KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – This holiday season is unlike any other. Faced with a pandemic, limited travel, lockdown and being away from loved ones, holidays can become the blah-days, according to the U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Army Substance Abuse Program office.
The experts say when you add to the 24-hour news cycle the unique conditions brought on from living overseas during a worldwide pandemic, being away from family during the holidays and many employees working from home, it’s not surprising depressing and dark thoughts can set in.
Kristin James, garrison ASAP chief, said someone feeling despair during the holidays must understand the situation is not their fault.
“We can certainly control our own reaction to the situation,” James said. “Keeping the focus on what you control enhances your sense of empowerment. It's also important to understand it is normal to feel stressed or anxious and it is healthy to verbalize your feelings and ask for help.”
Unlike any other nationwide or worldwide crisis in the past, James said we’re all just a keystroke away from each other. She advises anyone feeling themselves slipping into despair, missing their families and friends or feeling disconnected during the holidays should start tapping away, using the positive aspects of social media.
“There are still ways to be a part of the community. If a person has a skill or a talent to share with others, the garrison can use them to build virtual content for the community,” James said.
Experts say during these uncertain times stress levels can become unbearable as information changes daily, due to many factors. Not to mention the added stress of a holiday season.
The world-renown Mayo Clinic says to acknowledge the added stress on daily life. And, to “take control of the holidays.”
“Don’t let the holidays be something you dread,” says the Mayo Clinic web site, (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544).
“Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown," added James.
Enlist help to learn or build upon existing coping, problem-solving and communication skills. There are many resources in the USAG RP community, available via virtual or telephone counseling/coaching.
Military Family Life Counselors, Employee Assistance Program counselors and personal financial counselors are here locally, ready to connect with any employee, family member or Soldier.
In an emailed message to the garrison workforce Dec. 21, Garrison Commander Col. Vance Klosinski wrote, “I ask for everyone's vigilance - please have a plan to stay in contact with those you serve beside - military and civilian - over the upcoming holiday break. In addition to the stressors associated with COVID, the shift to minimal staffing and extensive telework in many locations, means we need to remain engaged with our workforce during the holidays.”
The Mayo Clinic lists ten things you can do to help yourself through the holidays:
1. Acknowledge your feelings. It’s ok to feel sad during the holidays.
2. Reach out. Make that call/Zoom/Facetime/Teams to a friend or family member.
3. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect. Life, or a pandemic, can intrude.
4. Set aside differences. Accept family and friends for who they are. Don’t discuss politics.
5. Stick to a budget. You don’t have to go into debt to buy the perfect gift.
6. Plan ahead. Make plans for yourself during the holidays Even if it’s taking a walk.
7. Learn to say no. This shouldn’t be very hard during the COVID pandemic.
8. Don’t abandon health habits. Maintain your readiness. Remember to exercise, eat well and maintain a healthy sleep cycle.
9. Take a breath. When anxiety hits, take a breath and relax.
10. Seek professional help if you need it. It is a sign of strength to reach out for help from a life coach, counselor or chaplain.
Soldiers and their family members who need someone to talk to, can make an appointment with a Military Family Life Counselor: 0152-2366-2124 (KL), 0152-2479-2650 (KL), 0152-3652-2147 (BH), 0162-543-8772 (BH).
Army employees and their family members, as well as Retirees, can make an appointment with an Employee Assistance Program counselor: 0611-143-531-3140 (BH), 0631-3406-4907 (KL).
On-call chaplains are available to all members of the community in Kaiserslautern at 0162-296-9054 and in Baumholder at 0162-270-8348.