Family Advocacy offers Rx for holiday blues

  • Published
  • By Alex Salinas
  • Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs
Stress, the feeling of being overwhelmed or of not having resources to handle a given situation, will likely affect the Air Force and Department of Defense members this winter season. In the spirit of the upcoming holiday celebrations, Mitzi Wood, 359th Medical Operations Squadron Family Advocacy intervention specialist, wants military personnel to exercise joviality to overcome feelings of blue.

"Get to the true meaning of what the holidays mean to you," Wood said. "Decide what's important and do what makes you happy. If something is causing you stress, stop doing it."

Figuring out one's meaning of the holiday season requires the person to "identify what it is they struggle with (or causes them stress), figure out why that is and manage that stressor," Capt. Amanda Hardy, 359th Medical Operations Squadron Family Advocacy officer, said.

Many anticipate performing their family traditions and rituals during the holidays, such as get-togethers and dinners, but continuing them can often be difficult, or impossible, causing family members stress, Wood said.

"Families get into ruts doing the same things every year," Wood said. "Sometimes traditions may not be able to happen, so families must be able to think of something new to do."

An example of a military family needing to create new traditions would be when they are experiencing deployment, a major stress-inducing issue. If there are children in the family, the issue becomes greater and the parents must try harder to create new traditions and keep the holidays fun and stress-free, Wood said.

"The military way of life is ever-changing," she said. "Being adaptable is imperative, and people shouldn't put importance in always wanting to do things a certain way."

New traditions can be as simple eating out instead of staying home and cooking, or as technologically savvy as using a webcam to communicate with family members instead of stressing out over traveling to visit them.

For deployed parents, spouses or families as a whole, making new friends in new cities allows holidays to be easier to handle. Meeting and reaching out to other people experiencing deployment may also help reduce stress and build relationships, Wood said.

One potential stressor of a celebration like Christmastime is gift giving, which Wood suggested families not overindulge in, especially with children.

"Make a list and make a budget," she said. "Be realistic with your kids and help them understand money at an early age. It's not positive to set them up thinking they will get everything they want."

Hardy said people should rely on other means rather than just gifts to send messages to their loved ones, helping lighten the load on their pocketbooks.

"For those who are financially stressed, it's really about perspective," Hardy said. "Figure out what message you want to send, and tap into your creativity with gift giving so it doesn't only become about the amount of money you spend."

Additionally, parents who buy their children too many gifts can overwhelm them, Wood said, in turn overextending the parents for future stressful holiday debacles.
Aside from difficulties in gift giving, Hardy suggested everyone "eliminate any unnecessary commitments" that may cause them more stress than good, which helps them prioritize what is meaningful to them.

For those families and individuals experiencing loss of a loved one, Wood suggested they let people know they need help.

"Tell people exactly what you need help with and how much help you need," Wood said.

"People tend to over- or under-help if you are experiencing loss based on what they feel they would need, so be very clear with them. Also, buddy up with someone and make a plan to avoid being lonely."

Feeling lonely, Wood said, is the opposite of the holiday spirit, a time for coming together and celebrating others' company.

"If you find yourself working, enjoy the time you have off," she said. "It's about the quality of time you have with others, not the quantity. Remember to breathe, pre-plan your holidays and have fun."