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Combat holiday blues with wingman concept

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Sarah Gregory
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Being stationed overseas often means being separated from family members; this, combined with holiday stress, can lead to what is known as the holiday blues.

“The holiday blues refers to feeling sad when we should be feeling joy, happiness and a sense of peace,” explained Chap. (Maj.) Shon Neyland. “Members who are experiencing trouble in a relationship, who are dealing with the death of a loved one or are separated from family members may be victims of holiday blues.”

Financial difficulties can also contribute to the feelings of stress around the holidays.

“The stress of not being able provide what others want as far as gifts and travel, can be a very challenging situation,” said Chaplain Neyland. “It seems our holiday season puts a lot of emphasis on material gain and those who can’t afford the fancy gifts often feel sad, inadequate or blue as a result.”

In addition to financial concerns, many people can be overcome by feelings of sadness or depression brought on by holiday stressors.

“For some people, the holidays bring unwelcome guests: stress, depression and debt. And it’s no wonder; in an effort to pull off a perfect ‘Hallmark’ holiday, you might find yourself facing a dizzying array of demands -- work, parties, shopping, baking, cleaning, caring for kids on school break or elderly parents and scores of other chores,” said Master Sgt. David Gentry, 31st Medical Operations Squadron, Life Skills flight chief.

Paying attention to friends and co-workers is essential this time of year because people are busy with holiday activities and parties, and early warning signs can be overlooked.

“Signs of holiday blues may include headaches, changes in sleep patterns, weight loss or gain or increased anger or anxiety,” said Sergeant Gentry. “An inability to concentrate or decreased interest in pleasurable activities might also indicate a person is suffering from depression. People suffering from one or more of these symptoms should consider getting help.”

Some other indicators of holiday blues can be a withdrawal from people or holiday festivities.

“If you notice someone who is generally sad most of the time, if they are withdrawn, not interacting with others in the office or at home or are not talking much, they are experiencing classic symptoms of someone who may be heading into depression,” explained Chaplain Neyland. “Moreover, if they begin to experience physical aliments such as loss of sleep, crying spells, headaches and abnormal fatigue, then they are probably dealing with high stress and should consider seeking help immediately.”

While the holiday blues can happen to anyone, Chaplain Neyland said if each person looked out for his or her wingman, it would truly make a difference.

“Communicate and demonstrate that you care for the individuals around you,” he said.

Most important, Chaplain Neyland said, is encouraging people to seek a chaplain or help from the life skills office if they are experiencing difficulties coping with the stress of life and the holiday season.

In addition to the wingman concept there are programs such as Adopt-an-Airman, designed to give single, unaccompanied Airmen a place to go during the holiday. Families “host” a single Airman by inviting them to spend the holiday with them.

“Many people consider programs like Adopt-an-Airman charity, but don’t let that response deter your efforts,” said Chaplain Neyland. “A person may say they don’t want help, but many times that is exactly what they are looking for. Pride will often get in the way of an individual receiving help, but I believe that they will see your sincerity if you make yourself available to them.”

Additionally, Sergeant Gentry said that spending the holidays with other families and friends can be some of the most memorable time spent in the military.