5 Tips Managing Deployment Stress During the Holidays
The holidays are about food, fun, and family — especially enjoying the season with that special someone. I recently heard one of my Christmas favorites, "Christmas Just Ain't Christmas without the One You Love," by the OJAY's. But what do you do when the one you love is deployed? How can you enjoy the holiday festivities and avoid the holiday blues or depression?
Coping with increased multiple deployments can take a toll on one's emotional well being and can wreak havoc on relationships. Spouses and servicemembers deal with being absent for births, birthdays, anniversaries, special family events and even the holidays. Because of this, it's very easy and common to develop resentments that can affect our overall well-being.
However, you can get a grip on holiday blues and managing deployment stress. Here are some quick tips to get you started:
The first quick tip:
Avoid looking at it as the "holiday season," instead look at it as a "holi-Day." In other words, take it one day at a time – think of it as Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, or New Years Day. To help you cope with deployment stress and holiday blues you have to compartmentalize instead of looking at the entire season. The difficulty in doing this will depend on where you are in the deployment phase. The first one or two months of deployment will be more difficult than someone who is in the six or seventh month. But, you can accomplish this at any phase of deployment.
Tip number two:
Avoid the temptation to spend extra money to make you feel better. This will only lead to depression later when the credit card statements arrive in the mail. Yes, this is the season for giving, but I think it would be better and more economical to give framed family photos, calendars, baked goods and other crafts that you've created as gifts. Besides, you'll feel better knowing that you've given gifts that can be appreciated and cherished instead of gifts that get stuffed somewhere in the back of the closet.
Tip number three:
Don't overeat. The extra pounds will definitely cause depression when you can't zip up your favorite jeans. Extra pounds also mean extra stress, too — which is stress you don't need right now. It's okay to enjoy your favorite appetizers, desserts, etc., but try not to over do it. Instead of overeating indulge in some self-help books, spiritual literature, or call up a friend to help you make it through this time. Get plenty of exercise instead of being sedentary. Go for daily walks, take aerobics classes at the gym or take up a new form of exercise, possibly biking or even hiking.
Tip number four:
Give yourself permission to have fun but don't over indulge with alcohol. It's normal to be sociable while enjoying a glass of wine or perhaps a mixed drink. However, you don't want to use alcohol to help you cope, this will only lead to alcohol dependency.
Tip number five:
You don't have to be superman or superwoman. The holidays can be the perfect time to ask for help. Many family members try to prove they can be the "warrior spouse" or show they can "wing it" alone. This is not true and now is not the time to be isolated or alone. Depend on your close family, friends and other loved ones to help carry you through this deployment. Don't spend time beating yourself up because of the way you feel. Instead, you should own your feelings and recognize that they're normal given what you're experiencing. More importantly, you should share your feelings with someone who will understand.
Depression is common during the holidays and it's important to recognize the symptoms. For example, you may experience an inability to sleep or an increase in sleeping, over eating or not eating at all, crying for any reason or no reason at all, weight loss or weight gain, loss of interest in activities.
Try my quick tips if you feel down in the dumps. But, if these symptoms persist for more than two weeks you should make an appointment immediately with your primary care physician and discuss these symptoms.
Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas. She is married to an active-duty Soldier and they have three sons. Vicki has always had a gift for giving quick advice and steering people in the right direction. Her passion has always been helping anyone who is in need of advice and writing. Ms. Vicki has a Master's of Science in Social Work from the University of Louisville. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Ms. Vicki will begin working on a PhD in the fall of 2009. Currently, Ms. Vicki is working on a host of books that will be published this year. The first book, "Restoring the Passion and Romance in Your Relationship" will be released soon. Ms. Vicki uses her intellect, clinical skills, passion, wit and humor to engage many military spouses.
Currently, Ms. Vicki works as a therapist with military servicemembers and their families. She provides services for a wide array of concerns such as combat stress, PTSD, couples and marital problems, depression, grief and loss, stress and coping, etc. Ms. Vicki also writes an advice column "Dear Ms. Vicki" that appears in the Washington Times, the Fort Campbell Courier and the Heidelberg Herald Post. Ms. Vicki also hosts an internet radio show and blogs on her community site with the Washington Times.
Do you have a question for Ms. Vicki about deployments, making new friends at a new duty station, or military life in general? E-mail her at AskMsVicki@military-inc.com, and she'll answer your questions. Two or three Q&As will be published on Military.com's Advisors channel.
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