7 Lessons Navy Deployments Taught me about Thriving while Socially Isolated

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As some of you may know I was in the US Navy for 23 years. During that time I deployed on ships countless times. There are days I miss my time at sea, and then I remember that I get to have dinner with my family every night, so I’m good.

With #socialdistancing #quarantine #shelterinplace causing upheaval in all of our lives I have been reflecting on how my time in the Navy gave me skills that help in this current reality. My goal every time I deployed was to come back better than when I left. Sometimes that meant in better shape physically, sometimes that meant better spiritually, sometimes there was another area of life. My hope for you is that during this time you won’t just survive, but that you will thrive. And be better when this is over.

Here are seven lessons Navy Deployment taught me about thriving while socially isolated. Hopefully some of these help you in your situation.

1- Accept that this is the way things are going to be for a while. The first two weeks and the last two weeks of every deployment were always the most difficult. It takes time for each of us to adjust when everything in our life changes. Whether you are heading into week 2 or week 4 or week 6 of isolation, accepting that things will be this way for a while longer is the first step to thriving.

2- Set a routine. For many of us this is the first time we now work where we live. And it is easy for the schedule to become fluid. And for work to creep into hours that used to be off time when we were not at the office. As you work from home set a schedule. Wake up at the same time, shower, get dressed, and then “head” to work. Then set an off time. “Leave” work. Shut down the computer, relax, do something not work for the rest of the evening. Make sure you take your days off as well.

3- Go outside everyday. During deployments, if you did not intentionally go to the weather deck to see the sun,  there could be days when you did not breathe fresh air because you were inside the hull of the ship. While stuck at home there is a temptation to just curl up in bed or on the couch. Resist! Get outside for at least 20 minutes every day.

4- Exercise. This can be combined with number 3. Move more. This does not have to be P90X or 50 pushups a day. However, you are going to take less steps than you normally do. So maybe take a walk. Do push ups that match the date on the calendar. Do jumping jacks with your kids. 

5- Stay connected with others. My first deployment was in 1993. The internet was still new then. We still wrote letters. So staying connected with my wife took days, if not weeks. During my last deployment we emailed multiple times a day. So many of us have the technology to stay connected with friends and family today. So, whether it is facetime, zoom, google hangout, messenger or just plain old text messages, reach out to the people you used to see in person and just talk.

6- Set a reading goal. During deployments I used to set a reading goal. I will read X number of books during this one. Multiple times I used a Read the Bible in a year plan. If the deployment was six months, I would double up the readings. If you do this, just muscle through Numbers, it gets better. I hope we will not be isolated for six months, but if it is a month you could read all four gospels by reading 3 chapters a day. Or maybe just focus on reading a single gospel and do a chapter a day.

7- Do something non-digital. The truth is your screen time is going to go up. That is okay. Do not beat yourself up over it. However, find some non-digital way to have some fun. Play a board game with family, build a lego set (even if you are an adult), draw your thoughts instead of writing them, pull out your Grandma’s recipes and cook something you have never tried. What you do is not important, finding something enjoyable that is non-digital is the key.

While we do not know how long this time of social isolation will last we do know two things. First, Jesus is still in control and he is still good. Second, this will not last forever. It is not a zombie apocalypse. My hope for you is that when this time comes to an end you will not just have survived, but you will have thrived. And your life on the other side will be better.