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Overcoming holiday blues

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (AFNS) -- The holiday season is upon us once again, and it is often a busy season. It is filled with shopping, gifts, festivities, joyous music, holiday parties, decorations, and many opportunities to be with family, friends, and coworkers as we close out the old year and welcome the New Year. However, for some this can be a challenging time. Instead of being a season of joy, some may experience increased stress, feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety. Psychologists often refer to this as the holiday blues. Unfortunately, this is a real phenomenon and some will contemplate suicide.

Military and civilian personnel alike can face higher stress levels during the holidays. The expectation of ‘holiday happiness’ can seem difficult to obtain if you are experiencing a troubled relationship, the death of a loved one, separation from family and friends, being away from home, difficulties in the work place or challenges with finances. These stressors are real and can lead to the holiday blues, but they can be overcome.

You may be wondering if you are experiencing the holiday blues. Often overlooked warning signs include changes in sleep patterns, weight loss or gain, increased or decreased eating, increased anger or anxiety, headaches, lack of concentration and decreased interests in things you would normally do. Other classic symptoms that can indicate the holiday blues or depression include being sad often, withdrawn, and not interacting with others or going to events. The key is recognizing that these are all real feelings and possibilities for each of us. If you, your loved ones, or someone you know show signs of the holiday blues, here are some recommendations to help overcome them.

We must be intentional about socializing with others. The easiest thing to do when faced with difficulties is to isolate ourselves. Isolation can give a false sense that the problems are bigger than they actually are. Spending time with family, friends, and those who care about you can help bolster your emotional well-being. Each of us needs a wingman and support network where we can go when things are not going as we planned in life.

Another area that causes the holiday blues is trying to meet perceived expectations of society. If gifts are a part of your holiday celebrations, understand your gift-giving budget and stick to it. Holiday pressures and wanting to give to those we care about can cause unnecessary financial strain. If your loved one knew you would be carrying debt for the next year to buy them a gift, do you think they would still want you to buy it? Oftentimes the pressure to overspend is internal and not external.

There is little doubt that a key to overcoming the holiday blues is ensuring that whether you are military or civilian, you are keeping a caring eye on your wingman. This can be checking in via email, a phone call, or going to lunch with them. Connection is the key to letting others know they are loved and not a burden. Those who experience the holiday blues often feel as though they were a burden to their family, friends and coworkers. Connecting with one another is a sure way to provide a sense of hope and encouragement. Communicate with others and talk about your feelings with your wingman or family members. Surround yourself with family and friends.

Finally, if you are spiritual, rely on that connection and seek out the spiritual power outside of yourself. Spiritual fitness has to do with our way of looking at life with meaning, hope and inner peace. To be spiritual is to know and live according to the knowledge there is more than meets the eye. Spiritual fitness includes the knowledge there is something greater than ourselves. Whether one attends worship services or gains perspective from embracing nature or patriotism, spirituality remains a viable source of strength and resiliency.

Overcoming the holiday blues is possible when we take the time to connect with our families, friends and coworkers. This holiday season, take a moment to reassess your purpose and recognize what you bring to the defense and freedom of America every day. Remember, look out for one another—talk to your wingman and check in. Just as our Pacific Air Forces commander has set the vector for each us, to be ready, resilient, and postured for the future, make the decision today to get the most out of the upcoming holiday season by deliberately connecting with others and building social fitness, not letting holiday pressures overwhelm you through mental fitness and leveraging spiritual fitness.

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