JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
The holiday season is a joyful time of the year, filled with family gatherings, office parties, festive decorations, gift giving and bountiful meals.
However, many people are overwhelmed by the demands of the holiday season, while still others feel the pain of loneliness during a time of year defined by social interaction.
Fortunately, members of the military community can rely on a variety of resources to help them cope with the stresses of the holidays, including the chaplain services and mental health professionals.
Chaplains offer guidance through their faith perspective.
“Sometimes the Airmen and family members we see want practical suggestions, but we are not licensed professional counselors,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Richard Boyd, 502nd Air Base Wing. “What we offer is spiritual guidance – helping them see how God fits into their lives.”
Boyd said he emphasizes the true meaning of Christmas, which for him is Christ.
“Commercialism is not what Christmas is about,” he said.
Young Airmen away from home for the first time, deployed Airmen away from their families and recently divorced military members are especially vulnerable during the Christmas season, Boyd said.
Concentrating on the needs of others is one way Airmen – as well as others – can bring fulfillment to the holiday season, Boyd said.
“It’s important to focus on the people who are around you – turning outward to those who may have a bigger need,” he said.
People should see themselves as “an instrument in God’s hands to help others,” whether it’s volunteering for holiday causes on-base or getting involved with their local churches at Christmas time, Boyd said. “There are a lot of opportunities out there.”
Gina Ramirez, 359th Medical Operations Squadron Mental Health Flight outreach/resiliency coordinator, suggested a simplified approach to the holidays for people who are struggling with their emotions due to the stresses of the season.
“The holidays can be full of activities, preparation and celebration, which can bring on stress for anyone,” she said. “So it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed during this time of year.
“The best approach to take is to simplify your life for the next couple of months,” Ramirez said. “This may mean cutting back on activities that may look very appealing. For example, going to all of the holiday parties may not be in the best interest of keeping life simple.”
In addition to keeping it simple, she recommended finding activities that are fun, getting plenty of rest and exercise, prioritizing and organizing, and asking for help.
Ramirez also listed ways for young Airmen away from home for the first time to cope with stress during the holidays.
Those suggestions included carrying on family traditions such as baking cookies, caroling and sending Christmas cards; doing something different, such as taking a trip; and taking advantage of technology to communicate with their loved ones through Skype or FaceTime.