This blog is the second in a series submitted to NavyNavStress by Navy spouse, Elizabeth Winters. Deployments can be stressful for a family at any time of year, but can be especially difficult during the holidays – not only for those back home, but also for Sailors away from their loved ones. Applying the Principles of Resilience can enable us to stay in the holiday spirit and get ahead of stress. Predictability (managing others’ expectations based on what you’re able to do), relationships (maintaining strong connections and preserving traditions) and meaning (keeping the deployed Sailor involved) can help us maintain a sense of normalcy and thrive during the holidays, despite separation during a deployment.
The holidays are fast approaching, and even when not dealing with the heightened emotions and stress of a deployment, holidays are rarely what we would think of as “stress-free.” Add in the pressure to keep the holidays special while acknowledging the absence of a loved one, it can be very easy to become overwhelmed. It is vital, for your sanity, to take active measures to avoid overworking yourself! For me, it all comes down to three things: priorities, traditions and efficiency.
Before the holiday season is in full swing, sit down and decide what is important to you and your family. Do not feel badly about declining invitations! Friends and family will understand the necessity of paring down social obligations – eliminating those gatherings that only add stress to your schedule will immediately add peace to your holiday season. Commit fully to those things that are a priority for you and your family and just let go of everything else.
For our family, traditions are very important; we look forward to doing the same activities every year! During deployment, this can be difficult or sad, since we’re missing a key part of our family. A way to ease this difficulty is doing your old favorites in a new way! While we love driving through the local botanical gardens to see their light displays, I did not want to do such a special family activity without my husband. Therefore, this year, we will buy tickets to ride the tram. The kids will still get to make holiday memories but we reserve the “real thing” for when Daddy is home.
Another way that I cut down on holiday stress is finding ways to stay home, avoiding crowds and long lines. If you love to shop, this may not be ideal. However, I personally do not enjoy shopping or the added expense of finding a sitter for my children. Thus, to streamline our holiday shopping, I purchase gifts primarily online, using sites and stores that offer incentives for free shipping. I also love using the postal service after-hours…the self-serve kiosks are available 24-hours a day, rarely with lines!
All things considered, when trying to de-stress the holidays the most important part is including my spouse. I make my list of priorities with his help, I solicit his advice on ways to make our traditions special in his absence, we decide what gifts we will be giving, and I take every opportunity possible to take pictures and short videos so we can stay connected. During deployment we walk a fine line between wanting to keep life at home “normal” while honoring the fact that there is nothing normal about carrying on with part of your heart across the world. Sweeping the clutter from your holiday plans will keep you from getting overwhelmed and hopefully give you a little bit of extra energy and peacefulness to keep your deployed loved one an active presence in your celebrations.
About the Author:
Elizabeth Winters is a Navy wife and a stay-at-home mom to three children ages 6 and under. She and her husband, a Surface Warfare Officer, know what it means to build resilience as a family through stressful transitions and exciting changes–they are expecting their fourth child in a few months while he is deployed. When she’s not busy at home with their three children, she enjoys crocheting, reading and expressing herself through writing. This is Elizabeth’s second guest blog post for NavyNavStress. She hopes to offer relatable perspective for families during the many stresses and excitements of Navy life.