By Franklin Fisher

CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea -- The holiday season can bring not only good cheer but high stress and even domestic violence, so community members should know the dangers and how to avert them, Warrior Country officials said this week.

"We actually associate Christmas with joy and happiness, but Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year," said Georgette Harper, Area I victim advocate with the Family Advocacy Program at Army Community Service at Camp Casey.

Some, especially those with families, take on too much in the way of shopping, housework and related holiday preparations, and end up overloaded. Holiday overspending can trigger stress too, and with it, sometimes, marital conflict, even some that can escalate to domestic violence, Area I experts said.

A first defense is to avoid taking on too much, they said.

"One of the main things I always tell people," said Harper. "'You're out buying things, you're preparing meals, you're decorating your house, you want to make sure you're trying to take some time for yourself, taking some knee time, without any distractions, and relax a little bit,'" said Harper.

That applies to holiday spending too.

"If they simplify their life, they will not have that kind of problem later," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Suk-jong Lee, U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud and Area I chaplain. "Meaning they're trying to buy gifts for everybody and when the credit card bill comes they're overwhelmed."

"You want to make sure you stay within your budget," said Harper. "Know how much you have to spend, and stick to that."

The holidays also bring a heightened concern over domestic violence, officials said.

"For instance, let's just say we have a mother or a wife," Harper said. "She's stressed out because she's out doing most or all the shopping for the kids, the extended family, getting gifts for her husband, she's decorating for the holidays, preparing the meals, setting up the home for guests. And she starts to take her frustrations out on her husband, which then causes him to feel stress, and that can lead to possible anger, altercations between them.

"Then," said Harper, "if there are children in the home, they can start picking up on that. They can even shut down and blame themselves for what's going on with the parents. And the kids themselves may start to display this anger. And the parents could start taking it out on the kids.

"With money, you and your partner want to sit down together and figure out a budget. 'What can we afford?' So that money isn't a trigger for domestic violence, especially if you know money is tight within your household."

Immoderate holiday drinking can cause problems of its own, and often helps fuel domestic violence.

"There's usually a lot of holiday parties, family gatherings, and usually at these gatherings alcohol is usually being served. Usually, a lot of incidents that involve domestic violence, alcohol was involved.

"Learn to just say no," said Harper, no to taking on too much, no to spending too much, no to drinking too much.

"If you're feeling stress you maybe just want to stop what it is you're doing, take a deep breath, reflect on what is causing your stress at that moment, and then you want to choose what you're going to do about that stress, how you're going to handle that stress," she said.

And there are people one can turn to if holiday stress causes problems.

If someone is or seems to be suicidal, call the 24-hour Area I suicide prevention hotline: 010-3762-0457

The 24-hour domestic violence hotline is: 153 if called from an on-post DSN phone. From off-post it's 05033-64-5997.

Army Community Service offers stress management classes. Information is available at 730-3107.
Community members can make an appointment with the Area I Military and Family Life Consultant, who can give them guidance on dealing with holiday stress, anger management, and a broad range of other issues. The number is 010-8691-3666.

Those coping with grief, depression, loneliness, marital and other conflicts, can also contact their unit chaplain. Several chaplains in Warrior Country are trained therapists. All contacts with chaplains are held confidential.