The holidays are right around the corner and for many of us, this can cause feelings of stress. It can be especially stressful being a military family around the holidays because our families can be spread all over the country. This means we have to add extra time to travel, incur additional expenses, and we have to make the tough decision who we spend the holidays with this year if our family and our spouse’s family aren’t in the same area. Add that to everyday life and you might just feel stressed out. Here are a few tips to help get through it!
Be realistic: Let’s be realistic about what to expect during the holidays. It isn’t perfect, unlike what we see in those gift shop and coffee commercials. Your brother doesn’t magically appear from a foreign country on Christmas morning while traveling by foot during a snowstorm and everyone does not magically wake up to greet him or whip up a hot breakfast. No one walks out of the mall with 20 bags and looks fabulous. In reality, your hair is a mess, your feet are aching, you have a screaming toddler, and the weight of those 20 bags is causing some major back pain. Oh, and you forgot where you parked your car. You get the point – we have to be realistic! If you haven’t seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, watch it! This is more in touch with reality and quite funny. Part of being realistic means that you may find that you aren’t able to visit everyone. Or that you will not be able to attend all of those holiday parties that you have been invited to, so you will have to prioritize which is most important to you and continue to be realistic about how much you can fit into your timeframe while visiting. And regardless of how hard you try, someone’s feelings will most likely get hurt due to decisions that have to be made.
Family situations: You might find yourself visiting your childhood home and the moment you walk in the door, everyone treats you like you’re still a teenager. It almost seems as if the family wants to revert back 15+ years. Frustrating, right? You might find yourself at the dinner table and your family asks you when you’re going to have children, go back to school, or get a job. While these types of questions can be offensive, this is the opportunity to tactfully speak up or let it roll off your back. If you feel that the question or topic could lead into a heated argument, you can try changing the subject and depending on the situation, you might want to pull that person away and talk to them in private about it. If you find yourself with someone that just loves to argue and create a dramatic situation, don’t give in to it. You know who you are and what is truly importantly, so try to keep your cool. You can always politely excuse yourself if you need to do so.
Set a budget: Before all of the traveling and purchasing of gifts, set a budget to determine how much you might be able to spend. If you cannot travel and buy gifts, just travel! This will mean much more to your loved ones than a purchased gift – you are the gift! Or, agree to have a gift exchange game or opt to not buy gifts at all. If you find that you cannot travel, try to schedule a phone call with your loved ones or maybe a time to Skype. If you find yourself visiting and everyone wants to go out and it’s a bit of a stretch for you, it’s okay to let them know that going out is beyond your budget because of the expense of traveling. Maybe you can even start a tradition if you don’t already have one! Like eating pizza, drinking hot chocolate, watching a favorite family movie, or playing a game.
Find some time for yourself: Being around loved ones you haven’t seen in a while is great, but when it turns into marathon visiting without any “you” time, that can be a meltdown waiting to happen. Try to find about 20 minutes for yourself each day – even if this means walking the dog, having a cup of coffee, or listening to some music. Do whatever you need to do to re-charge a tiny bit. This will make for a happier visit and leave you feeling more energized.
Angelique is a proud Army wife and happily married to her husband, Ray. After being PCS’ed from one side of the country to the other, Ft. Bragg, NC, is currently home. She has a degree in Counseling and a career background in Corporate Human Resources. She is an advocate for animal rights and enjoys supporting military and environmental causes. She is an accomplished flute player of 23 years and in her spare time she enjoys crafting, decorating, genealogy, travelling, watching horrible B rated movies, and is obsessed with anything pertaining to Disney. She and Ray are the proud pet parents of two dogs, Maddie and Ringo.
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