buckled) but most days I will be stronger than the day before (like today, today I am stronger).

 

In the past I let resentments build for far too long.  I still have days when I question if I can make the long haul.  Days I am angry I am not able to spend more time on my career because his military career will always take precedence.  That is the obligation when you sign a contract and become a service member.  You are always a soldier first.

So what do I do to nurture myself during times of stress?  When I am weighed down with even more than I already handle?

Bring a fun activity back into your day to day.

Find something physical you love to do and make it happen.  Love dancing?  Put on some music and dance around your house.  Love walking? Switch it up by finding a trail with a different terrain than your normal walk.  The point is to move and move more than your normal.  This will release pleasure-seeking endorphins throughout your body.  There is something incredibly empowering when you give yourself permission to carve out time for yourself and your health even when life is overworked and stressed.

Give yourself permission to get away from all the responsibilities and spend time with a friend. While I know I am shouldering more than the norm right now and it won’t always be like this, I also know I will be whittled down to nothing if I don’t nurture myself along the way.  Coffee with a friend, a pedicure, a bite to eat or a stroll through an interesting neighborhood.  These are all things I enjoy, recharges and fills me back up. As mothers in our day to day routines, it is easy to put off getting together with a great friend. It doesn’t even take long with a good friend and a few belly laughs to feel reset and ready to take on the responsibilities again.

Marriage therapy.  There, I said it.  Hands-down it’s the reason I am still married today.  I believe every single married couple should do it, especially if one of you is in the military. It may take trying a couple of different therapists to get the right fit for both of you.  When the fit is right, the healing happens. Having a trained professional, a neutral party involved assures you have an objective opinion counseling both of you.  It is a beautiful thing.

In the past I let resentments build far too long.  I still have days when I question if I can make the long haul.  Days I am angry I am not able to spend more time on my career because his military career will always take precedence.  That is the obligation when you sign a contract and become a service member.  You are always a soldier first. I am not wrong for feeling this way, but I also cannot hold it against him.  Sometimes I have to verbalize this to him, get those feelings out of my body and into the world.

Allow yourself to be mad, sad and angry. It is frustrating and exhausting when you feel the sole responsibility to take care of the household yet you are in a partnership. If you do not allow yourself to feel it and instead push it down, these feelings will manifest into something detrimental.  Comforting yourself with food, an explosion of hostility and however it presents itself isn’t going to be pretty.  Stress affects the body like fast food.  This is why it is important to nurture myself as well as allowing my spouse to do the same for himself.

Let a bulk of the responsibilities go for the day.  Hang out and take a load off.  Enjoy a book or magazine you have wanted to curl up with.  Have a good laugh or cry. I personally know I can’t do this one for more than a day, as much as I would sometimes like to.  My home looks like a tornado whipped through it within minutes of my children awake.  Letting the household duties go for a couple of days seems to multiply the work in ridiculous quantities.

Imagine if someone was able to swoop in and remove some of the overwhelm during tense and stressful times.  The great thing is that person is YOU.  By applying some of these tips it doesn’t make stress disappear but it certainly helps you cope and sail through those times without feeling like a sinking ship.

How do you find ways to nurture yourself? If you found this helpful and know someone else that may too, hit the share button and give them the opportunity to benefit as well.


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