I have a confession: it has been almost 2 months since I turned on the TV to watch a show for myself. Even more shocking: I haven’t had cable TV for years. And here’s the REALLY crazy part: I don’t miss it at all!
Now, I understand that the first few weeks of a deployment, all you want to do is curl up on the couch and binge watch EVERYTHING. I get that. I have been there. Game of Thrones, anyone? It’s exciting to finally have the remote to yourself, and at first it is fun to catch up on your shows or watch a bunch of chick flicks that he would never watch with you. I get that too. But then… after a week or so… you start running out of things to watch. It’s not as exciting anymore. You miss him, or you’re bored, or the house is too quiet and you don’t know what to do about it, so you turn on the TV and surf through channels for an hour, until the next set of shows starts on the next hour. And then you do it again…
Girl, I am here to challenge you to break the cycle. If watching TV isn’t making you feel happy or feel better about yourself, then why are you doing it? Of course we all need time to unwind at the end of the day. But here’s an interesting secret: watching TV doesn’t actually help us to unwind! Have you ever noticed that when you do finally turn off the TV and get in bed, you sit in bed and scroll through Facebook for a while? Or read? Or think about the next day? That’s the unwinding part, not when you are watching TV. It’s because watching TV still keeps our brain working and engaged. So it’s really just a distraction from what we could be doing.
And the #1 thing we should all be doing? Getting more sleep! Deployment is exhausting in every possible way. Whether or not you have kids, whether or not you work full-time or take classes, deployment takes a lot out of you. The constant stress, emotional drain, and late nights trying to have a conversation with a husband in another time zone really take their toll on us. Deployments are LONG. Once you get behind on sleep, everything seems harder, and everything drags so much more slowly. We need every bit of energy we can summon to stay strong and be the rock that our families and our husbands are relying on. Not convinced? Here’s some other benefits of a good sleep cycle: losing more weight, better complexion, improved mood, more energy, more patience with children, improved memory, and -oh yeah- no bags under the eyes! So getting that extra hour or two of sleep will literally make you happier and healthier! And watching TV basically does the opposite.
But what else am I supposed to DO at night, you ask? I understand, watching TV is a habit, and if you turn it off, you have a long evening in a quiet house. Won’t that just make you more depressed and lonely? Not necessarily–it’s up to you how you spend that extra time. I find that I spend the rest of the day taking care of needs–children, meals, cleaning, errands. The evening is the time I can do things I want. What do I do instead of watching TV? Read a book. Write this blog. Write a novel. Prepare my meals for the next day. Clean up my kitchen. Email my husband. Call a friend. Take a shower. Do a workout. Bake a treat. Fix broken things around the house. Paint or draw. Those things make me feel much more productive and fulfilled then just vegging out with a show. So, if there is anything you wanted to change in your life, or any hobby you wanted to pick up during deployment, then this is the opportunity to do it! You will be amazed how much you can get done with those extra evening hours.
How can you break the habit and walk away? I’m not saying just go and cancel your cable service (although that’s not such a terrible idea, and will save you a LOT of money.) First, think about what you usually watch, and why. Do you have certain shows that you follow? Maybe you could choose 1 evening per week to watch your show, or to catch up on your DVR. Or do you mostly watch movies? Same thing–pick one night per week to be movie night, then challenge yourself to try a different activity on other nights. Or do you leave on the news? In that case, it’s probably just for the extra noise in the background. You can catch up on headlines much more quickly by reading them online, then just play some music in the background so you don’t feel so alone. Try changing up your routine for a week or so, and see how you feel about it. Do you actually miss TV, or are you enjoying your new freedom from the couch? The biggest challenge I have with not watching TV is that I no longer have a reason to fold laundry. So yeah, the laundry has been sitting in piles a lot longer than usual. But I can accept that, in exchange for some extra sleep and a lot more productivity in the evenings!
So do you think you’ll try it? What will be the hardest show for you to give up? What are you looking forward to getting done instead?