Note: This is the first in a three-part series that will run on the CVN Blog in December.
For most, the joy of holiday festivities is intertwined with the stress of packed schedules, flight delays, last-minute gift shopping, or the daunting task of hosting friends and family for a holiday meal. Stress and anxiety can turn what should be an opportunity to spend quality time in the company of loved ones into stressful situations. Many of the stressors that plague us during the holiday season can be handled or eliminated all together if dealt with proactively. To help alleviate some of this holiday season’s strain, we asked the staff at our Cohen Clinics for some tips on how to combat stress and keep you in the holiday spirit.
Tip 1: Don’t over-commit to plans
Clinical Intern, Jessie Eisenmann, in Clarksville, TN warns us not to over-commit. He also suggests formulating an escape plan if you anticipate an event or celebration will be stressful; politely excuse yourself if you start to feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable.
“Don’t be afraid to decline an invitation if attending would cause your schedule to burst at the seams.”
Tip 2: Spend time reflecting and remembering
San Diego, CA Clinic Director, Shari Finney-Houser, suggests scheduling dedicated time to grieve if you know you will miss a tradition, a loved-one, or just – how things used to be. The holidays can stir up painful emotions and taking a few moments to reflect on those feelings can help you process them. She says this works especially well for family members separated by deployments and divorced or separated parents spending holidays away from their children.
Tip 3: Schedule personal time
Lead Clinician, Aileen Serrano, in El Paso, TX agrees; suggesting everyone can benefit from some brief breaks to be alone. She says to use those times to breathe and relax before you start to feel overwhelmed.
“I lost both parents quite close to each other and Christmas always brings a fresh wave of pain. Now, I plan time to acknowledge it and sit with it.”
** If you’re struggling this holiday season, remember you are not alone. Reach out to get the support you need and encourage loved ones to do the same. Free, confidential support is available 24/7. Call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, press 1 for veterans. **
Cohen Veterans Network clinics nationwide provide accessible, high-quality mental health care for post 9/11 veterans and military families. Find a clinic near you.
By Chris Malvagna
CVN Communications Associate