Holidays and Reintegration: Easing the Stress of the Season for Service Members
WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The demands and pace of the holidays can be a challenging time for everyone, particularly service members, veterans and military families. While the holidays are a great time to reconnect with family and friends, the increase in holiday-related activities and the additional financial and schedule demands can be stressful to service members, especially those coping with invisible wounds, during a time when they are expected to be joyous and festive.
The Real Warriors Campaign (www.realwarriors.net) provides the following tips and coping guidelines for keeping the holidays festive and maintaining resiliency and psychological fitness during the holiday season.
Tips for Service Members Coping with Holiday Anxiety
-- It is common to experience some form of anxiety at holiday events - even for those who have never been deployed. -- Do - Identify typical causes of stress so you can be prepared to cope with them. For example, crowded holiday events can be a common cause of anxiety for recently deployed service members who have had an intense combat or operational experience. -- Don't - Feel obligated to go to every event just because you are invited. Nurture your spirituality and maintain a healthy balance between socializing and down time. -- Family members and friends are often curious about what deployment is like and some may unintentionally ask inappropriate questions about your service. -- Do - Think through the questions that may make you feel uncomfortable and decide how you will answer them. Consider sharing your responses and any concerns you have with a loved one or a health professional before a holiday gathering. -- Don't - Get angry with family members for asking questions. Most likely they are just curious and want to learn more about your deployment experience. -- All service members should pay attention to symptoms of post-deployment stress and report them to their health care provider. -- Do - Keep track of how you are feeling and your methods for coping - including what works and what doesn't - and report them to your doctor. Understanding your stress is easier when you identify triggers contributing to feelings of stress and anxiety. With the "T2 Mood Tracker" app, you can monitor, track and reference your moods and behaviors throughout a period of time, allowing you to see how environmental influences and life stress may be impacting your psychological health. -- Don't - Cope in an unhealthy way by consuming alcohol. Drinking too much during the holidays can have a negative effect on your reintegration process and your ability to reconnect with family.
Some members of the military isolate themselves by avoiding social outings or gatherings, for a variety of reasons including not wanting to talk about their deployment or not wanting to be in large crowds. While you may want to have some time alone as you reintegrate, being around others is important to your well-being as it can strengthen your social network of support. Make plans to spend time with friends and family in places where you feel comfortable and try to stick with your plans. Remember, the key to healthy, happy holidays is staying connected to your social network, and enjoying your friends and loved ones, not rushing to meet the expectations of the season.
It’s a sign of strength to understand and identify the things that cause you stress, to know your limits and take care of your own psychological health. If you are a reintegrating service member, or know someone who needs more information, check out the Real Warriors Campaign article on holidays and reintegration (http://realwarriors.net/guardreserve/reintegration/holidaystress.php) and other Real Warriors Campaign resources (http://realwarriors.net). Service members, including members of the National Guard and reserve, and veterans can confidentially speak with a trained resource consultant 24/7 through the Real Warriors Live Chat feature (http://realwarriors.net/livechat) or by calling 866-966-1020. Visitors can also connect with one another directly through our message boards (http://www.realwarriors.net/forum/).
SOURCE The Real Warriors Campaign