Military life can add stress to holiday activities


By Kristi Langenbacher

Sunday, December 3, 2017

For many, it is “the most wonderful time of the year.” With Thanksgiving behind us, many families have quickly embraced the holiday season and are headed full-steam toward Christmas.

However, for many families, the holidays can be quite stressful, and even depressing. Entertaining, shopping, cooking, and traveling can bring additional strain on an already busy time. People often struggle with strained finances, extra activities and expectations, changes in routines, and loneliness. Military families are especially prone to sadness around the holidays, often due to geographical separation from immediate and extended family and by the very nature of a military job.

Service members often feel stressed about separation from loved ones due to deployments, guilt and a lack of roots due to moves for numerous permanent changes of stations and pressures related to the operational tempo at work.

Families of service members, meanwhile, often bear similar burdens simply by living a military lifestyle and being separated from parents, grandparents and other extended family. Often families are stationed far away from their relatives, which can make holiday visits a very expensive endeavor.

Many Coast Guard families celebrated “Friendsgiving” last week. Families who are stationed far away from their own relatives gathered together with locals or Coast Guard friends to celebrate Thanksgiving. Others joined families at military bases across the country and shared the holiday meal with those who were standing duty or supporting those who had the watch over Thanksgiving. Many will do the same on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. And still others will reach out to families whose loved ones are deployed over the holidays and include them in meals and gatherings.

The National Institute of Health describes depression as “feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps.” And while many people experience these feelings around the holidays, or at different points in life, true clinical depression can be much more serious.

The Coast Guard community helps support one another by reaching out to those who might be alone over the holidays. There are also specific resources available to people who show signs of depression. Military service members and their families have several options for counseling, including base chaplains, who are also trained counselors. Chaplains offer free confidential assistance and can connect families to other professionals services.

The CG SUPRT Program is a program which offers services for active duty Coast Guard members, Select Reservists, civilian employees, and their dependents. The program includes face-to-face and telephonic non-medical counseling as well as a number of other important services like financial and spouse career counseling. A variety of services are also available through Tricare or the nearest Military Treatment Facility.

Being together with other people, reaching out for services through the Coast Guard or the local community, and taking time to take care of those around us can help make the holidays a special time even in difficult circumstances.

November was designated as the Month of the Military Family, and the National Military Family Association encourages people to remember military families throughout the year. They ask people to remember our nation’s military members, and also support the military families who make many sacrifices to support those in uniform – not just for one month, but every month of the year. The support of others can be especially critical over the holidays.

Kristi Langenbacher is a Coast Guard spouse and writes about military family life.