WASHINGTON - Being away from family and friends during the holidays can be hard. Many people may be experiencing more stress than usual as the pandemic alters our holiday and travel plans this season. But that doesn’t mean the holidays are destined to be a disappointment this year. There are plenty of ways to cope and below are a few suggestions to help reduce your holiday stress in healthy ways:
Rely on positive people for help and support. This may include family and/or friends. If you are feeling lonely during the season, reach out to friends using the phone or a virtual application. Make use of your social network. Spend a few moments each day enjoying the company of your children. Try using your ‘stay at home’ time to do things as a family. It can bring your family closer and boost your mood.
It is important to focus on our own needs and feelings during the holidays. Focus on doing something that you enjoy during this time such as going for a walk, listening to music or reading a magazine.
Identify what is important to you during the holidays and focus on those tasks. Understand that you may not get everything done and be flexible about making changes to your plan. When you talk with your friends and family about plans, it’s okay if you decide to stay home or remain apart from others. Spend time with those in your own household instead of risking travel. They are hard choices to make, however, the silver lining is the protection of your loved ones so you can visit for many more years.
Review your finances to develop a budget that works for you. Be realistic about how much you can spend on holiday gifts. If you are creative, try handmade gifts. Making gifts together as a family not only saves money, it also increases those positive connections that can boost your mood.
Get plenty of sleep and incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. Eat a diet full of nutrients; research has shown that what you eat affects the way you think and feel. Limit consumption of alcohol. When you take care of your body and stay active you also lessen fatigue, anxiety and sadness.
Routines bring a sense of normalcy to family life, especially for children whose school routines have already been disrupted. Keep meals and bedtimes on a regular schedule. Monitor use of social media and gaming as if your family routines have not been altered.
Research has shown that people who practice gratitude are happier, sleep better and enjoy healthier relationships. While it may seem harder to find things to appreciate, there is still plenty to be thankful for. Make a conscious effort to regularly identify some things that you’re grateful for. It can be something as broad as your health, or something as specific as the grandparents learning how to Zoom.
While it is important to stay informed and up-to-date on the latest events, too much information may contribute to our stress levels. Schedule periods throughout the day to catch up with the news.
There’s no denying that things will be different this year, but the holidays don’t need to be canceled (or even minimized). There will be some things that you can’t do right now, but there are surely some that you can. Find creative ways to adapt. Or start new traditions – they may even add more meaning to your holiday season.
If you continue to feel stressed during the holidays, call the Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) at (860) 694-4875 or the Base Chaplain office at (860) 694-3232 for assistance. There are counselors available to help.