Category Archives: Marriage

4 Ways Journaling Changed My Life (And How It Can Change Yours, Too)

Ever since I can remember, I’ve kept a journal. In 2nd grade, my teacher had me jot things down daily as a way to improve my writing and storytelling. In 4th grade, my journal was a mix of photos and writing. Junior high journals turned into secret notebooks shared between friends to hash out crushes, breakups, day-to-day musings, and of course, what our favorite Lipsmackers lip gloss happened to be that week.

High school is when I started to take journaling more seriously. I filled pages with lists I wanted to remember forever, like Things That Make Me Happy and My Favorite Movies, and I had one journal filled with quotes of all kinds. I’ll be honest: most pages were my scribbled thoughts about boys. But other pages were my mind’s outlet after a friend’s death in 2002. This journal was by my side through college, where entries chronicled more boys, road trip adventures, career aspirations, and eventual life after college. It was a place to put my dreams in writing, reflect on the “problems” I thought I had, and work out how my mind would process all the things.

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Sure, to most, journaling seems like a way to just record your day, just a cure for boredom, or a hobby just for introverted weirdos (which I am). And sure, technically you could just write about your day in a ‘surface-deep’ kind of way, and you could just do it when you’re bored. But really, I think journaling can change your life (and also not turn you into an introverted weirdo, I promise).

Here’s why:

It creates conscientious, intentional moments of thought. When writing, your mind is forced to focus on that one task. There is no screen scrolling, no swiping left, no mindless getaways. You think your thoughts, and you write them down. Even five minutes of intentional focus can refresh and revive a cluttered mind.

It relieves stress and calms anxiety. Journaling creates a safe space for your anxiety to escape through your pen. Even if it’s just scribbling on a page like a 3 year old, or other alternative journals, like Wreck This Journal, giving yourself an outlet and focus off of the stress and anxiety will help slow your heart rate, normalize your breathing, and lower your blood pressure.

It ignites self-reflection. When the first two things list above are in sync, this third benefit happens naturally. A calm, stress-free, and focused mind is a clear mind. And when you can clearly and intentionally focus on your thoughts, it’s natural that one will begin to self-reflect. Unfortunately, this is also the step where I think most people quit journaling. That’s because it’s a real, in-your-face, take-accountability-for-yourself moment, and most can’t handle it. I encourage you to push through the awkwardness, ignore the part of your mind telling you not to embrace your emotion, and write it all down. Even the embarrassing, shameful, and crazy stuff you never want anyone to know.

It leaves a priceless gift for your future self. Though journaling has immediate benefits, like the three I’ve mentioned, writing down your thoughts is an extraordinary way for your future self to connect with your past self. It is a great tool to encourage gratitude, self-adjustment, and simply remind you of some incredible moments in your life you may have forgotten. When I look back at my high school and college journal, I roll my eyes at the things I thought were world-stopping, like the boys that didn’t call, the ever important question of whether Ross and Rachel really were on a break. (Were they??)

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Today, I still keep a journal. I have dreams that my future children, grandchildren, and whoever else, will read it and have explicit access into my heart, soul, and mind, even when I’m gone.

When I read back through my entries, I’m in awe of myself for how far I’ve come, and how I’ve managed to rise out of the ashes, stronger for having gone through whatever it was—whether it was a break-up, a failed college course, an engagement, or a really disgusting flavored Lipsmackers lipgloss.

Journaling truly changed my life. I challenge you to see what it does for yours.

Have you ever kept a journal? What benefits did you experience?

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

The 3 Most Important Tips for Military Families Struggling During the Holidays

The holidays can be a tough time for many families, especially military families. Parties, dinner guest, out-of-town relatives visiting, and countless other factors make this time of year a little hard to manage. Add in alcohol, PTSD, or reintegration issues, and it’s a recipe for disaster—and not just for the service member.

Military spouses face their fair share of difficulties, like the stress of living up to Pinterest-level perfection during the holidays. Others find themselves arguing with their spouse over trivial things that wouldn’t matter any other time of year. How do we deal with it all?

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Our friends at The Real Warriors Campaign have 3 important tips that will help, not just around the holidays, but all the time.

  1. Strive for progress, not perfection. Real life isn’t a Pinterest photo, and comparison will ruin any good holiday cheer. It’s important for all members of the family to remember that progress is the goal…not perfection. And some days, progress will stall. That’s okay. Strive to move forward at your own ATTAINABLE pace, not perfection’s ridiculous unattainable pace.
  2. Seek care early. If something feels off, it probably is. Letting internal battles fester only creates longer lasting, more difficult obstacles to overcome. Talk with your spouse about what factors would have to be present to get care, and figure out what ‘care looks like. Mental, physical, and emotional care are available for all members of the family.
  3. Ask for help when needed. And know there is NO shame in doing it. Military spouses and children often face higher levels of anxiety than their civilian counterparts, and can easily find counselors through the Military Health System or on-base counseling center to help work through mental anguish. Service members have the same options, and a plethora of other resources, like The Real Warriors Campaign. Getting help, even if it’s just someone to listen to a gripe, is accessible and can be life-saving.

As you gather with family, friends, and loved ones this holiday season, prepare yourself for situations that might be uncomfortable. Team up with your spouse and tackle boundaries that need to be set, and know that these 3 simple tips can help. Just ask SFC David Parish.

How does your family deal with the stress of the holidays?

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

5 Gifts Military Life Gave Me (And #2 is a Shocker!)

Around the holidays, it can be hard to find things to be grateful for in military life. During this time, many are going through deployments, trying to figure out if they can make it back home to see family, or tackling other challenges. But for as many challenges as the military throws our way, it’s given me many other gifts in return, like:

My Spouse
If it weren’t for military life, I wouldn’t have met the man of my dreams. We met at Fort Hood, Texas where my father and husband were stationed. My husband and I are from two different parts of the United States. I believe that we never would’ve met if it weren’t for the US Army.

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Deployments
Okay, hear me out! I know, how could anyone consider deployments a gift? Don’t get me wrong, these were some of the hardest times in my life; my husband did four deployments in the first five years of our marriage. Yet, with each deployment I learned more about myself.

The first and second deployments, I learned I could make it on my own and take care of myself. I learned to pay bills, navigate some family issues, and how to stand up for myself.

The third and fourth deployments taught me how to communicate with my spouse. Our whole marriage was based on emails, chats, and telephone calls when he was gone. It only proved to make us stronger.

Lifelong Friendships
As a military kid, my sisters were with me every time my family PCS’d. Even to this day, one of my favorite people to talk to is my middle sister. We talk at least two times a week, if not more. In my teen years, I met my best friend and just this past September I was able to go see her after 13 years. It was like we were never apart. I have friends in numerous states, and Germany, because of the military. Each has a special place in my heart for different reasons.

New Experiences
How many people can say that they’ve lived in Germany three times? How many have a seven-year-old that loves sushi? The military life has given my family the opportunity, not only to meet new people, but also to see new places. We’ve found new types of food and awesome places we’ve loved living in.

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United States Army Recruiting Command (USAREC)
Being a part of USAREC has given me a glimpse of what living outside of a military installation is like. I’ve had to learn how to get medical bills paid, find a doctor, childcare and so much more. I have knowledge and experience that will help when it comes time to leave the military and transition into civilian life.

How about you? Can you think of some things that you are thankful for this year because of the military?

rdodge-headshotPosted by Racheal Dodge, NMFA Volunteer and military spouse, Chattanooga, TN

4 Reasons I’m Thankful for my Military Life

I have known one thing my entire life and it is the military lifestyle. I was born into a Navy family where my dad served for 20 years. When I was 19-years-old, I married an Army soldier and moved to another country. And that move was hard at first. Everything and everyone I loved felt worlds away from me. But even that first move taught me about being grateful. I would love to share with you why I am thankful for this amazing life-long experience.

 Traveling. As a military spouse, I serve my country by supporting my husband and the community we live in. One of the many perks of military life is moving! Don’t get me wrong; moving has its own challenges and craziness, but sometimes a move is awesome, and takes you to the most amazing destinations in the world. Thanks to the military I have been able to explore Europe and many places throughout the United States.

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Relationships. Have you ever heard a Soldier or their spouse refer to their friends as their military family? It is a term I use daily. My husband has served for several years, and throughout the years we have added to our family everywhere we have lived. The friends I met in Germany in 2004 are now a few minutes down the road from us. My daughter refers to them as Auntie and Uncle. Throughout the distance, we have talked and FaceTimed. For now at least, I can go over for dinner and be with my military family.

I am extremely grateful for all the love and time I get with these amazing individuals in the military. With deployment after deployment, missions, and schools my blood family cannot always be there for us, but I have my military family.

Support. Since becoming a military spouse, I have seen amazing support for the Soldiers and their families from post to post. And as I mentioned earlier, I was married at 19, and immediately moved to Germany. My husband was going off to war soon, and there I was standing at the Frankfurt airport scared out of my mind. I did not know what to expect as I looked around me. However, I remember how the unit Family Readiness Group, the USO, and Army Community Service reached out to me. I was not alone because of these organizations on post. They were absolutely amazing with support for new and experienced military families.

New traditions. While living in Europe, I was introduced to a lot of new-to-us traditions. In our travels, we took some old traditions and added them to our must-do’s each year! In Germany, we would visit many Christmas markets, which I miss more than anything else. In Texas, we added Bluebonnet pictures each season. Now we are in Kansas, and I cannot wait to add another tradition to the Richardson family. What traditions have you added to your family?

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With everything in life, you have pros and cons; however, I focus on the positive aspects to keep me going and moving forward. I think looking at things from a positive perspective allows me to be thankful and appreciate this unique lifestyle.

Are you a military family? What are you most thankful for?

jrichardsonPosted by Jessica Richardson, NMFA Volunteer and Army spouse

Dear President-Elect Trump,

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On November 8, 2016, Americans took to the polls to cast their votes in what many call as historic Presidential election. As results trickled in Tuesday evening, candidates Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton were neck in neck for the White House.

After a long, sometimes catty and upsetting year watching the campaigns unfold, Americans have chosen Donald Trump to be the 45th President-Elect of the United States of America.

Now that the votes are in, military families have some things they want President-Elect Trump to know.

See what they’re concerned about, and read the letter to President-Elect Trump.

Could You Be the Victim of Domestic Violence and Not Even Know It?

Domestic violence.

Abuse.

We’re well aware of these terms…or so we think. Do you really know what domestic violence looks like? You may be in an abusive relationship RIGHT NOW and not even know it.

The common idea of abuse is that it involves being hit, shoved, called names, and degraded; we think physical abuse, rape, or threats. These are easily identifiable.

The truth is, abuse can be downright subtle.

It doesn’t have to be in-your-face to be abuse. It can be insidious, and sneak up on you. Often, it does. You meet an amazing person, they sweep you off your feet. Then suddenly, you start feeling self-doubt. You feel off kilter. You dismiss it as subtle signs of weakness on your part or just a bad mood.

Sure, it could be a bad mood. But it also could be a sign that you are in a domestically violent relationship. Sadly, this could go on for years without even recognizing it.

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If you’ve ever questioned whether you’re in an abusive relationship, here are some signs to look for:

  1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself and can feel like you’re walking on egg shells.
  2. Your self-esteem is inexplicably at an all-time low.
  3. You worry what you say and do will impact your partner negatively, so you start avoiding people and situations that may have that effect on your partner.
  4. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
  5. You feel responsible for everything that goes wrong in your relationship or in your partner’s life.
  6. Your constantly saying “I’m sorry” even when it isn’t warranted.
  7. You doubt your self-worth, your sanity, your intelligence.
  8. You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” a dozen times a day.
  9. You often feel confused and even crazy at work and in other areas of your life outside of your relationship.
  10. Your relationship becomes the primary focus of your mental space, even when your attention is needed elsewhere.
  11. You stop doing things you enjoy because they don’t.
  12. You can’t understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren’t happier.
  13. You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family and withhold information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain their behavior.
  14. You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
  15. You start lying to avoid the put downs and stress that your partner throws your way.
  16. You have trouble making simple decisions.
  17. You have the sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, more fun-loving, and more relaxed.
  18. You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
  19. You wonder if you are a “good enough” girlfriend/ wife/employee/ friend; daughter.
  20. You lose your sense of self.

Do any of those apply to you? Sure, you have good times, your partner may even treat you amazingly well during those good times. But like a flash, things can go inexplicably wrong and you are left confused and anxious wanting everything to feel alright again. Hope becomes your best friend. Hope that your partner will be “themselves” again. Hope that this is the last time they make you feel this way. Hope that you won’t do something to anger them again.

A healthy relationship does not work this way. It is important to remember is that it is absolutely not your fault. Abusers are expert manipulators they can convince you that you do not deserve better treatment, or that they are treating you this way to “help” you. Some abusers even act quite charming and nice in public so that others have a good impression of them. In private is a different story, which is often a source of stress and confusion.

A healthy, non-abusive relationship is built on support, respect, admiration, empathy, and personal responsibility. If your relationship feels more abusive than loving, seek help from a therapist. Recognizing abuse is confusing at best. But acknowledging that you deserve a healthy, loving relationship shouldn’t be.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

ingridPosted by Ingrid Herrera-Yee, PhD, Project Manager, Military Spouse Mental Health Professionals Pipeline 

 

Suicide Prevention Matters and Every Second Counts

“Are you thinking of killing yourself?”

How am I supposed to ask someone that? Can I even get the question out? Such a personal question…and what do I do if the person I ask says yes?

Several years ago, I participated in an ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) program offered by the Chaplain’s office. I was nervous and a little uncomfortable at the start of the training because of the topic, but I left hopeful and more informed. Like mental health and domestic violence, the ‘hush-hush’ stigma surrounding suicide is one that we absolutely need to change the conversation about. Yes, it’s a difficult subject to discuss. But it MATTERS. It’s a disease, and it’s treatable. And you can help.

In the first quarter of 2016, 110 service members (Active and Reserve Components) died by suicide. And I’m sure you’ve heard the horrific statistic that 20 veterans complete suicide each day. How many received treatment and were helped?

What’s worse, we don’t have any idea how many military family members died by suicide–a whole group of people unaccounted for. But Congress directed the Department of Defense Suicide Prevention Office in the Fiscal Year 2015 NDAA to track and provide those numbers.

We’ve been waiting for that data…for over a year. Suicide happens in moments, and in desperate times, someone considering suicide could be helped in just a few seconds. NMFA will continue to urge the Department of Defense to release this information so that we can help every military family member who needs help RIGHT when they need it. Every second counts.

So what can you do to help someone who is thinking about suicide?

Ask them directly, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Then:

  • Care for them – listen to them and remove anything that could be used for self-injury.
  • Don’t leave them alone. Take them to the chaplain, a behavioral health professional, or if it’s a service member, remember you can take them to someone in their chain of command

As we come to the end of September and Suicide Prevention Month, it’s worth remembering that suicide prevention isn’t something that we should think about one month a year – it’s something we should always be aware of.

The Department of Defense Suicide Prevention Office has launched the “Be There” campaign as a way to encourage everyone to take responsibility to help prevent suicides—it’s not just the Department of Defense’s duty, its all of ours. The campaign asks us to be there for service members, be there for families, be there for the civilians who support them.

Look for suicide intervention programs at your installation Family Services office, Suicide Prevention office or Chaplain’s office. If they’re not offered ask for them.

Asking someone if they want to end their life is a difficult question, but for many service members and family members, it is a question they should become more comfortable asking. By simply asking, it may help someone. And if nothing else, it lets someone know they’ve been heard.

kelly-hPosted by Kelly Hruska, Government Relations Director