Today we hear from USPHS Cmdr. Guy Mahoney.
One of the hardest things about deployment is being separated from your family and friends. During deployment, we often think about our loved ones and their welfare, and, when problems arise at home, it can become especially distressful for us. At times we feel powerless because we are not physically there to help.
As a clinician, I know these home-front difficulties often negatively impact mission performance and our own health. So what can we do to head off these problems? Put simply, I’ve learned that the more we prepare for difficulties before deployment, the better we cope once we’re apart. I recommend taking these few steps before you deploy.
1. Have your contact information and your family’s contact information updated regularly.
Maintaining contact is essential when you are apart. Keep a running list of things you want to discuss, remembering to share the good things, too. Additional opportunities for communicating might crop up unexpectedly. This way you’ll be prepared.
2. Accomplish as much as you can together before the deployment.
Taking care of standing issues or setting plans in motion that will resolve such issues well before your deployment will ease everyone’s mind and allow you to maintain some control. For example, use the pre-deployment period to have family discussions about legal concerns or medical issues; create budget and financial plans; and think realistically about housing, utilities, transportation, school, and childcare needs.
3. Create a list of local community and base resources.
Especially for those situations you can not anticipate, it is vital that your family can quickly and easily find assistance in their local communities and through support organizations. Good planning and networking here will lessen the edge on home problems when they arise (and they will!).
4. Actively prepare for your family’s and your own deployment stress
You and your family should resolve to stay positive and flexible before, during, and after deployment. Communication by phone or by text should be regular. Keep connected within your social circles, and identify “personal sanctuaries” where you and your family can refresh yourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. Make sure everyone is balancing sleep, rest, play, diet and exercise. Encourage seeking assistance when it is needed.
5. Have a trusted family member or friend who’ll check in with your family from time to time.
One of the most important things you can do is to identify a resourceful family member or trusted friend (or a few of them) who will check in with your family from time to time.
These are some easy and practical steps to take to help you with deployment. Preparation and planning together with your loved ones will go a long way in lessening the impact of any issues should they arise.
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