FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- With everything that goes on during the holidays, like shopping and gift giving, many can forget that the season is less about the amount spent on gifts and more about the time spent with loved ones.

That's why the Fort Rucker Army Substance Abuse Program and Family Life Chaplain want to provide people with the tools and knowledge to get through the holiday season and manage holiday stress, said Rick Kohl, ASAP Employee Assistance Program coordinator.

Managing stress around this time of year can become a daunting task, he said, and one key way to help deal with some of those stressors is by focusing on the positives.

"Practice optimism," said Kohl. "Take a situation that you know is going to allow for a happy mood or thought, and focus on that and by doing so you internalize the feeling. Think about something that's happened that is a positive experience.

"Normally people tend to start thinking about all of the stuff that's going to wrong," he said, "so when you're met with a situation that could trigger frustration or a sense of hopelessness, think of the positives in life because it helps to deflect the feelings. It does you no good emotionally to be frustrated or upset."

Chaplain (Maj.) James Pennington, post family life chaplain, advises that people take a different outlook when it comes to the holidays and think of the holiday from a different point of view.

"I like to think in terms of contentment for the holidays," he said. "So, when something positive or good happens, you accent that, you maximize that and you hold onto that. Let that be your anchor and count your blessings.

"During the holidays, not everything is going to go to our liking, so if something bad does happen, try to minimize that and don't hold on to it," he continued. "Don't let that one event ruin your whole holiday."

People should focus more on an attitude of giving because it's the act of giving that can bring true happiness, said the chaplain. Expect there to be stress doing the holidays and be mentally prepared to handle those stressors.

One way to handle and deal with a lot of those stressors is to communicate those frustrations through some means, whether talking with someone or simply finding on outlet to relieve the stress, such as exercise, he said.

"There is stress every day, so just accept that," said Pennington. "If there is something inside us and there is something that we can do to get it on the outside, whether that's talking or writing or exercising, then do that. There are ways of getting it out of you because it doesn't just need to sit inside you."

When those stresses become overwhelming, many times people tend to not communicate their frustrations, but bottling up those frustrations can lead to outburst and lashing out, which is something people should try to avoid, said Kohl. By mentally preparing themselves, people will be able to better communicate their frustrations should they arise.

"Practice those thoughts and ways that they would experience that conflict, so that there's competency when it comes to dealing with it," he said. "It's really hard to go into a situation untrained … and that usually leads to conflict failure, which can lead to overreactions.

"It's important to find somebody to talk to in order to help process (those emotions) in a healthy, competent way," he continued. "You have to have some strategy to deal with situations. Sometimes, you have to talk through that with someone and know that you have the ability to manage that internally and that you're not going to react to something that someone else triggers in you. We have the ability to effect change in ourselves, but we can't change other people."

Another way to deal with a stressful situation is to remove oneself from the situation, as well, said Janet Strickland, Lyster Army Health Clinic behavioral health counselor. People should come up with an exit strategy, so as to not allow a situation to escalate into something that might not be manageable.

"Have a plan when family interaction gets to be too much," she said. "Take a walk, take the children to a movie or just something to get you out of that.

"Also, don't create unrealistic expectations," she continued, adding that people should be flexible to situations. "When you build up things in your mind and think, 'This is how it's going to be when I get home,' then you're setting up for failure."

If stress does become too much, there are plenty of resources on post for people to take advantage of if they need someone to talk to, including chaplain services, family advocacy programs and counselors.

For more information on chaplain services, call 255-3100 or 255-9777.

For more information on ASAP, call 255-7509.

For more information on LAHC behavioral health, call 255-7028.