A collection of tips to help you get organized and live your veteran family life with success.

 

If you’ve visited She Is The Glue before, you know I’m all about keeping your family bond strong.

I have over ten years experience as the spouse of a combat disabled veteran. If you need a friend who understands your struggle, I’m your gal.

I’m my husband’s caregiver and a mother of two. I GET the limbo that you are in. Balancing “normal life” with “veteran life.” Making school lunches for a picky eater and talking your husband through his panic attacks. Just like you, I field awkward questions from people who do not understand PTSD and TBI. (How many times has someone asked: “Your husband has PTSD? Are you afraid of him?”) We could talk to each other for DAYS about the VA, am I right?

It’s my mission to guide veteran spouses with a positive attitude and a determination to rise above the devastating effects of war injuries. I’m going to show you how to forge and keep strong family bonds AND how to take care of yourself, too.

In this spirit, here are 10 things that have helped me in my first decade as a disabled veteran wife:

 

  1. Communication

This is my most important piece of advice. My husband and I are very strong communicators and it has been a valuable asset in our marriage. Communicating your needs, advocating for your spouse, and helping your children understand what’s going on are examples of how you need to have strong communication skills. Communication is the key to a strong family bond, (no matter how small or large your family is).

 

  1. Self-Talk 

This goes along with communication. You need to communicate honestly with yourself. Give yourself time for reflection. “Self-talk” is what you are saying to yourself. You need to ignore negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. Repeat until you believe: “My family is going to get through this. We’re going to live a great life despite the military injuries.” If you are struggling with negative self-talk, go to an outside source for guidance.

  • Read a self-improvement book. Don’t worry about looking nutty or frou-frou. (I love “Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book for Caregivers,” by Rosalynn Carter.
  • Find a therapist either in your area, or online, (like Talkspace) to help get you on the right track.

 

  1. Take care of yourself

You have heard it before. Put on your oxygen mask before assisting others. It’s a popular saying for a reason. Veteran caregivers need to make self-care a priority.

I’m an art-lover. I enjoy sketching, coloring, and calligraphy. I love that I can get out coloring books and play with my kids while relaxing my mind. I also love to read, cook, watch my favorite TV show, (NBC’s Blindspot!), exercise, take baths, and do DIY crafts and projects.

Make a list of the things you love to do. Things that make you feel ALIVE and recharged. Those are the activities that you need to have in your schedule.

 

  1. Faith/ Spirituality

Leaning on your faith or spiritual beliefs can be a powerful coping mechanism. This can be done in whatever way works best for you.

  • Prayer
  • Meditation
  • Getting out in nature
  • Attending religious services
  • Joining an online community. I’m a She Works His Way member, and their site has helped me feel closer to God and find strength as our family deals with my husband’s military injuries. If you are interested in checking them out: http://sheworkshisway.com.

 

  1. Exercise

Confession time! I have periods of time when I do not get the correct amount of exercise, even though I KNOW better. I spent 4 years in college studying exercise and how it can help everyone live a fulfilling life, regardless of disability or chronic health condition. Yet despite my college education, it’s difficult for me to carve out a huge chunk of time for exercise.

  • Sneak exercise in when you can. Go for a walk around your neighborhood or have a dance party with your kids.
  • Invest in home workout equipment that is inexpensive, portable, and doesn’t take up space in your house. Jump ropes are excellent cardiovascular exercise and available at a low price point. Resistance bands are another good choice.
  • If you are like 99% of the population, and accountability is difficult for you, workout with a friend or commit to checking in with an accountability buddy via text message. If you can afford a personal trainer, that is also a great way to stay consistent.
  • Check out my some of my favorite ways to exercise from my post, A Caregiver’s Quest for Fitness.

 

  1. Therapy

I’m an advocate for therapy, as I feel it is a valuable tool for veteran families. If you’re curious about therapy, check out this information from a professional: Professional Guest Post: The Benefits of Therapy and Art Therapy by Molly Donovan, LMHC .

 

  1. Nutrition

I grew up eating healthy foods most of the time and occasionally enjoying treats. I am so thankful to my mother for modeling a healthy eating lifestyle and healthy body image to her daughters. This is what my goals are for my children, too.

I have a picky eater in the house, and an “I-want-to-be-like-my-brother-so-I’ll-be-picky-too” eater. Super Healthy Kids (http://www.superhealthykids.com) has amazing recipes. They are my go-to when I need a fresh idea for my kids.

 

  1. A Clean, Organized House.

(Look, as close as you can get).

I grew up in a house that was “showcase ready.” My parents did an excellent job ingraining weekly chores into a routine. I know how to clean and I am great at it, BUT I have kids and a husband. I am not perfect when it comes to cleaning, but I do my best. It does help to know how to clean quickly and efficiently. Check out my tips for cleaning and organizing your house.

 

  1. Career/Sense of Purpose

Your life has to extend outside of your caregiving tasks. Burnout can sneak up on you. (Any Harry Potter fans out there? Recall the part in “The Goblet of Fire” when Barty Crouch, Jr. said (while impersonating Mad Eye Moody): “Constant Vigilance!”) That needs to be your motto about burnout!

Your purpose does not necessarily have to be a full-time job. Caregivers may not be able to realistically work outside of the home. Could you still volunteer? Could you spend your free time practicing your craft or skill? How can you give your time or your talents to the world?

 

  1. Parenting

Parenting is a challenge for everyone, not just veteran spouses. There are many different parenting books out there. I’d like to share one of my favorite parenting books with you “Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to stop yelling and start connecting,” by Dr. Laura Markham. You can learn more about Dr. Markham at http://www.ahaparenting.com.

As always, if you need personalized help with a caregiver plan, reach out. I’d be happy to help.

Katie