The holiday season is here, and often, there is no better time to spend with relatives and carry on family traditions than this time of year. In the United States, Thanksgiving and Christmas are known to be the two most celebrated and happiest days of the year due the social festivities, gift exchanges and gatherings which may provide individuals with a sense of fulfillment, belonging and acceptance. Moreover, during these times, we are frequently brought back to cherished memories and moments of the past.
However for some, this time of year can also be the most emotionally exhaustive and least joyful depending on one’s life circumstances.
Thoughts over passed love ones or the ending of a relationship around a holiday may illicit a sense of sadness and depression for some. The holidays may also negatively impact the way one responds to daily stressors such as long working hours, highway/road traffic, caring for aging parents, and financial strains and burdens.
These things have the potential to increase the stress level to an already busy life due to hyped commercialism and feeling a need to make the holiday season the best for everyone else.
For service members and their families, the holidays can be one of the toughest times of year. With military service, the unexpected is, oftentimes, expected. Serving your country can mean not knowing your next duty station or being commissioned with a deployment, or task that takes you away from your loved ones during the holiday seasons. For young service members, this can cause significant hardship, especially for those assigned to their first duty station around the holidays with no family or loved ones nearby with whom to celebrate. Furthermore, being in a new location can bring about added stress or dramatic mood or physical changes due to having to adjust and acclimate to a new environment and meeting new people.
This sense of dismay is known as the “holiday blues” and is a result of one’s fear of disappointing others, increased expectations of gift giving and exchanges, anniversaries and general bad memories associated with this time of year. The holiday blues can be temporary, but if you notice some of the physical and emotional symptoms listed below lasting for more than two weeks, do seek assistance:
• Excessive eating/loss of appetite
• Increase use of alcohol
• Difficulty sleeping or excessive sleep
• Feeling fatigue
• Feeling lonely
• Crying spells
No matter what your situation may be, if you or your family are in Arizona, know that this state has a great deal of holiday activities to help you get out of the holiday blues. For example, you can visit Glendale Glitters, Zoolights, Tempe Festival of Lights Parade, CitySkate Ice Rink at CityScape, and many more. These events are great for everyone and afford one the opportunity to venture out and experience the festivities of the holidays. Moreover, for deploying or deployed service members, know your absence during this time of year will be an emotional time for your family, so be sure to think ahead. Prepare to send them cards and letters expressing how much you miss them. For service members with children, purchase sentimental gifts your children may cherish for times to come.
Nonetheless, for those experiencing the holiday blues, know that you may not be alone. So, though you may not be having a traditional holiday, you may be able to spend it with others going through the same experiences and in-turn, make your holiday a more joyful one.
Keep in mind that knowing your triggers (e.g. loss of a loved one, separation from loved ones, anniversaries, and etc.) can help you deal with the holiday blues because you can engage in activities that can improve your mood or contact professional help that can assist with getting you through this difficult time.
If you are experiencing the holiday blues and need professional assistance, visit the Luke Air Force Base 56th Medical Group Mental Health Clinic. Hours of operation are 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
There are additional resources such as the Luke AFB Chapel, Military OneSource, and Behavioral Health Optimization on base to assist if needed.
For more information, call 623-856-7579.