For many of us, the holidays are joyful. We settle in with family and friends, enjoying the chilly air, the scent of baking treats. Parties are glorious. Holiday music is heavenly. Snow on the ground is downright beautiful. It’s the most wonderful time of food, fun and festivities for many.
But as I write this, I think about how many of us have a tough time of the whole holiday season. Stress, depression. It’s a hard time of year to be away from family and loved ones, have a spouse deployed, or a family member with you only in spirit. We know it can be downright hard to face feelings of grief, pain or financial challenges in these days of gift giving and receiving.
This time of year can challenge the resilience of the best of us. Stressful times can call for drastic measures. We’re strong, and we’ll be just fine with a little help from our community. It starts with taking time to reassess, regroup and recharge. We can take control if we just…
1. Stay focused on healthy habits. It’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. Get lots of rest and trust that overindulging won’t make you feel better-trust me!
2. Be as we are. You can’t force happy. If you’re happy, great! If instead you feel sad or are grieving because you’ve lost a loved one and want to cry, it’s OK to do that.
3. Choose one: Be right or be happy. This one is pretty simple really. It’s not always important to be right. If you value a relationship, deal with issues you may be having at a time when you’re better able to cope. Agree to disagree with no grudge.
4. Have a plan and stick to it. Chaos can be a huge stressor. Make a list and check it twice, whether heading out for groceries or gift buying. And schedule time for shopping, baking and friends.
5. Don’t spend what you don’t have! January is the longest month of the year when you’ve spent all your savings on indulging yourself and others. Keep gifts reasonable-it’s honestly the thought that counts.
6. Sometimes “yes” should really be “no.” Often we agree to do things for other people, then resent it if we really didn’t want to say “yes.” Can’t do it? Say “no.” It’s much less stressful to just be upfront, especially at the holidays.
7. Perfect comes only in a Hallmark movie! We all want the perfect holiday. But things change a lot in this military life. Embrace this year’s experience, whatever it may be, and try new things if the traditional ones aren’t attainable.
8. Communication and community build resiliency. I can’t say this enough: If you feel out of sorts, swallow the fear and dare to be brave. Reach out to other milspouses, at the chapel or in your neighborhood. Join local activities-volunteer at a food bank or give some time reading at the library. No one can help you if they don’t know you need help.
9. Just breathe! Take a few minutes when you need to regroup. Use deep breathing exercises, yoga or a few minutes at the gym getting away from it all. You can also read a novel, listen to your favorite music, or bundle up and take a walk to breathe the cool, crisp air. Find that inner Zen or Tao. Nobody does this like Pooh.
10. Reach out. If the pain goes deeper than this; get help now. It’s so critical to contact a mental health professional if there is clinical depression, or feelings of despondency. Visit militaryonesource.mil to find a local support resource.
Give thought to what causes your stress around the holidays. Then take steps to overcome it. Remember, you’re human. Being a milspouse is not the easiest job on earth, but you’re an expert at it!
Even if holiday stress isn’t your reality, remember the new spouse, the recently PCS’d spouse, or the spouse with a family member down-range. If this season is full of peace for you. Here’s hoping you’re able to reach out and help someone else facing challenges along this journey.