The following article was originally published by Cohen Veterans Network (CVN), a not-for-profit philanthropic organization that serves post-9/11 veterans, service members, and their families through a nationwide system of mental health clinics. Care is available in-person and via CVN Telehealth. Learn more or find a Cohen Clinic near you at cohenveteransnetwork.org.
MFAN is proud to partner with CVN to help military families connect with vital health and wellness resources.
While holidays are filled with celebration and gratitude, it can also be a stressful time of year. As a clinical psychologist, I have a few tips to help you make the most of your holidays:
Stick to your exercise regimen
A packed holiday schedule can make sticking to any routine difficult, but exercise has been proven to relieve stress. Even just 20 minutes a day can better prepare you to deal with that busy schedule.
Create rules of engagement for controversial topics
Your family members may have very different perspectives and opinions. To avoid creating a stressful environment, decide in advance what you are comfortable discussing and consider setting boundaries.
Give yourself time to reflect or grieve
Holidays can change for us over time. The season may bring up tough memories or cause you to miss a person or tradition. Allow yourself time to reflect or grieve if you need it. This can be especially important for those who have experienced loss and for families who are separated by deployments or just distance.
It’s okay to decline invitations
It can be difficult to say “no” but avoid over-committing to holiday activities. Don’t be afraid to decline an invitation if you do not have time in your schedule or if you just need a break.
Real life is not a holiday card
Holidays rarely look like the picture-perfect cards we send and it’s easy to get caught up in the pressure of what you “should” do for the holidays. Instead, set reasonable expectations for yourself and others, and remember what you value most about the holiday season – whether that’s celebrating your faith, spending time with loved ones, taking a break from work, or giving back to your community.
Of course, if you find yourself struggling this holiday season (or any season for that matter), remember that you are not alone. If you need additional support, here are a couple other resources below:
- Tools for Stress and Worry Course – Cohen Veterans Network designed a free, self-paced course specifically for veteran and military families to help manage stress and worry. Through a series of brief and flexible modules, you can learn new tools and techniques to manage stress and worry. The course was developed by mental health experts with input from military family members themselves.
- Cohen Veterans Network provides confidential, high-quality mental health care to post-9/11 veterans, service members, and their families. Access care in-person from one of 24 Cohen Clinic locations nationwide or via Telehealth. Get started today!
- 988 – If you are experiencing a mental health emergency and are in immediate need of assistance, please reach out for support through a crisis phone or text line. Call the Military / Veteran Crisis Line by dialing 9-8-8 or text 838255.