What 'square away' means to Kate

Overcoming the roadblocks to accepting help
By Kate O

As the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran and the wife of a veteran who served in Afghanistan, I have experienced the great pride that comes from connection with those who serve. I also acknowledge that, along with the strong sense of pride and commitment, there may be challenges that active military duty can sometimes place on the mental health of both soldiers and their families.

In supporting those who serve, military families may move around the country following deployments, which ask children and partners to deal with change and possible integration into non-military communities. Meanwhile, veterans themselves may have to live with the injuries - physical and mental - that active duty can cause.

My perception of 'getting squared away' has been influenced by a range of different people.

For me, to square away is to systematically sort everything into its place. This can mean taking control of all the small worries that are bouncing around in your mind, sorting them into tasks you can control and those you cannot, and then methodically tackling everything that you can influence to reduce the noise. Without the noise, you can focus on the bigger picture.

This process has always helped me to declutter my mind and focus on what I can influence instead of being distracted by the things I cannot control.

To do this, I have found that movement, connection, good food and finding little, achievable goals were the best way to prevent myself from feeling overwhelmed by the strain that life can place on my mental health. This is not something that can be tackled all at once, rather it requires daily attention through small moments of self-care.

To help keep veterans active and healthy, I co-founded Frontline Yoga in 2016 and offered Trauma Aware Yoga to members of the Australian Defence Force and other service organisations. By providing this service, we are helping veterans maintain healthy bodies which in turn support healthy minds.

A few years ago I had to help my father through the final stages of cancer, a process that is never easy for any family member. Being with my dad through this devastating time left me adrift and struggling to find my way back. I was forced to admit to myself that I could not operate as an 'island', tackling every challenge by myself. It was ok that sometimes I needed to reach out to those around me for help.

Overcoming this mental roadblock to accepting help from people was a really difficult step to take, but it was critical for building a strong foundation to support good mental health.

Having lived through this, I try to help others seek help before they face the same tipping point. While it can seem difficult to talk to people about the challenges you are facing, in the end both you, and the people you love, are better for it.

I like to think about looking after your mental health like servicing a car; you don’t wait for everything in the car to break before taking it in to a mechanic, instead you have regular check-ups done to address small issues before they become big problems.

Having regular conversations with friends and family, getting out for some form of exercise, eating well and not procrastinating with the little things is how I stay squared away.

About Kate

Kate has been part of the military community for her entire life. As the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran and spouse of an army veteran, she has seen the impact that military service can have on mental health. In 2016, Kate co-founded Frontline Yoga, a not-for-profit organisation that delivers trauma aware yoga to members of the community on the frontline. As part of this initiative, Kate worked with Open Arms - Veterans & Families Counselling during the Invictus Games in 2018. Kate joined Open Arms in 2019 as a Community and Peer Worker, working with veterans to overcome the challenges of rejoining society after active military service.

About 'Square Away'

When you serve in the ADF, you’re part of a team that always has your back, and that doesn’t change when you leave. But to help others, you need to look after yourself first. We’re encouraging current and former-serving ADF members and their families to reach out to Open Arms and begin the journey to square away the things that are important to you. With a 24/7 helpline, online self-help tools, peer to peer support, training programs and more – we’ve got your back.

Find out more: openarms.gov.au/squaredaway