Category Archives: Holidays

Got the Keys? 5 Tips to be a Stress-Free DD

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The following post was contributed by Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention’s Keep What You’ve Earned campaign (KWYE), helping Sailors and families drink responsibly and maintain their Behavioral Fitness. For additional KWYE resources, visit www.nadap.navy.mil.

So, you’ve decided to Give the Gift of a Designated Driver (DD) to your shipmates, saving a few dollars out of your holiday spending budget and potentially saving lives. Good move. Whether you’re a DD rookie or seasoned vet, a few tips can help you enjoy your night out sans alcohol and spare you some headaches along the way (because even though you won’t wakeup with a hangover, not planning ahead can turn a fun night into frustrating one).

  1. Choose a day that works for you.

While there’s never a bad time to a DD, you may want to give some thought to when you’ll be ready and willing to serve. Maybe Thursday nights are best for you or you prefer weekends since your days usually start early. If you don’t have a preference, consider whether there are certain circumstances where you may have a harder time totally avoiding alcohol. If you know you’ll be tempted to have a few brews while watching Monday Night Football at the bar, don’t put yourself and others at risk if you don’t think you’ll truly spend the evening alcohol-free. Plan for you and your friends to use a ride-sharing service to and from the bar instead. The Keep What You’ve Earned campaign’s Pier Pressure mobile app offers easy access to Uber and Lyft, as well as quick tools to help you gauge your drinking when you’re not serving as a DD, like a blood alcohol content estimator and calorie counter. Download on the Apple App Store or Google Play today so it’s already on your phone when you need it.

  1. Make a list and check it twice.

Who’s coming? Where are you going? What time are you leaving? Set a plan that you’re comfortable with since you’re the driver. If there are more people than there are seatbelts in the car, enlist another person to take the pledge and drive. Agree on what stops you’ll make ahead of time, what time you’ll leave and where you’ll meet at the end of the night. And—because trying to convince someone who’s had a few drinks that it’s time to go isn’t fun for anyone—make an agreement that everyone comes in together and leaves together. No exceptions.

  1. Get the keys before you head out.

Decide on whose car you’re driving and get the keys before you leave so you won’t have to wrestle for them later. This is the safest way to ensure that no one who has been drinking ends up behind the wheel. It’s also a physical reminder of your commitment to your shipmates that you won’t drink and will get everyone home safely.

  1. No alcohol – at all!

A DD isn’t just the least drunk of the bunch or the one who’s only had a sip or two – it’s the person who has agreed ahead of time not to consume any alcohol. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t drink with your friends. Toss back a mocktail (or a few since you don’t have to worry about getting drunk—just watch out for hidden sugars). Try OPNAV N17 Dietician Lt. Pamela Gregory’s “Ginger Lime Fizz.” Ask the bartender to combine three parts ginger beer and one part seltzer water with a few squeezes of lime. You can also nix the rum in a traditional mojito recipe for a mocktail version. Try it with muddled cranberries or a splash of cranberry juice for a seasonal spin. Don’t forget to alternate your rounds with water so that everyone is pacing themselves.

  1. Turn down for what?

While not consuming alcohol is one of the most important parts of your commitment, it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the party. If you show your shipmates that you can still have a good time without alcohol, they’ll be willing to step up to the plate next time and be a DD. So, turn up! You’ll surely be the winner at pool or darts, and may even score a non-alcoholic drink or appetizer courtesy the bar if they offer goodies for DDs (ask!). If you’re out with a big group, hang out with another person who isn’t drinking, like the DD for the other car. People-watch together, shoot pool, dance, watch the game…just don’t take or post videos or photos of your friends who may be partying a little too hard. They probably won’t appreciate the laughs at their expense the next morning.

Above all, be proud of yourself and connect with the meaning behind your commitment. Responsible DDs have contributed to alcohol related incidents decreasing in the Navy since 2013. While it feels good to give to others, it also doesn’t hurt if your shipmates find small ways to show their appreciation as well. After all, helping them avoid a DUI can save them anywhere from $10,000 to $1 million over their lifetime. That’s worthy of an appetizer or mocktail courtesy of your crew (shipmates, take note!).

This FITmas, give the gift of a designated driver to help your shipmates celebrate responsibly and keep what they’ve earned.

Concerned about alcohol use? The Navy has a non-disciplinary self-referral process that allows Sailors to get treatment and remain on active-duty. Learn more on the Pier Pressure app (click Tools > Self-Referral) or visit www.nadap.navy.mil.

Celebrate This FITmas!

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When you think about the holiday season, what comes to mind? Eating way too much and feeling like there’s no time to exercise? Feeling stressed out, maybe because of money issues from holiday purchases? Worrying about how to deal with family without pulling all your hair out? Having a hard time feeling grateful because it seems like there’s just always something that comes up to cause more stress? Okay, hopefully not all of that. But in spite of the great opportunity to reconnect with family and friends and share love, laughs, food, and fun, sometimes, the holidays can be a difficult time with unique challenges to navigate.

That’s where 21 Days of Total Sailor FITmas come in! From December 14, 2017 through January 3, 2018, the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign will have tools, tips and tricks to help you develop and continue to build healthy habits that you can sustain into the New Year and beyond. “Healthy habits” may sound like eating well and doing cardio, but for the 21 Days of Total Sailor FITmas, it’s much more than that. It’s about taking proactive steps that can help you reach your goals related to physical fitness, behavioral health, financial responsibility, psychological and emotional well-being, family relationship strength and spiritual wellness.

We will offer tips on maintaining your physical fitness routine when you’re short on time and space, ways that journaling and gratitude can improve your mood, the positive impacts of mindfulness, links between nutrition and stress levels, how screen time isn’t just something to worry about for toddlers and much more. Practical and helpful action steps will allow you, friends and family members to learn things to incorporate into daily life to improve multiple facets of fitness and get a head start on those New Year’s resolutions!

And, keeping with the holiday theme of connection, the 21 Days of Total Sailor FITmas will include tips from Navy partners in the 21st Century Sailor Office, the Navy & Marine Corps Public Health Center, the Navy Chaplain Corps, as well as Guard Your Health, Real Warriors Campaign and the Human Performance Resource Center.

Unwrap new FITmas tools this season by following Navy Operational Stress Control on Facebook, on Twitter and WordPress. And don’t be a Grinch! Share the resources and tips with your shipmates, friends and family, too!

What are you and your family grateful for this season? Kick off the 21 Days of Total Sailor FITmas by sharing your inspiration through the 1 Small ACT Photo Gallery:

  1. Visit http://go.usa.gov/x8qNu to select and print a 1 Small ACT Sign from the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign webpage. Choose from a seasonal gratitude sign to share what you and/or your family are grateful for, or our Small ACT Selfie sign to share your commitment to be there for yourself or others.
  2. Personalize your sign and take a photo with you and/or your family holding it.
  3. Submit your photo to navysuicideprevention@gmail.com or upload to Facebook and tag @U.S. Navy Operational Stress Control for inclusion in the gallery on Facebook and Flickr.

Don’t Let Arguments Spoil Your Holiday Meal

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Biting into bad potato salad isn’t the only sign of a spoiled holiday meal. Raised voices, passive-aggression and button-pushing top the list of signs that your family gathering is souring quickly as well. Luckily this year you’ll have a few extra tricks up your sleeve if the know-it-all offers unsolicited parenting advice or the overachiever in the room constantly finds ways to remind everyone that he or she is expecting to make this year’s 100 Most Influential People list…

Check in with yourself first. Emotions tend to run higher during the holidays, especially when we’re feeling more stressed than usual. If upon arriving to a friend or family member’s house you see the person who tends to cause friction no matter the setting, employ Predictability and Controllability by reminding yourself that you can’t control others’ behavior but you can control your reactions. Our friends at the Human Performance Resource Center recommend watching for an edgy tone in your own voice and noting whether you’ve stopped using eye-contact as signs that you’re stress level is rising. Also check in with your breathing patterns, noting whether your breath is getting shallow, or if you’re feeling agitated. Before getting to the point that you’re only focusing on a “come-back” and no longer hearing what that person (or anyone else) is actually saying, remove yourself from the situation by going for a walk, engaging with other people or taking a few deep breaths. In the end, you’ll feel better knowing that you didn’t let the person get the best of you despite their best attempts.

Set some rules for engagement. Maybe you’re thinking about avoiding your traditional gathering altogether this year because you know Cousin Larry will bring up that one subject that really grinds your gears. Or perhaps you’re not looking forward to Aunt Sally prying into your relationship or financial status. Rather than no-showing and breaking tradition (see our last post for a quick breakdown of why tradition is important for connection, meaning and emotional well-being), be honest with yourself up front about what issues will lead to highly-charged conversations. Then come up with a few strategies to defuse these discussions before they head into murky-water. For the personal questions, kindly let the inquirer know that you appreciate him or her looking out for you, but that you’re handling it the best that you can and aren’t seeking any advice at the moment. For the broader issues, keep it simple. Short statements like “I’d rather not discuss [topic] today” can often be the hint others need to change the subject and keep the peace. If highly-charged conversations are a regular occurrence, ask if those topics can be saved until after mealtime so that everyone can enjoy their meal and so that those who don’t want to participate can retreat to a quieter space before the storm erupts.

Be the conversation starter rather than the conversation stopper. This proactive approach can help you lead things in the right direction, especially toward the beginning of your get-together when small talk is big. Share some fun highlights of your recent deployment or assignment, spend a moment reflecting and asking others to share what they’re grateful for, or pick a topic that’s fun to debate (like sports, for example). By spending time engaging in positive and light-hearted conversation, you can strengthen your connection with others and your connection to the true meaning of the season.

Spending time with friends and family during the holidays and throughout the year is important for emotional health, helping to protect against the negative effects of stress. However, when those precious moments have the potential to turn into monumental disasters, starting with a little personal reflection and strategizing can help you keep an even keel. If after considering the above strategies, you’re still uneasy about attending the event in question, it’s alright to give yourself permission to say no to that particular invitation if the environment isn’t going to be healthy for you and say yes to a smaller or safer gathering. Check out additional Strategies for Managing Stress at Events from the Real Warriors Campaign for more ways to help you have a Merry FITmas and healthy New Year.

Finding Comfort and Joy in Family Tradition

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The pressure to do things a certain way—the same way, each and every time—can be one of the most stressful parts of the holiday season, especially since Navy life brings about constant change. Yet family traditions are cherished for the memories they create, the routines that they establish and the customs that are passed on to the next generation—and for good reason. A recent research review published in The Journal of Family Psychology finds that family rituals “are powerful organizers of family life that offer stability during times of stress and transition.”[1] Traditions give us a sense of connectedness and continuity. They’re also associated with relationship satisfaction, stronger family bonds, and better psychological and emotional health. Still, the stress and transition pieces can leave you struggling to keep traditions going while balancing others’ expectations, navigating a deployment, or adapting to new circumstances. Here are some tips to give your traditions a boost this FITmas:

  • Know the difference between ritual and routine. Routines tend to be more systematic when it comes to planning, and, by extension, can be automatic in terms of execution. There may be a lot of work involved but not as much thought, connection or processing that occurs afterward (other than a sigh of relief). Rituals, however, are where the magic happens. Researchers have found that rituals give participants a sense of identity through active participation and emotional connection. What’s the difference? Meaning. One Navy chaplain reflected on the significance behind his family’s holiday tradition in this NavyNavStress post, noting how a humorous family custom they’ve created has brought them a sense of familiarity no matter where they live and an opportunity to create new memories. Take a moment to look at your family’s routines and identify ways that you can add meaning to create sustainable (and portable) rituals. If preparing a particular dish each year has slowly lost its significance, consider letting the younger chefs take on some of the more kid-friendly roles so that they feel a sense of contribution, learn a family recipe and have some fun.
  • Don’t be afraid to switch it up. Just because a tradition has been a part of your family’s holiday season for generations doesn’t mean your family can’t add its own spin to keep it going. If you’re deployed or separated from those who you typically enjoy your traditional holiday meal with, schedule a recipe-share. Send your family your favorite barracks-friendly recipe and pick a night that you can both prepare the dish. Take photos along the way or give them a call to hear about their experience preparing the meal with only the ingredients and tools you outlined for them. The simplicity of the meal is sure to be a conversation starter and the experience of creating something “together” can help everyone feel connected—a key ingredient for traditions new, old, or refreshed.
  • Get creative to keep it going. Elves and other holiday toys that mysteriously appear in unlikely places have become a recent tradition that’s seemingly here to stay. But there’s no need to stress if the whole family isn’t together to go searching for the mischievous holiday guest each morning. If you’re deployed, you can find your own holiday helper (such as a small Navy teddy bear) to photograph in different spaces on your ship. Save each photo and write a little story to describe your helper’s journey that day, tying in fun facts that relate to what you’re doing, your recent or upcoming port of call, etc. If you have access to email or social media, send each photo and storyline to your family. If connectivity is an issue, present the compiled photo-story to your family when you return from deployment.

Deployments and changing demands around the holidays aren’t the only things that may hamper tradition. Changes to family structure like divorce or loss of a loved one may impact them as well. Doing what you can to adapt traditions in an effort to keep them going can harness the power of healing for both children and adults alike. No matter what challenges your family may face—and no matter the size, age or geographic location(s) of your family—traditions are most impactful when everyone feels committed, is able to contribute and is actively communicating. Taking the time to sit down as a family to discuss changes, emotions and expectations can build Trust, emphasize Meaning, strengthen Relationships, promote Predictability and Controllability; each helping to build resilience this season and for holidays to come.

[1]  “A Review of 50 Years of Research on Naturally Occurring Family Routines and Rituals: Cause for Celebration?,” Barbara H. Fiese, Thomas J. Tomcho, Michael Douglas, Kimberly Josephs, Scott Poltrock, and Tim Baker; Syracuse University; Journal of Family Psychology, Vol. 16, No. 4.

Small ACTs to Make the Most Out of the Holiday Season

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While the holiday season is full of joy, giving thanks and celebration, the festivities on our social calendars can also be a source of stress or mixed emotion. The holidays are certainly not the only time of year we feel stress, but if normal stress feels like stepping on a gas pedal, the holidays may feel like you have a lead foot. Given the increase in social activities, family demands, financial strain and mixed emotions, it is more important now than ever to take a moment and savor the spirit of the season. Check out some of our favorite small acts to help you keep your days merry and bright:

  • Break Tradition to Make Tradition. Establishing a new holiday tradition with shipmates, friends or family can bring you some comfort and joy this season no matter where or what you’re celebrating. The time that you spend connecting with others can help you find meaning during difficult situations (such as spending the holidays away from loved ones), helping you reduce anxiety and stay focused on the positive. Plan to enjoy a meal with others and go around the table to share something that each of you are grateful for, or reflect on a positive experience from 2016. You could also break out a deck of cards or board game. Even as adults, playtime is an important tool to fuel connections with others and boost emotional well-being.
  • Don’t Dismiss your Emotions. Feeling all of your emotions can be as difficult as it is rewarding, but can allow you to confront what may dampen your outlook or negatively impact your decision-making. Take a moment to identify not only what you’re feeling, but why. Then make a plan for how you will positively deal with these emotions – whether setting aside some time for meditation, journaling or speaking with a provider. To thrive during the holidays even if you’re not into festivities or merriment, allow yourself the time and space to regroup and look for the good around you by noting the positive and appreciating the ordinary.
  • Connect with your Community. Helping others can help you find a renewed sense of purpose and contribution, whether you’re experiencing your own challenges or simply want to pay your good fortune forward. Not only does volunteering at a local shelter, soup kitchen, food bank, toy drive or other community relations project speak to the meaning of the holidays, but lending a helping hand to the community also provides a way for families to get involved in an activity together.
  • Press Pause. Make time for yourself and stick to a routine to help keep the happy in the holidays. Be brave enough to slow down and rediscover perspective. A timeout can be in the form of a walk or giving yourself space to gather your thoughts for an hour. Identify your sources of holiday stress by asking yourself what’s most important. Then discuss expectations with others to help you exercise Controllability and enable you to move forward with confidence and calm.

Keep watch for more tips to help you strengthen your Psychological and Emotional Fitness this season as we celebrate the 21 Days of Total Sailor FITmas, now through January 3, 2017!