JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Today is Black Friday, the beginning of the retail holiday season, and for many military families this means stressing over getting all the holiday shopping done, gift-wrapping, decorating and planning social events and family get-togethers.
During the holiday season, it is easy to become overwhelmed, Gina Ramirez, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Mental Health outreach resiliency counselor, said. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands, from waking up at the crack of dawn for Black Friday sales to planning last-minute entertainment for holiday parties.
"Most people don't budget for the holidays, which leads to overspending and buying on credit," Mike Bell, JBSA-Randolph community readiness consultant, said. "Black Friday itself tends to be a 'spender's holiday.' Price markdowns and sales usually end up causing people to spend more money because the deals seem too great to pass up."
However, counselors say, with the practice of some practical tips, the stress that accompanies the holidays can be minimized. Shoppers may even find themselves enjoying the holidays more.
"One holiday strategy you can try is moderation," Ramirez said. "The holidays don't have to be perfect or 'just like last year.' As families change and grow, so do traditions. Choose a few to hang on to and be open to creating new ones."
Another tip she gives is learning to say "no."
"While saying 'no' instead of saying 'yes' may cause some people to feel resentful and call you a 'penny-pincher,' you will avoid feeling overwhelmed and in the long run, your friends will understand," she said.
Counselors also advise shoppers to not let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to financial stress and guilt.
Financial preparation for the holidays is also important and there are several avenues people can use, Bell said. Most banks have Christmas club accounts, budgets can be created early in the year and the Military and Family Readiness Center hosts financial readiness classes.
"If you want to keep spending in check during Black Friday and the rest of the holiday season, you should consider establishing a monetary limit and stick to it," Bell said. "You can also buy holiday decorations and gifts right after the holidays when stores usually have huge price reductions. However, that would require a lot of discipline and planning far into the future."
When things get too overwhelming, take a breather. According to Chaplain (Capt.) Mark McGregor, 502nd Air Base Wing chaplain, spending 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may be enough to restore inner calm.
"If, despite best efforts, you find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, you may need to talk to someone," McGregor said. "I'd start with a trusted friend, family or colleague. These people know you so you may find them easier to talk to. You can also make an appointment with a chaplain or mental health care provider."
For more financial or stress help resources, call the Military and Family Readiness Center at 652-5321. To talk to a chaplain, call 652-6121.