Overcoming holiday blues

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Audra M. Hornbacher
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
The holidays usually encompass the happiest of emotions. However, for some Airmen, stress can be at the top of the list.

While most people surround themselves with their closest friends and family, that isn't always the option for some Airmen, which can create negative feelings.

"The core cause of stress for anyone at any time of year comes from our expectations not being met," said Lee Sasse, 28th Medical Operations Squadron family advocacy outreach manager. "The holidays are a time where we have a lot of expectations and things don't always work out the way we plan."

According to information provided by Ellsworth's military and family life consultants, emotions can become magnified during the holidays and can trigger any number of emotional responses, which include anxiety and sleeplessness.

"The signs of stress are easy to notice if we pay attention to ourselves and the behavior of others," Sasse continued. "The most obvious sign is an inability to naturally fall asleep, stay asleep, or both."

Staff Sgt. Shamena Grady, 28th Operations Support Squadron airfield management operations NCO in charge, described signs of stress that superviosrs may observe in their Airmen's behavior.

"They usually seem pretty sleepy," Grady said of individuals who are typically up-beat. "They don't talk a lot, or keep to themselves. You can just tell that they want to be someplace else - they want to go home."

Although Airmen may not know or understand that they are ineffectively handling their stress, their coworkers many times experience it firsthand.

"Sometimes, it's when they snap at you," said Staff Sgt. Benjamin O'Bryan, 28th OSS airfield management training NCO in charge. "They stop caring about work as much - you can just tell they're not putting forth their full effort."

Sasse affirmed that the most common and detrimental way for a stressed person to cope is through alcohol. When alcohol is used to self medicate or to aid in sleep, it can be consumed in excess which can ultimately add more stress within their health, work and social environments.

"The best stress reducers are getting enough sleep, eating well, maintaining a social or spiritual life and exercising regularly," Sasse continued. "When we're stressed, our body will sometimes activate the fight or flight mechanism, which prepares our body and mind for survival, but makes us anxious and edgy. When we exercise, the fight or flight mechanism deactivates and allows our body to calm down."

Sasse emphasized that when Airmen find ways to have fun, sleep and eat right, and limit the use of alcohol, stress can be reduced and more easily managed. He also encouraged Airmen to use their resources when they're in a time of need.

"Reaching out and asking for help is one of the hardest things to do," said Sasse. "It takes an incredibly strong person with a ton of guts to admit to someone that they are having problems and need help. Everyone needs help sometimes, and it is a good thing to ask and get that help."

For help on reducing stress, Airmen can contact the MFLC at (605) 385-6931, the Airman and Family Readiness Center at (605) 385-4663, or the Mental Health Clinic at (605) 385-3656.