By Guy Caley
Special to GUIDON
The holiday season is among us — the joy of gift-giving and seasonal activities are on the minds of many people.
While this season is meant to bring feelings of love and cheer, it is also a time when many endure holiday stress and overwhelming demands.
Stress can be defined as a response to an event or situation that calls for a change, threatens the order or safety of life or otherwise places an unusual demand on physical, mental and emotional resources.
It is important to keep in mind that stress can be both negative and positive. Stress is positive if it motivates us to action; it is negative when it starts to interfere with us reaching our goals and when it impacts our health and wellness.
At the Army Wellness Center, stress management is one of the six core programs offered.
The AWC provides stress management education and individual stress management training to Soldiers, dependents, retirees, and Army civilians.
Stress management programming is intended to improve an individual’s stress levels and to support an effective and sustainable practice of self-regulation and energy management skills.
Holiday stress is predictable, and preparation measures can be taken to limit stress.
Below are some tips to minimize holiday stress:
Follow a well-balanced diet
At the AWC, we recommend using the MyPlate method when eating holiday meals:
— Half of your plate should contain fruits and vegetables.
— A quarter of your plate should contain whole grains or a good starch (breads, pasta, rice, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, etc.).
— A quarter of your plate should contain protein (meats, legumes, soy or dairy products, etc.), along with a serving of dairy or a calcium-fortified soy product (skim or 1 to 2 percent milk, calcium fortified soy milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.).
Sit when eating, and enjoy the holiday dishes without electronics or television to limit mindless eating.
For more information on nutrition, visit https://health.gov/, or read the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s 2015 to 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans at https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/ guidelines/.
Create an exercise routine
Exercise or movement of any type — walking, running or yoga, for example — releases endorphins and hormones that trigger a positive feeling in your body. For adults ages 18 to 64 years old, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking and at least two days a week of activities that strengthen muscles.
For more guidelines on physical activity, visit https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/index.htm.
Get adequate sleep
Sleep helps individuals cope with stress, solve problems and recover. It is one of the basic building blocks of good health and performance.
The CDC reports that not getting enough sleep is linked with many chronic diseases and conditions, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression.
The minimum sleep requirements for adults is seven to nine hours of sleep every 24 hours to maintain optimal readiness and resilience. For details on getting enough sleep, visit https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html.
Take time for yourself, if needed. Take a walk, practice meditation techniques, find a quiet space to de-stress — it’s OK to take time for yourself during the holiday season.
COVID-19 has caused many travel restrictions. Therefore, many people are unable to be near family and friends this holiday season.
If you are feeling lonely or isolated, seek out community or social events that follow social distancing recommendations, or reach out to a friend or family member and engage in virtual events.
Seek professional help if you need it.
Despite best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless and unable to face routine tasks. If these feelings last, ask for help. Crisis hotlines are available 24/7 to offer support and guidance. The Red Cross can be reached at 573.596.0300, or 877.272.7337 after duty hours. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached by calling 800.273.8255. The Veterans Crisis Line can be reached by calling 800.273.8255. Call 573.596.9677 for more information to schedule a stress management individual session or group class.
(Editor’s note: Caley is the Fort Leonard Wood Employee Assistance Program coordinator.)