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Managing holiday stress

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Thursday, Nov. 27, will mark the beginning of the holiday season.  For many, the holiday season is a joyous and festive time of year filled with gatherings, celebrations, gifts and food. However, it can be a time of sadness, isolation, ambivalence or anxiety.  For some, it may be a time of year with little importance.   Regardless of which side you may fall on, the holidays can be stressful and demanding.  I want to take this opportunity to highlight some simple tips on managing holiday stress.

Know your financial limits.  Money, specifically lack of money, is one of the leading causes of holiday stress.  Create a budget and stick to it.  Don't buy gifts that you will be paying for all next year.  Your stress level post-holiday season will thank you.  If you are struggling to afford toys for the children in your life, programs such as Toys for Tots may be able to assist.

Be realistic.  Try not to get caught up in attempting to create the "perfect" holiday event for you or your family.  Life is not a movie on the Hallmark Channel.  Allow yourself some grace and focus on the traditions and activities that make you happy.  Also, it is reasonable to expect when people and family get together that conflict is inevitable. If you have a difficult time around certain relatives, people or situations, it is ok to set limits on the amount of time you spend at gatherings or visits.

Connect with people.  If you are a geographical transplant like I am, you may be far from family and old friends, which can cause feelings of isolation and loneliness.  To alleviate the stresses associated with isolation, volunteer some time at local charities or attend community events.  This can broaden your social relationships and help you feel better.  Also, connect with co-workers who might be in a similar situation as you.

Take care of yourself.  The holidays can be a time of "accepted" overindulgence.  Late-night parties, overconsumption of alcohol and food, and interruptions in exercise routines can exacerbate an already stressful period of time.  Such overindulgence can leave you feeling sluggish, guilty or tired.  To avoid this, pledge to set some reasonable limits and get plenty of rest.  Not only will you feel better, you'll be able to enjoy more of what the holiday season has to offer. 

Seek help.  If you feel that you are unable to cope with the feelings of being overwhelmed or underwhelmed by the holiday season, please reach out.  Whether it's discussing how you feel with your significant other, friends, relatives or a mental health professional, just know that you don't have to go at it alone. 

It is my sincere hope that everyone in the 931st Air Refueling Group has the holiday season that they desire.  Please remember that I am here to serve you and your families.  I am available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Unit Training Assembly weekends from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Take care and have a Happy Thanksgiving.