Managing deployment stress is challenging any time of the year, but it’s much harder during the holidays. The separation from loved ones, whether you’re the spouse left at home or the one overseas, can be incredibly difficult. If you’re the spouse at home, you may have to take on many of the holiday duties for both of you in order to keep the season merry and bright for the entire family. Feel the holiday pressure starting to get to you? Try some of these tips to make it easier to manage holiday related stress.
Start Planning Early
Managing holiday schedules is even more complicated when you factor in long delivery wait times, different time zones, and potential communication blackouts at the worst possible moments. When you start planning early, however, you can make things easier on everyone involved.
One retired Marine notes, “I used a local florist and placed pre-orders for any holidays and birthdays I might miss while I was on deployment. I always included a couple of just because deliveries, too. Many (shops) were happy to work with me and allowed different payment options. I also did my ‘dad’ holiday shopping and wrapping, and did cards in my handwriting, all of which my wife kept hidden until the holidays.”
If you know ahead of time that you’re going to miss the holidays, find as many ways as you can to make it special for the ones at home.
Find Ways to Celebrate Together
Can you plan a phone call–or, even better, a Skype or Facetime session that will allow you to see one another during the holidays? Try some of these strategies to make the family feel as though they’re celebrating together for the holidays, even when you have to be far apart.
- If you’re the deployed spouse, send individual cards and letters to the kids so that they can feel extra special, and be reminded that they’re loved.
- Waiting at home? Have the kids help prepare care packages with Christmas gifts and other reminders of the love you share this holiday season.
- Do some unique shopping while you’re overseas. One military spouse notes, “One Christmas, my husband was in Japan. I asked him to handle his family’s presents with unique gifts from the region he was in. He also had the option to handle Amazon orders, if needed.”
- Communicate with one another. No matter how many times you’ve done it, deployment isn’t easy on anyone, and each one brings its own unique challenges. Make sure to talk through how you want to handle responsibilities, and plan it as early as possible so that neither spouse is blindsided by unexpected tasks.
- Share your holiday plans. Sure, you’re missing one another, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be a miserable time! The spouse at home can share what the family is doing on their Facebook page, while the deployed spouse eagerly awaits stories from home.
Celebrate With Friends and Family around You
You may be missing the one you love most, but you can still celebrate the Christmas season with plenty of your loved ones. Make a plan for where you’ll spend the holidays and who you’re going to stay with.
Consider heading back home to be near, or with, your families so that you’ll feel less alone. Make plans with friends and family members to celebrate together! You’ll often find that you’re surrounded by more love than you thought.
During the holidays, it’s also useful to check out the events that military units or USO’s put together for the families of those who are deployed. Not only will it get you out of the house, it will help you celebrate with others who are in the same situation you are.
Take Some of the Load Off
There are a lot of things that need to be done during the Christmas season–but you don’t have to do it all alone, even if you’re the spouse left at home. Find your own unique ways to take some of the stress off, including:
- Planning for a massage so that you have time to relax
- Catering Christmas dinner so that you don’t have to worry about cooking for everyone, especially if you have a large family or are expecting a crowd.
- Letting go of traditions that bring you more stress than joy. This is a great time to clear your Christmas schedule of things that don’t really work in your current arrangement.
- Take advantage of base maintenance, which will hang Christmas lights if your spouse is gone during the holidays.
- Don’t take on more than you can handle. If you don’t want a big tree, it’s okay to put up a small one. Stressed out by all the gifts you need to send? It’s okay to send gift cards or to shorten your list.
Deployment is rough, but you don’t have to take it on alone. By utilizing these strategies throughout the deployment, you can make it easier on both of you.
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