Staying "Meaning - Full" through the Holidays

  • Published
  • By Capt. Morgan Bergman
  • 52nd
What comes to mind when thinking about the holidays? Visiting family? Presents to buy? Meals to cook?

So often, days of rest and celebration can also be sources of stress; what can we do to avoid coming back from holiday worn down, frazzled and exhausted?

The answer depends on value. No, not how much money you spend, or how much the plane tickets cost. What do you value in your life? Family? Travel? Traditions? The answer will help you manage the holidays by keeping you focused on what truly matters to you. It is easy to feel pressure to pack more and more into your days of rest. It is tempting to try and see every family member and friend when you take leave, but does that leave you feeling connected, or do you end up disappointed that you had little time with some of your more important relationships? It is tempting to buy all of the latest gadgets and all the fantastic wares at the Christmas markets, but does that leave you feeling anxious about your bills or satisfied with your purchases? You get the picture here.

Finding what you value can be challenging at times. So, here are some steps to help you identify what you value. How do you enjoy spending your time? What brings you joy? What brings your life meaning? When do you feel happiest? These answers should begin to reveal your unique values. There are so many ways to focus on your values during the holiday season and each is as unique as your own personal values. Volunteer if connecting with others is important. Ask co-workers or friends to share a meal together if family is important but you are separated from family. Engage in your faith community. Purchase meaningful gifts for your loved ones if that is an important tradition that has meaning for you. Spend time playing sports, or working out, or playing video games if those things bring you joy. Call up a friend for a break when you are frustrated with visiting family. By all means, do the things that leave you feeling rejuvenated, refreshed, and purposeful.

Equally as important, find ways to say "no" to things that do not fit with your values. If financial stability is important to you, you may not be able to purchase every gift that you want to without compromise to your values. If family and connection is important, you may suffer if you find yourself isolated this holiday season. Maybe you find that peace and calm are important to you but that is difficult when getting together with your whole family; so a possible solution is to give yourself a 15-minute break when feeling overwhelmed. Thinking about your values and possible things you need to say no to in advance can help alleviate distress when the actual situation arises in the midst of all the holiday hustle and bustle.

What can you do if you find yourself or someone else struggling after checking in about your values and taking steps to choose your holiday efforts around that? Reach out for support. Talk with a peer, family, your faith community, or helping agencies on base. Attend a class on healthy relationships, stress management, financial management to name a few. How do I know if I am struggling? I mean, after all, aren't the holidays just supposed to come with some stress? Reach out for help if you are feeling overwhelming or unmanageable anxiety. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your tasks and struggling to accomplish those tasks, if you notice changes in your normal attitude, if you experience excessive anger, if you are having increased sleep difficulties, if you notice an increase in alcohol consumption (or are using/abusing other substances as well such as prescription drugs), or if your relationships are suffering.

Remember, somebody else's version of a meaningful holiday may leave you feeling overwhelmed and run down, so it's important to focus on what things make you tick and when you feel most purposeful. Enjoy the holidays, full of meaning and not simply full.