How to live in the present without losing your mind

Stuck, that is how I have felt for a while.

I willingly joined the military and after 10 years of service, I realized I had no control over my destiny. The military provided me with an experience like no other; I traveled, met lots of people, garnered degrees and now I have a skill set that is valuable within the civilian community.

I am a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. I help others to deal with their life woes as I work through mine own.

Once I announced to my chain of command that I was no longer intending to stay in the military, a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. I no longer needed to act as if I was fully committed to another 10 years of service.

Below is a list of how I have kept it together and how you can also maintain a positive attitude while you serve out our time, whether you are in the military, confinement or another life circumstance that is preventing you from immediately making the change you desire.

Set a target date. Whether an actual date or season of the year, it is important to have a date to help you develop your timeline. The more concrete, the better. For me, September 5, 2017 is my separation date. The act of setting the date, and recording this date somewhere you will see often is very therapeutic. Knowing there is an end in sight, helps to give you the light at the end of the tunnel.

Your future self. With the target date set, discuss with your life partner/family/mentor your intentions for the future. Where will you live? What does your future self look like? Begin to discuss your dreams as well as your fears. For me, my life partner and I love the Northwest, United States. Our dream city is Portland, Or. We have family close by and love the city scene. Deciding on Portland took lots of discussion, internet searches for cost of living information and searching for potential job markets. My life partner is a nurse, but his passion is photography. Could we together find a place that would serve us professionally and fuel his passion? That took hours of discussion over several months. Fortunately for me, his is a great listener and patiently allows me to wax and wane my fears and dreams ad nauseam.

Budget. With the target date set, and the actual place determined, the next step is to make sure you have enough money to establish yourself as you have dreamed. This is where the more time you have in planning, the better you will be prepared. Also this planning time is therapeutic to help you continue to have a positive attitude as you endure living a life while confined. Days that I am struggling….working long hours at the clinic and doing the most ridiculous time sucks, I reflect on how this time is allowing me to be the most prepared for my future success. Establish a budget, pay off your debt and begin to sell those things you really don’t need. If you have the ability, build your emergency fund to carry you for at least three months once you have been released from your confinement.

Where are your headed? And what will you do once you get there? Once we established Portland as our target city, we began looking at the neighborhoods to determine what would best fit our life style. We are minimalist at heart without comprising our comfort. We would rather not own a car, yet need to have the ability to rent/car share if a car is needed. Finding a walkable community within Portland is not that hard. We already know this city and dream of living in the heart of the city. So we began researching the neighborhoods and found out about apartment cost/availability. We know it is expensive and some may decide it is too high of a cost, but for us it is the perfect fit. Public transportation is easy and biking is promoted.

Employment. Using google map, I looked for employment opportunities within a reasonable radius from downtown for us to commute. Since we are both nurses, I searched for hospitals and doctor offices. I found several large potential employers. Also began reading about the probability for self-employment via private practice.

Everyday encouragement. I surround myself with thoughts and images of my future life and have removed those items from my life, as I am able, that fuel destructive thoughts of self pity and remorse. Keeping mementos and people in your life that leave you feeling down, have no value in my life or yours. I teach this to my clients and practice it myself.

Don’t forget to enjoy the journey and seek out experiences that you can enjoy today, even in confinement.

I hope you find these helpful.