The holiday season can be stressful for even the most organized, intentional, or laid back person. Take me, for instance. There’s a little over 3 weeks left until Christmas and I have no tree, no Christmas lights, and I have a permanent ban on the radio stations that play Christmas music 24/7. My holiday decorations aren’t organized, I have no space in my apartment for a 9 foot tree, and so to deal, I just put a moratorium on Christmas like a textbook Grinch.
Maybe the holidays bring about these same emotions in you, too? Military life is stressful enough as it is, add a loved one’s absence, issues reintegrating after a deployment, or even dysfunctional family dynamics, and it’s bound to trigger the Grinch in anyone.
It’s normal for a service member to have trouble ‘fitting in’ with their own family after a long deployment, or even upon transitioning out of the military. Reintegration is a process, and there are tons of resources to help—even for children and spouses.
If the holidays are a stressful time for your family, consider these tips:
- Mentally prepare yourself for the holidays. The Real Warriors Campaign suggests considering what makes you uncomfortable; certain people, triggering questions, small or crowded spaces, even crying kids can be a damper. Think about what you may say to questions about tough topics, like deployments, and consider how you will deescalate emotions when they surface.
- Know what your children are feeling. Military life isn’t easy for even the littlest heroes, so when life changes and a parent leaves (or comes home), their adjustment can be tough, too. In fact, one in four military kids will suffer from depression, so knowing how your child might think, or process emotions—like testing the rules, or isolating themselves—can ease the stress in your home.
- Stay active and engaged. It’s easy for some of us to deal with stress by isolating ourselves, or refusing to take part in activities. Try an activity you know you’d enjoy, like that kickboxing class you’ve been considering, and relieve some frustration. Stay connected to your trusted circle of family and friends, and encourage yourself to engage with them, rather than isolating yourself. If something gets uncomfortable, refer back to #1, or this next tip.
- Know when to say no. Though it may seem like a double-edged sword, this is the best tip, in my opinion. Talk out with your spouse and kids where you want to spend your time this holiday season. If a certain event is notoriously hectic, consider skipping it. Your time is valuable, and so is your sanity. Choose wisely, and know that saying no is okay. Your loved ones will understand and respect your boundaries.
The hustle and bustle of the holidays is undoubtedly a stress-filled time for some. But the stress can be manageable, and with a few tips and tricks, even the coldest Grinch heart can grow three sizes and the true meaning of the holidays can come through—get ready for all the feels!
For more tips and resources about managing holiday stress, check out the Real Warriors Campaign.
What tips help your family deal with holiday stress?
Posted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager