By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJanuary 12, 2018
FORT RUCKER, Ala -- Transitions are a big part of life, and after the holidays being able to transition back into the work week can offer unique challenges.
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 transition and effectively manage stress, said Rick Kohl, ASAP Employee Assistance Program coordinator.
Post-holiday stress can sneak up on people, he said, and one key way to help deal with some of the stress many face in the New Year 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 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 negative feelings. It does you no good emotionally to be frustrated or upset. Frustration will not solve your problem, solution-focused thinking will."
Chaplain (Maj.) James Pennington, post family life chaplain, advises that people take a different outlook when it comes to post-holiday resilience and think of the time after the holidays from a different point of view.
"Instead of focusing on setting New Year resolutions think in terms coming to terms with who you are as a person. Think in terms of contentment for the coming year," 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.
"In life, 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 day."
Pennington said people should expect there to be stress in life. "We primarily feel stress because we do not believe we have the resources to deal with the stress," said the post family life chaplain. "We can problem solve and use external resources to lower the stress, or if we cannot change our external circumstances then an option is to change the internal by changing what we believe or feel about the situation."
One resource to handle and deal with stressors is to communicate those frustrations through some means, whether by talking with someone or simply finding an outlet to relieve the stress, such as exercise, he added.
"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. Use the recourses that are available to you at Fort Rucker and the surrounding area."
When stresses become overwhelming, many times people tend to not communicate their frustrations, but bottling up those frustrations can lead to outbursts 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."
Kohl suggests that as the New Year starts, people should think about donating some of their time to volunteerism or reigniting an old hobby or skill. "When situations become surprisingly frustrating, being able to focus on new positive experiences can be very helpful in reducing reactive frustration," he said.
Another way to deal with a stressful situation is to remove oneself from that situation, 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 you have a surprisingly frustrating interaction," she said. "Take a walk, or go to a quiet place and read something encouraging."
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.