By Dacia Arnold

One question often comes up when Railroad wives are gathered together: “How do you keep your sanity?” With the nature of the railroad, the non-RR spouse often—and for extended amounts of time— is left to face life on their own. Daily, we wait by the phone, scrolling social media and see the horror of yet another train accident. How do we keep our minds from drifting to the worst? How do we continue holding things down at home while they sleep in hotels or otherwise unreachable?

 My answer is always to find a hobby. If you’re reading this and immediately think “I don’t have time for a hobby,” you might be the few who are adequately busy enough to not let the stress of your spouse’s job affect you while they are away. The importance of filling your downtime with something constructive is a form of self-care we often overlook as just one more thing to add to our plate. In reality, hobbies are something you find joy in, not more stress.

Here are a few ideas on how to keep your mind busy and keep from dwelling on the what-if rabbit holes that sometimes plague our minds.

  1. Cooking new things. My husband loves this. He’s able to pack less grab-and-go food which is often super processed. He is also happy I have switched up the regular menu of leftovers. Pick up a cookbook and work your way through the recipes. Or become a Pinterest master!
  2. Adult Coloring Books are a great way to give your hands something to do with minimal mental effort.
  3. Knitting or Crocheting not only keeps you busy, but making an entire garment from yarn is a prime Dooms Day skill. Plus, they make great homemade gifts for loved ones.
  4. Start a workout routine. This is not for everyone, but if you are someone who enjoys having control in situations you cannot control, being healthier in body is never a bad idea.
  5. Writing or journaling can often lead to discovering new passions. I wrote my first novel because I was bored at work. Creating a blog can help others with your same interests or struggles in life. Or simply do it for yourself. I enjoy a daily reflection before bed to clear my mind of stress.
  6. Reading is a great escape regardless if you prefer fiction or nonfiction. Let me know if you’re in need of a good book and I can absolutely point you in the right direction. I know some people.
  7. Painting, sculpting or any other artsy thing will activate the creative side of your brain while the process of learning a new trade will satisfy the logical part of you.

Whatever hobby you choose, keep in mind the intent is to add joy and not further stress to your life. If you have kids, try either incorporating them in the new hobby or keep it to yourself while they are at school or sleeping.

I am not artistically inclined, but my children love drawing and painting. Trying something new never hurt anyone. Here is an example of me learning to use water colors. My children were far less critical of their own work, and seeing them happy overflowed my heart. This also took up much of an otherwise boring morning sitting around wondering when my railroader would tie up. I likely will not take up water colors as a regular hobby, but sometimes finding what makes you happy takes trial and error (It’s a book if you can’t tell).

Another huge fail is this two tier cake I made. Tasted great. Looks not so appetizing.

In my defense, I CAN cook. This chocolate chip was a personal Pinterest win.

But I will likely stick to writing for my major stress release.

Distraction is the key to maintaining sanity. One more thing I would like to add is being prolific about your hobby is just as important. Making time for yourself while juggling this crazy life is vital. Every now and then, being lazy is okay, but not at the expense of your mental health. If you find yourself rushing more often than smiling, be sure to identify a moment or two when you might spend ten minutes scrolling through your phone, and pick up one of the activities above. Many of them can be done from the same device you’re using to reading this article, including coloring. Stay busy with something that makes you happy.


Dacia M Arnold is an award-winning American novelist, freelance writer, railroad wife, and a ten-year Army Veteran. She is the author of Apparent Power, Reactance and Shifting Power, plus short fiction in the international anthology COLP: The Passage of Time. As a freelance writer, Dacia contributes monthly to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s blog where she shares her relatively short experience in the literary world.