I blinked. Just like that, he was on the bus and gone. This time he was scheduled to be away for around a year.
As a new military spouse, I was overwhelmed with sadness and didn’t know how to kick it. I had 52 weeks, give or take, until he was home for good. There were at least 40 weeks to go until R&R.
It seemed hopeless and unending.
Until I made it my mission to get happy and stay positive during deployment.
6 Ways to Stay Positive During Deployment
1. Find Friends
This is the first, and most important, step of your own Operation: Deployment Happiness. Find some awesome friends. Take a look around your neighborhood, unit family readiness group, job, volunteer organization or the gym.
Look for someone who appears to enjoy similar things. I got super lucky with my on-base neighbors. We were all young spouses, many of us with dogs and without kids. We all enjoyed wine, reading and the beach. Bingo! Instant friends!
2. Leave Your House
No, seriously, get out of the house. For me, sitting in my lonely empty house staring at my dog all day was terribly depressing. I found out that even just taking my pup for a nice long walk made the day better. If taking a walk is all you’re up for right now, that’s perfect.
For more adventurous souls, get together with your new friends and plan adventures. My group of pals never sat still. We had book clubs, Bible studies, wine-tasting trips, magical Disney days, regular jaunts to the beach and girls nights out. Knowing that I had concrete plans, with real people, forced me to leave the house. I even found myself two-steppin’ at a country bar one night!
Even more shocking? I was having an absolute blast! Deployment was the last thing I was thinking about.
3. Create Endorphins
We all remember that famous line from “Legally Blonde,” yes? “Endorphins make you happy.” It’s so true! Exercise creates endorphins and then you feel happier.
When that bus pulled out, I was honestly not in great shape. I was in even worse shape a few weeks into deployment, thanks to wine and tubs of cookie dough. I wanted to really wow my spouse at homecoming, so I started walking a few miles every day.
Those walks turned into runs. Then I added some light weights and strength training. Now, almost 8 years later, I have 3 half marathons and a full marathon under my belt. I exercise almost daily.
During that deployment, my friends and I created exercise groups. A few of us would meet for a run or pick a fun class at the gym. We shared workout tips and set running goals. At other duty stations, I’ve joined Stroller Warriors. You don’t need a stroller or children to join, just a running goal.
Being active and getting exercise helped to pass the time. Plus, my legs looked pretty great when the buses pulled back in!
4. Count It Down
Everyone has a countdown going somewhere. Why not make it fun? Instead of the typical deployment countdown, write up your own bucket list of things to do before your spouse walks back in the door. Use a big wall calendar to write down your milestones.
Once I got my emotions in check, I created my own bucket list. I included all of the fun activities with friends, race training, visits from friends and trips back home. Chunking my time like this helped to break everything down into easier to handle pieces.
Instead of looking at all of those weeks alone, I was suddenly focused on 3 weeks in the future when my best friends arrived. I was looking forward to my next Disney trip. That race was coming up quick, and my training schedule really helped the days fly past.
Just remember to respect OPSEC and PERSEC if you are sharing your countdowns on social media!
5. Do Something For You
Going into that first long deployment, I didn’t have a job. I was aimlessly drifting. Until I found a need and created my own tutoring business, which is now a full-time blog. Instead of dwelling in boredom, I now had a purpose. And it felt great! I was doing something for me and earning money.
If building your own business or working isn’t possible for you right now, there are still so many ways to do something for yourself.
Exercising, taking trips or having adventures with friends are all possibilities. Getting a pedicure or a massage are great ways to relieve a little deployment stress. I took up pottery painting and still have the serving platters I created. There are also classes for everything and everyone. From cooking to learning a new language, you can find a class for you. And if not, there is always YouTube or the library.
Find something that excites you and relieves some tension, then go for it!
6. Make Plans
Deployments are long. No matter what you do, sometimes the time just drags. When that happens, focus on something awesome post-deployment.
On days when nothing seemed to work, I sat down to plan our big post-deployment trip. I researched everything and everywhere. I made pro/con lists and ordered tourist brochures. At one point, I had 3 or 4 different trips totally planned out, but not booked.
Once I finally settled on our Jamaican all-inclusive vacation, I was so excited. When I started to get sad, I pictured the 2 of us (no kids, remember?), on a beach with tropical drinks in our hands. I researched every single thing about the resort, from the land sports to the restaurants to the evening dress code.
Knowing that there was something after all of this really kept me going. There was a light at the end of the tunnel, and I was going to get to it!