Self care as a SOF partner
Self-care is important for SOF spouses and partners.  The tempo and unpredictability of SOF missions, coupled with uncertainty about your Operator’s or Enabler’s safety and health status, can leave you feeling in constant upheaval.

By: Family - Relationships - 11/15/2018

Self-care is important for SOF spouses and partners.  You endure stretches of time without your significant other.  You take on "single parenting" and a range of other household responsibilities during deployments and TDYs.  You've become a master at adapting, but you still might feel you're constantly being tested.  The tempo and unpredictability of SOF missions, coupled with uncertainty about your Operator's or Enabler's safety and health status, can leave you feeling repeatedly in upheaval.  It's time to address your own needs.

What Is Self-Care?

Self-care means taking responsibility for your own health and wellness.  It's a preventative approach where you regularly engage in actions that keep you feeling well and enable you to cope with stress.  Your lifestyle impacts your health, so being deliberate about your lifestyle choices is a way to practice self-care and improve your own wellness.

Self-care also involves establishing a balance in your life so you're able to fully engage with your family and others in an effective way.  It includes managing your own mental health and responsibilities, steering clear of unhealthy habits such as excessive drinking or smoking, and focusing on productive routines that make you feel good.

How To Engage In Self-Care

Here are some simple ideas you can engage in to begin self-care right now:

  • Spend quality time with family and friends.  This means time spent truly engaged with one another, free of distractions.  Time with friends and loved ones combats loneliness and feeds your need for connection.

  • Seek spiritual support.  Having a strong relationship with a higher power and giving attention to this relationship are ways to engage in self-care.  Spiritual support can help you gain new perspectives on experiences and increase your own compassion.

  • Nourish your body.  The foods you consume have an impact on your physical and emotional health.  If you tend to eat more in times of stress, redirect this energy to more productive activities while you ensure your snacks are healthful.  Strive to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your meals to guarantee you're getting the nutrients you need to keep yourself energetic, healthy, and resilient.

  • Incorporate regular exercise into your routine.  You don't need to dedicate hours a day to exercise.  However, you can make a point to just get moving more!  Go for a walk with your kids, do some yoga stretches before beginning your day, and take advantage of your local MWR gym facilities.

  • Get enough sleep.  A lack of sleep impedes your ability to think clearly and concentrate.  And not getting enough sleep can increase your risk of certain health issues and impact how you eat.  A good night's sleep helps your brain and body rest, recover, and restore.

Seek mental-health counseling if you want more insight into yourself and your relationships.  A counselor or therapist can become a part of your support system and can be someone who provides you with objective reflections as well as resources.

Incorporate self-care daily into your routines.  Self-care is personal, so it's about what makes you feel vitalized, healthy, and comfortable.  Self-care doesn't need lots of time or money.  Instead, it's about taking time to focus on your own needs so you're better able to engage with others.

Take the first steps towards self-care by watching this 25-minute PsychArmor video:  "Focusing on the Forgotten Me".  It will challenge how you think about your ability to engage in self-care on a regular basis.  It also teaches you how to do a "body scan" to recognize tension and discomfort in your body.  You'll be asked to complete an activity that helps you think through what you give your energy to and what gives energy back to you. (Many of PsychArmor's videos emphasize the needs of veterans but are equally applicable for active-duty family members.)

Why Is Self-Care Important For SOF Spouses And Partners?

Given the unique and challenging circumstances SOF families endure, taking care of yourself is crucial.  You need to stay present, engaged, and calm because caring for yourself impacts your ability to effectively engage in parenting, working, and being a SOF partner.  And when your Operator or Enabler returns home, maintaining your own sense of calm and steadiness can help too.  It can help you recognize the needs of your Operator or Enabler to promote the successful transition back home, before the next mission rolls around.

If you have children, they're watching you and learning how to manage any turmoil that arises.  They learn—by watching you—how to manage their emotions and stress, so modeling healthy coping through your own self-care is especially important.  They will absorb the importance of self-care and how to do so properly.

When Is Self-Care Not Eough?

An important part of self-care is recognizing when you need more help than you can provide yourself.  SOF Operators and Enablers returning from missions sometimes can struggle to reintegrate into the family.  If your Operator or Enabler is dealing with TBI or PTSD, there will be limits to how much you can help.

If you ever feel your SOF Operator's or Enabler's state of mind or behavior is putting you or your children's safety at risk, it's time for something more than self-care.  Learn to recognize the signs of escalating aggressive, violent behaviors.  Encourage your Operator or Enabler to get help, put his or her own needs first, and practice his or her own self-care.  And access the many resources available to you that can help ensure your family's safety—and that your Operator or Enabler gets connected to the help needed.

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