Here Comes the Holiday Blues

I cannot believe the festive season is almost here! While this can be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, it can also be the saddest time of the year for some people.

Mapela Motshabi-Custodio, MS, Military Spouse and Mother

Mapela Motshabi-Custodio, MS, Military Spouse and Mother

For some of us in the military, this is the time where we get reminded that we are out there living in a foreign town or country with no family living close by. For example, my children’s school will be hosting a Grandparents’ day whereby grandparents will come to the school to have tea and do crafts with them. My children’s grandparents will not be able to attend, so I will be there with a big smile, yet with a thought of how lovely it would be if my parents could make it.

I have grown to accept the military lifestyle and all that it brings. I have learned to go with the flow and not dwell on certain things that will bring me down such as not having my parents attend Grandparents’ day.

This is how I survive the holiday blues.

Create Your Own Family Traditions

Starting fresh is always good and it can help with letting go of what you have done for the past holidays, and focus on creating new family traditions. I consider holidays to be a time to be with our loved ones, and those we love do not only have to be family. If you are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where you have made great friends, then make plans to celebrate the holidays with them. Being with others, strips away loneliness.

My family always spends most of the festive holidays with friends, and we create such great memories that we may even forget that we are away from our extended family. When you are in the military, it gets easier when you start recognizing that family does not have to be blood. You can form inseparable bonds with friends, and this can be your family support that can help keep you afloat.

Give to Others

“The best way to pursue happiness is to help other people, because there is nothing else that will make you happier” ~ George Lucas.

I believe that giving should be something that we do 365 days of the year, but I acknowledge that during the festive holidays, people focus more on giving and being there for others. You can get on that wagon as well, and help the single military members in your unit or military members on an unaccompanied tour who cannot travel home for the holidays. You can make their holidays by opening your home and preparing a home cooked meal for them. Programs such as Adopt a US Soldier (http://www.adoptaussoldier.org/) are a good place to start if you are interested in helping our service members in need. You can also reach out to the nearest MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) or USO office to inquire about their specific holiday programs and how you can take part in them. It is amazing how helping others gives a sense of fulfillment and happiness.

Be Grateful for the Small Things

I always remind myself of the old saying ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’. I use this phrase to keep myself optimistic and to keep my head up high no matter how bad the situation. By staying optimistic, I am able to always look for the good in every situation. For example if my husband has to work on a holiday, but I get invited over to a friend’s house, I appreciate the invitation and focus on that opportunity to be with friends instead of nagging about how my husband is not home.

It is best to concentrate your energy on the things you can control such as accepting an invitation to a friend’s house rather than complaining about how your spouse is never home for the holidays. We know the demands of the military lifestyle, the least we can do is to be optimistic and to focus on things that are under our control.

Lead a Healthy Lifestyle

When you take care of yourself, you have a better outlook on things. Eating regular balanced meals, getting adequate sleep (6 to 7 hours per night), and exercising elevates your mood thus helping you feel good. It helps manage stress and contributes to having a positive outlook on life.

If you normally have holiday blues, this holiday season I challenge you to remember to pace yourself, keep things simple, enjoy the small things, and smile because after all, it is a season to be joyful.