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5 Ways Your Military Family Can Reduce Holiday Stress

by PCSgrades - August 9th, 2022

5 Ways Your Military Family Can Reduce Holiday Stress

Lights flashing, strangers rushing, parents cooking and cleaning, kids screaming -- the real-life holiday scene is enough to stress anyone out just thinking about it. But the holidays don’t have to be like that. Whether you are CONUS or OCONUS, PCSing or unpacked, here are five ways for military families to reduce holiday stress.

1. Assess your military family's situation

Will you be stationed overseas, PCSing, or away from family and friends? Depending on your current status, here are some options to help make the holidays a little easier:

  • Invite local friends/acquaintances to celebrate with you.

  • Keep it simple and do a potluck dinner. There’s no need to do it all on your own.

  • Say no when people ask you to do things you know will cause you stress.

  • Share the workload. Delegate decorating, activity planning, and get help cleaning.

2. Ask for help

We all need support, and we are stronger together. Reach out when you need a little extra help. Being a military family is stressful enough. Add in a military move, a deployment, or simply being away from loved ones during the holidays, and that stress is amplified.

If you find it all to be a bit much, consider talking to the members of your household and seeing what they are willing to help with. Do they want to uphold holiday traditions like putting up decorations, having a large family meal, or visiting with friends and family? Or is everyone content to do something a little less hectic this year?

Maybe this isn’t the year you want to cook a big meal. Check out the options at the dining facility or a local restaurant instead.

Many people need someone to talk to when they are overwhelmed or stressed, Military OneSource offers free counseling 24/7, even during the holidays.

3. Set a budget to reduce holiday stress

Financial stress around the holidays is the worst. Try making a holiday or seasonal budget -- and then stick to it.

  • Consider making handmade gifts. Each gift is unique and made with love -- and it will keep the spending under control.

  • Agree to limit the dollar amount of each gift when buying for a large family.

  • Start a gift exchange where everyone in the group buys for a different person.

  • Enjoy each other’s company and do a white elephant gift exchange.

4. Give something back

Time and effort are just as valuable (if not more so) than money. Helping others will make you feel good and can even help your military family shed holiday stress.

  • Make it a family tradition to help your local food bank, homeless shelter, animal shelter, or other worthy cause.

  • Fundraise together for a charity if you can’t match their volunteering schedule.

  • Donate money if time isn’t something you can spare.

5. Keep some traditions and introduce new ones

Traditions are wonderful until they aren’t. Keep the ones that bring you joy and look at creating some new traditions of your own.

  • Chat with distant family and friends using live video. You could even open gifts or share dinner while virtually connected.

  • If you have friends over, invite each guest to share their favorite traditions (food, song, dance, activity, etc.), so everyone can have a familiar and new experience.

  • Read and learn about other cultures and incorporate some of those holiday traditions into your own celebrations.

Remember, people aren’t perfect, and life is messy. It’s OK when things don’t work out as you planned. Just take a breath, try not to stress, and roll with whatever happens. Find a way to laugh about it and ask for help when you need it. Enjoy this holiday season of old and new traditions, but mostly enjoy the people you spend your time with — they are what create good memories.

By Julie Dymon