Stay busy they say…
The passing of time is a very tricky part of deployments. You need to find a balance between not having too much down time/alone time (this can make time feel like it’s passing SO SLOWLY) and having way too much on your plate (which usually leads to overwhelm, exhaustion, and sometimes full on shut down).
We’re told to stay busy. It’s one of the most common pieces of advice offered when it comes to deployments. It comes from fellow military spouses (who are speaking from experience) and civilians (who typically have no real frame of reference…even if they think they do) alike.
The reason this advice is passed out so regularly is because it is mostly good advice. But let’s dig into it today to make sure that we don’t use this advice in a way that doesn’t serve us and makes us crazy.
Start by thinking about your purpose behind your desire to stay busy. Check in with yourself to see if staying busy is an attempt to not have time to think about your deployed partner and how much you miss them and how you’re worried about them. If it is, that’s ok, it’s just not very sustainable. You can only outrun those thoughts for so long, and inevitably, they will come calling at 2 in the morning when it feels like if you have to sleep alone one more night you’re going to lose it.
I challenge you to intentionally fuel your desire to stay busy with the purpose of living a full life in meaningful ways that are important to you. All while knowing that down time and alone time are totally allowed, deserved, and not scary because you’re willing to think about your deployed service member, miss him, and even fear for his life. Those are not thoughts and feelings that need to be run away from.
Approaching your schedule in this way has such a different feeling to it. When you do it this way, being busy will actually energize you rather than drain you. And if you’re a military wife, more energy is ALWAYS a good thing. So let’s look at 8 new ways to approach this staying busy advice in this way:
1. BALANCE CREATION AND CONSUMPTION
Start by taking a look at the way you spend your free time. All of the activities can either be categorized into the CREATION category or the CONSUMPTION category. I want you to keep doing both kinds of activities, just start to make adjustments to balance the two categories out if you notice that you are doing way more of one than the other. Examples of creation activities are things like cooking, writing, exercising, singing, etc. Examples of consumption activities are watching television, eating, reading, listening to podcasts, etc.
2. FIND INSPIRATION
It’s so much more fun to participate in activities (especially creation activities) when we are feeling inspired. Start to pay attention to what makes you feel inspired so you can create more of that feeling. Take a look at times in your past where you remember feeling inspired and try to bring some of those elements in today.
You may notice that you feel more inspired early in the morning or late at night (when kids are in bed). It might be that you can more easily feel inspired when you are away from home and your daily responsibilities…try leaving the house. You may find that some activities you enjoy more by yourself and some activities are SO much more fun with lots of people. Think about if listening to music gets you moving and more excited about participating. What else?
3. BROADEN YOUR DEFINITIONS
When we are adding more of what we love in our life, especially in creative ways, these activities tend to build us up and energize us. The problem is if we’re not interested in the most common creative activities, we often believe that we are not creative people. This can deter us on our journey to add more of this kind of thing into our lives.
So, as you seek to add these types of activities into your life, remember to broaden your definition of what creative activities are. It doesn’t have to be just taking an art class or joining an improv group (especially if those things aren’t interesting to you). It can be anything that excites you like gardening, cooking, dancing, singing, exercising, writing, coloring, hiking, working with people, making music, scrapbooking, biking, working with flowers, sewing, crafting, pottery, using power tools, traveling, service, organizing, and any other activity that speaks to you. These can ALL be considered creative outlets. Give yourself permission to define it this way.
4. MAKE A MASTER LIST
We can get easily stuck when we are trying to figure out new and more meaningful ways to spend our free time. Sometimes it can feel like we don’t have any interests at all. So start by making a huge master brainstorming list of all activities you’ve ever enjoyed ever. Then add to the list things that you’ve never tried, but might want to. Make sure to add things even if you’re not sure if you’d be good at it, or have no idea how to do it, or the opportunity doesn’t seem to be readily available. Take your time making this list, don’t rush. The beauty of it is once it’s started you have a place to add things when you think of them. You want to capture your ideas when they come up so they don’t slip away.
5. GET INTO YOUR GROWTH ZONE
There’s nothing wrong with doing things in our comfort zone, but some magic definitely occurs when we’re willing to do things that take us out of our comfort zone and into what I like to call our growth zone. Growth occurs when we’re willing to try something new, when we’re willing to be bad at things, when we’re willing to try again, when we’re willing to ask for help from others, when we’re open to saying yes to opportunities when they come up,..
6. ADD MORE TO YOUR LIST
Now that you have your master list started and you’re learning how to get out of your comfort zone and get inspired, it’s time to add to your list. You’ve broadened your definitions of what a creative outlet could be and you’ve looked at the way you currently spend your free time and you’re seeking more balance between your creation and your consumption activities. Your brain is growing and stretching and is more flexible and ready for you to ask it more questions as you continue to seek for meaningful and fulfilling ways to spend your free time. So, ask yourself the following questions to find more things to add to your master list:
-What do you talk about a lot?
-What do you care about deeply?
-What do you feel passionately about?
-What are some things that you have experience and interest in?
-What are some activities that you do where time flies?
-What are some things that you really enjoy doing that you wouldn’t normally consider a creative outlet?
7. MAKE TIME
One of the most important parts of all of this is finding the time to fit what you’re wanting to do into your every day life. I used to spend time thinking things like “I don’t have time for that” or “I’m already swamped, how can I add anything else?” These thoughts may be true or they may just feel very true. I have made a subtle shift in the way I speak about my time to say things like “I’m not making time for this” or “I’d like to start making time for this.” This brings my control over my schedule back to me.
One of the main ways I make time for things is by scheduling my priorities, rather than just prioritizing my schedule. What I used to do was just watch and see how my week filled up and try to make time for it all and inevitably my time was always all used up and there didn’t seem to be any time for anything else. The problem with that was, I wasn’t making time for me and I lost a bit of myself along the way. I desperately wanted to do more of what I loved and I wanted to find a way to fit it into my daily life without changing much of what was already on my plate.
So the magic of scheduling your priorities is that you decide what are your main priorities like work and family and husband and school and church…then make sure to pick one or two things that you just do for you, for example reading and playing the piano. Then you schedule those things in ahead of time and then let your days and weeks fill in around your priorities that are scheduled in. When your weeks feel completely full, there doesn’t seem to be any room to stick 20 minutes of piano a day, but when you schedule that first and say “every day I play the piano before I go to bed for 20 minutes at 9:40 pm” a magical thing occurs and suddenly you have time to fit piano into your life. If you love to read but you haven’t been doing much of that lately, you may notice that you have been watching TV…so you say “I read for 15 minutes every day right before I turn on the TV.”
8. FIND JOY
My final piece of advice in this journey of doing more of what you love and staying busy in a way that fills you up and helps time pass quickly is to have more joy in your life by noticing the joy that is already there. Adding these activities into our life is definitely going to add joy to our life, but something amazing that is also available to you is to see how much joy is already there. When we give ourselves the task of looking for something and focusing on it, we find it. Feeling more joy is an incredible gift we give ourselves and when we slow our lives down we will be able to see how full of joy it already is.
You may take more time to notice the little things about your kids, their laugh, the cute curls in their hair, they way they wiggle their toes. You may start to notice more how good the hot water in your shower feels on your skin. As you look for it, you’ll start to taste your food more, notice more beautiful sights and smells, and internalize it. This can feel a lot like gratitude and there are not a lot of emotions I like to feel more than joy and gratitude. Feeling more joy and gratitude is only going to support and fuel your journey for finding yourself again, awakening inspiration and passion, and filling up your time in such meaningful ways. It’s going to be so fun and rewarding…so go get started!
You have got this!
Check out this podcast episode to hear more about why staying busy sometimes helps and sometimes doesn’t,
Hi, I’m Jessie Ellertson from Team Brave Crate. I’m also a life coach and the host of the Simply Resilient Podcast. I’m a military wife of 14 years, mother of six kids, ages 3-15. I love to work with military wives who know how to handle the challenges of deployments and frequent trainings but want to improve the experience that they are having in the process.
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