Published: November 18, 2021
Staying Ahead of Holiday Stress
By Kelley Klor, Amazon Food Insecurity DEPLOY Fellow
As we roll into the final stretch of the year, and plans are made for holiday meals and festivities, it’s normal to experience feelings of anxiety, grief, and seasonal depression. For many, myself included, November and December are definitely not the “most wonderful time of the year.” More specifically, military families face a lot of challenges, and sometimes, the holidays make those challenges feel overwhelming and less manageable than normal.
According to Blue Star Families’ 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, the top stressors for active-duty military families include:
- Military spouse employment challenges
- Isolation from family and friends
- Financial issues and stress
- Deployments and relocation
At any given time, a military family may be facing all of those challenges simultaneously. Isolation, deployments, and relocation can especially impact their sense of belonging to their civilian community. Not to mention, spouse employment challenges and the financial strain of out-of-pocket costs, child care costs, student loans, and debt may mean that planning a big Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is just one more hurdle to achieve a “happy” holiday season. (If this is true for you, check out this page, and click on the “Get Help: Put Food on Your Table” dropdown for a list of resources. Also, find a Chapter near you to see if there’s a food distribution event coming up in your community!)
Of course, the goal here is not to put a damper on holiday fun by spotlighting all the challenges. Rather, it’s to acknowledge this collision of circumstances we face is often daunting. It’s OK to not feel OK about it, and it’s OK to acknowledge that the holiday season can be a bitter, blustery time.
Starbucks Mental Health and Wellness DEPLOY Fellow Janessa McMillen has some tips to help you manage your way through it.
(Photo provided by Janessa McMillen)
Starbucks Mental Health and Wellness DEPLOY Fellow Janessa McMillen and family
As we approach the holiday season, it’s important to plan ahead and be proactive about handling difficult feelings and added stressors. Here are a few tips to gain leverage over the pressure:
- Know the signs of what psychologists call the “holiday blues.” Feeling sad, withdrawn, or unmotivated? Anger, anxiety, changes in sleep patterns, increased or decreased appetite, headaches, inability to concentrate, and decreased interest in daily activities are also indicators that holiday stress has set in.
- Release the grief. It’s normal to have feelings of sadness, doubt, and frustration. Take time to acknowledge and express your feelings in a safe and healthy way. Continuing a fitness routine, doing yoga, making art, and getting outside are great ways to relieve some stress.
- Phone a friend. It can be easy to totally disconnect when you’re feeling the burden of holiday stress. Connecting with friends can boost your morale and provide you with support and companionship when you need it most. Whether in person or virtually, don’t hesitate to reach out to loved ones.
- Tackle holiday separations. Sometimes, we may have to be away from our service member or family when it matters most. Providing consistency and structure with fun activities such as baking, ornament making, reading a holiday book, volunteering, and sending care packages can bring a little cheer to a tough situation.
- Give yourself the gift of grace. Go easy on yourself. The holidays can push some to strive for perfection, but taking time to relax and commend yourself for a job well done can go a long way. You’ve championed through the year and displayed strength and resiliency. Celebrate that.
It’s also vital to know that seeking professional support is nothing to be ashamed about — especially when feelings of anxiety, depression, or sadness intensify. Reaching out to your doctor, mental health practitioner, or chaplain is a great place to start.
Looking for additional support? Check out these resources:
If you need to speak with someone immediately, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Blue Star Chapters Work to Alleviate Food Insecurity for Military-Connected Families Nationwide
Here at Blue Star Families, our mission to make food insecurity a thing of the past for military and Veteran families is an “all-hands-on-deck” effort. Our Chapter Directors, civilian neighbors, partners, and volunteers across the country have been working hard to deliver military and civilian resources to those in need and empower them to thrive.
Here are a few recent events and organizations you need to know about. Together, we’re making a difference!
Craig Newmark New York Tri-State Chapter: Fall Festival of Fun – Fill Your Pantry for the Holidays!
On Saturday, October 23rd, Blue Star Families of New York Tri-State joined forces with Family Services of Westchester Vet2Vet to host a fall festival event at Yorktown Heights VFW Post 8328. Attendees enjoyed a bounce house, autumn crafts, a costume party, and raffle prizes. Also, thanks to employees at L3Harris Technologies, a Blue Star Partner, all families received a reusable grocery bag filled with donations received during its Blue Star Welcome Week “Fill the Pantry” campaign.
Photo provided by Allyson Harasimowicz
Blue Star Families DEPLOY Fellows Visit Fields 4 Valor Farms in Brandywine, MD
Lockheed Martin National Capital Region DEPLOY Fellow Tonya Murphy and Amazon Food Insecurity DEPLOY Fellow Kelley Klor visited Fields 4 Valor Farms in early November where they met Army Veteran and founder Pete Scott. Fields 4 Valor Farms is a seven-acre farm in Brandywine, Maryland, that grows fresh produce and makes weekly deliveries of fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs, honey, and other seasonal items to Veterans and their families in the Washington, D.C. area.
The two spoke with Pete about issues surrounding food insecurity among the Veteran population, and they were also put to work, clearing garden beds and feeding (and naming) chickens. Plus, they got a tour of the farm grounds and beehives during which they learned about Fields 4 Valor Farms’ needs and plans to feed even more Veteran families next season.
In addition to food donations, the farm also offers an apprenticeship program to help Veterans and military families start their own farms and community supported agriculture (CSA) operations. Learn more, volunteer, or make a donation at fields4valor.org.
DEPLOY Fellows Kelley Klor and Tonya Murphy with Fields 4 Valor Farms founder Pete Scott
Photo provided by Tonya Murphy
Photo provided by Kelley Klor
Do you know someone who is working hard to alleviate military and Veteran food insecurity in your community? Send an email to [email protected] for the opportunity to be featured on the #BSFNourishtheService blog.
Thank you, Amazon and Craig Newmark Philanthropies, for sponsoring Blue Star Families’ Food Insecurity DEPLOY Fellowship!
Blue Star Families. (2021, March 29). 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey Comprehensive Report. 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey Comprehensive Report. Retrieved November 3, 2021, from chrome-extension://cefhlgghdlbobdpihfdadojifnpghbji/https://bluestarfam.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/BSF_MFLS_CompReport_FULL.pdf