Read that again – you do not have to do it all. You do not have to be doing something every day and every minute. Creating boundaries is healthy, it creates parameters for your valuable time and energy. It protects YOU as a resource. You are worthy of that. In a community where you often hear that volunteering is the way to get ahead in a career, or how to learn a new skill, it is easy to fall into a pattern of giving and giving.
- Learn to say No.
Know how to say no. Even if you don’t have a specific reason for saying no, give yourself a break every now and then. You don’t need to say yes to making cupcakes for the PTA, bringing a meal to your spouse’s work, or volunteering with yet another organization. It is hard to create those time boundaries, especially when you are used to going and doing all the time. Knowing when to say no protects you, your time and your abilities. It allows you to cultivate the skills you want with the time you have. It also allows for down time and space as this also helps you.
- Don’t volunteer all the time.
Give yourself boundaries for your time. While it is easy to slip into the routine of volunteering at school, at the unit, at a local charity, you do not have to. Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, volunteering is great for learning new skills. But the military spouse market is an over tapped market for volunteering. The frequent moves lead to frequent jobs, often of different job types.
- Take a social media break.
It isn’t a secret that FOMO is real. Seeing the grass on the other side of the fence has created pressure for parents to do it all – the handmade clothes, homemade meals, trips that may not be affordable. Taking a break from social media may be very 1990s, but it allows for more time. Social media provides for distraction and mindless scrolling but this is not necessary. Take time off from social media, or create timers so you respect your time and only accomplish what you need to.
- It’s okay to have cereal for breakfast.
This was a life saver during my spouse’s last deployment. One night a week was breakfast for dinner and the kids loved every minute of it. Take the shortcuts when you can. Cereal for dinner once a week, or more if needed, is allowed.
- Take a break.
Have zero guilt in taking a break. If you need a babysitter so you can have dinner alone without goldfish as a side, do it and do not feel one ounce of guilt.
- Buy the prepared stuff.
Your time is valuable. In a busy time period, buy the pre-cut fruit, the already made frozen pizza and the grocery store sub sandwiches. Down think of it is as short cut or sell out, think of it as resource management. Maybe your budget can’t support it every grocery trip, but on the occasion that you can, do it.
- Pen in self-care.
This is hard. It is adding one more thing to the to-do list, I get it. Schedule it. Take the time that you can to do something for yourself. Maybe it is just a 20-minute virtual yoga session. Or maybe you can do an hour for reading for pleasure. Don’t just pencil it on your calendar, PEN IT IN. Self-care is sometimes self-preservation. You are worthy of penning in that me-time, so don’t just pencil it in.
- Seek support when needed.
You don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to be the all for everyone. If you have reached your limit, it is okay to reach out to your trusted friends and tell them. If you prefer confidential help, reach out to Military One Source counselors or the DSTRESS line. These resources are there to listen and provide guidance as able to.
You can protect your mental, emotional and physical health by not trying to do it all. Prioritize your time, and know that taking breaks is okay. Remember that there is a season for everything, and sometimes you can’t.