This holiday season, watch your mental health as well as your waistline
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The holidays can be a challenging time for anyone. It is a season of traditions, charged with memories and emotion -- and some of those may evoke feelings of happiness, but also sadness. For Soldiers who are unable to be near loved ones and family during this time, the season can be especially hard.

The season comes with its own added layer of activities and responsibilities that can exhaust our time, money and emotional energy. Although many of us look forward to the holidays, others may long for a more tranquil time, such as a leisurely day in June by the pool.

Each of us paints his or her own a mental picture of the ideal holiday, but reality can sometimes fall short. This season, try to manage expectations and create new traditions. For those of you who can't be with your families, try connecting with local friends. You won't replace the traditions you grew up with, but you might broaden your understanding of the holidays.

If your location or deployment keeps you from your loved ones, make it a priority to use the electronics available to you to reach across the miles and connect with them.

Financial stress might make some wish they could skip the whole holiday thing, but one tried and true solution is to draw up a budget and stick to it. Overspending isn't confined to the holiday season; it carries over and also affects life in the new year.

Look for opportunities to volunteer. Spending time in a festive atmosphere with other people doing good work can lift your mood and lead to new friendships.

And always remember: Most of us, at some time during our life, will have difficulty coping with our circumstances -- there is no shame in seeking assistance.

Your Army family is there to help: If you want or need help, reach out to local resources like the Army Community Service, veteran centers and chaplains.

If you're looking for self-help, Military OneSource has information and recommendations covering a variety of topics for Soldiers, Families, civilians and veterans.

Visit to learn more.

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