WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - As the holiday season approaches, I am reminded it’s that time of year in which I need to take time to rest, reflect and recharge.
At least that’s what I hope to do over the holidays. I really need it. I bet you do as well.
This past year has had many ups and downs. Just keeping up with the daily news and changing events has taken a toll on me and my family.
As a chaplain serving the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base community, I find that COVID-19 restrictions have made life even busier than unusual. At times, 2021 has seemed like a rerun of 2020.
People are still limiting their social lives and staying at home more. For safety’s sake, this is a good thing. But “fewer activities” doesn’t always mean less busy or stressful.
We always hope the holidays are fun and relaxing, but they can create loads of challenges, especially for those in the military community far from home. I understand just how stressful the end-of-year holiday season can be for many.
There is an amount of stress that comes from just dealing with all the activities, events and shopping, of course, that tend to ramp up as we approach Thanksgiving, with the pace remaining right through the New Year celebration. Adding to my stress is the negotiation with relatives and extended family over when, where and which side of the family we visit or if we are going to travel at all.
For some, there is the stress of spending holidays separated from a deployed spouse or family member. For others, it’s grieving for family members or friends who have passed during the year and whose chair will be now be empty at the table. I have a very elderly father, so I’m always feeling the need to spend more time with him.
As a chaplain, let me recommend a few ways to cope with the holiday pressures.
First, stay active; take a 30-minute walk when possible to get out and enjoy the fall colors. Unplugging from the constant wave of news and social media will help you de-stress. Yes, give yourself a break, turn the smartphone off, don’t worry about the news and skip the latest reality show.
Saying “No, thank you” to some of the parties and busyness can be very freeing. Saying “no” to all-day holiday shopping, which only causes me to overspend, can be good.
Another method is to practice a form of meditation or reflection. Take 10 minutes and just sit in a quiet room — no TV, radio or background noise at all.
I find spending time in prayer is helpful. I believe God is there and always hears our prayers.
I receive many prayer requests for people suffering from COVID-19, stress and daily struggles. I keep a prayer list, and many of our 88th Air Base Wing chaplains do as well. If you would like to request a prayer, reach out to your chaplain. Chaplains are always ready to listen.
There are many things in life beyond our ability to control. Prayer can make a difference. After spending just a few moments in prayer, I always feel more at peace.
We also need connections with people to feel supported. Finding a sense of community — whether at work, with a religious organization or through shared activities — can strengthen our sense of peace. Enjoying shared activities that allow you to find support and foster relationships can help during difficult times.
Managing stress means building skills necessary to take everyday challenges in stride by keeping problems in perspective and learning what to work on and what to let go.
None of us have all the answers, so find a chaplain, life coach or mental health counselor to talk to. Don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance.
Each of these steps can help you de-stress and make the holiday season more enjoyable. Lastly, I encourage you to remember the good things in life and the world around you — the people, blessings and commitments worthy of our attention — in contrast to focusing on struggles out of our control, especially the ones that can prove inconsequential in the long run.
Before we know it, we will all be sitting down to turkey dinner with all the trimmings, putting up holiday decorations and all the rest. I challenge you to keep your heart and minds focused on the important things such as friends, family and blessings we have in our lives.
Go and be a blessing to one another. You are all doing a great job. Set aside a little bit of time to rest, reflect and recharge.
You will be better for it.