According to some experts and my personal experience, journaling is a great way to relieve stress. Military spouses are always taking care of others – the children, the husband or wife, the family, the chores – the list can be extensive. And we, like our soldiers, Marines, and seamen, are serving our country by managing the home front. When do the spouses have time to slow down and reflect on what transpires in our lives?

This question has evaded many of us, as we deal with our deployed and injured soldiers. We continue to give and to provide for others in our lives, but we do not provide for ourselves. “When a spouse is deployed, we often see all the responsibilities – bills, meal planning, yard work, laundry, house cleaning, child care needs – and we fall into inaction because it seems overwhelming. We take care of only basic needs such as feeding the children (and we eat what’s left on their plates), we do only enough laundry to get a clean top (forget folding and putting things away) and maybe do enough minor cleaning to keep bugs away – and then we still end up pooped at the end of the day. That inaction drains us more, leaving us feeling exhausted.”

Therefore, the military spouse becomes depleted, despondent, and stressed. Many of us stay cooped up and isolated in our homes when our husbands deploy because we feel that no one will understand our plight, and we become depressed and lonely. One of the best ways to relieve this stress is to put the negative, stressful things down on paper. Or, create a gratitude journal writing about things to be grateful for. As stated in the Army Times: “When you spend so much time meeting the needs of others, you lose touch with an important relationship – with yourself. Start by writing a list of things you are grateful for. That list can change how you see and approach life. Journaling creates a dialogue with yourself. You can work through many issues by keeping a journal. It’s much healthier than keeping things bottled up inside, running through your head over and over again.”

My personal experience with journaling extends back to my childhood; however, I didn’t return to journal writing until 2005 when my husband was still in Iraq. My sister Lynne gave me a beautiful journal with the message “Let your writing extend.” She knows that I had a love for writing since childhood, but I allowed life to get in the way. I used her gift to start journal writing and almost at once I felt whole. Even now, while my husband completes outpatient therapy for his OIF injuries at Walter Reed, I find solace and calm in journaling. If I miss a few days of writing, I feel out of sorts, like when I miss my yoga practice or exercising. My stress level increases, along with my ability to adequately deal with the minutia of everyday living.

What do I do to make journal writing easy? I have a ritual. First, I keep a pen and journal, usually a very elegant and attractive one, on the nightstand next to my bed. This enables me to get up in the morning (my preferred time to write) to jot some things down. I begin with little things, like my cat Isis relieving herself on the Persian carpet my husband brought home from the Middle East, or how I have an intolerable disdain for stupidity.

Next, I write about substantive issues pervasive in my life. When my husband was in Iraq, I wrote about him, how I missed him, and depending upon the day, this made me very happy or melancholy; my advice to military spouses is to know yourself and write accordingly. I also write about my mother sometimes, who passed away when I was in my twenties. I still miss her, of course, so I write to ask her opinion on happenings in my life or just to say I miss her. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night with fantastic ideas (as many writers do). This is why it is imperative that you keep the journal and pen near the bed so you can grab them quick to write down dreams or ideas. I have been successful at writing about ideas and dreams because I keep the journal on my nightstand.

Journal writing can be a welcomed comfort and can serve as instant therapy. For the military spouse dealing with the constant moving and consistent deployment, journaling is a great way to help work through these issues. I implore all military spouses to give it a try, in conjunction with taking care of yourselves. Happy writing!

Pamela Stokes Eggleston currently serves as the Executive Vice President of Military Spouses for Change (www.militaryspousesforchange.com ) and President Elect of the University of Maryland University College Alumni Association(www.umucalumni.org ). She is also an Editorial Contributor for Military Spouse Press (www.milspousepress.com ).

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