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HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships
While it’s true that sometimes the ones we love the most are the ones who can really get under our skin, particularly during the holidays when everyone’s together (know what your irritators are and how to deal with them), it’s also true that many of us have reason to celebrate our family and friends.
Appreciation is a powerful tool in fostering strong relationships, but it’s often overlooked in the business of everyday life. This holiday season take the time to let your family and friends know that you appreciate them. This can be in words or actions—it could be as simple as just taking the time to let them know you love and appreciate them, or you could show your appreciation with a gesture. For example, maybe your brother or best friend hasn’t had time for his favorite hobby lately due to family responsibilities. By offering to babysit the kids for an afternoon, you’d give him the chance to take time for himself. Small things go a long way in showing appreciation—this holiday season and all next year.
For more ideas on strengthening relationships, check out the Family Relationships section of HPRC’s website.
Last time we highlighted being aware of possible depression in those around you. This week, as we continue our series on keeping happy in the holidays, try practicing acceptance of the things you can’t control or avoid.
Problems can arise when you try to avoid thoughts or feelings rather than noticing them as they come and go. Instead of avoiding them, try to note your thoughts or feelings, accept them, and keep moving forward rather than dwelling on them. If you need or want to think about something further, pick a good time and place to think it through later. But if it’s outside your control, practicing acceptance can help separate the things you can control from those you can’t—and help you find some peace this holiday season.
Last week we highlighted tips for coping with a loss or distance of a loved one this holiday season. This week, learn to identify your irritators—and make friends with them.
The holidays are a time of year when you probably want to connect with family and friends, but it can sometimes feel like you’re drawn into old—maybe negative—ways of relating. As you approach the holidays this year, think ahead about potential friction points with people you’ll be seeing and decide how you want to respond to them. Planning ahead for how to deal with situations can help you navigate them better. If you only see your family occasionally, they might view you as you were when you were younger instead of as you are now. Even just being together in the same place can ramp up old issues. Instead, as you come up with your plan, be patient and stay true to yourself in how you deal with loved ones this holiday season.
For more information on managing friction in your relationships, check out HPRC’s section on “Overcoming Conflict.”
Continuing HPRC’s series on keeping the happy in the holidays, last week we “focused on the positive.” This week, learn what the signs of depression are, and make sure you know how everyone in your family is doing.
Depression is not something that you can just snap out of. It can impact a person in many ways and can range from mild to severe. According to the American Psychological Association, “Depression is more than just sadness.” Symptoms can range from lack of interest to thoughts of suicide, so learn what to watch for. Check out this factsheet that details the signs and symptoms of depression and another on “Taking Charge of Depression” that includes helpful strategies. Depression is treatable with professional help; don’t isolate yourself and don’t let others do so.
For more information on depression, check out the suicide prevention section of HPRC’s website.
In HPRC’s series on how to keep the happy in the holidays, last week we discussed experimenting with expectations. This week we’re focusing on coping with loss. If you’ve recently lost a loved one or experiencing the anniversary of a loss, or if a loved one is far away—deployed, for example—then consider coping with loss or distance in a unique way this holiday season. Connect with your absent loved one in creative ways, maybe by looking at family photographs or spending time with your memories. If he or she is away on duty, schedule video or phone chats to open gifts while “together,” or figure out a way to have his or her presence felt during your normal holiday rituals and celebrations.
For more information on family resilience, check out the Family Resilience section of HPRC’s website.
Last week we focused on being a gratitude-seeker this holiday season. This week’s tip is to focus on the positive. Optimistic Warfighters who “see the glass half-full” are less impacted by warzone stress, experience fewer mental health issues, and exhibit better health and resilience overall. The Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) defines optimism as “a set of beliefs that helps to focus your attention and behavior on the opportunities and possibilities of life.” Everyone falls victim to negative or “the grass is greener” thinking at times, but negative thoughts create more negative thoughts. Learn to stay realistically positive. Optimistic thoughts are contagious too, so you’ll be passing on positivity! The Comprehensive Soldier & Family Fitness program calls focusing on the positive a “hunt for the good stuff.”
You can learn optimism in a variety of ways, such as focusing on what’s positive and possible, taking advantage of opportunities that arise, and developing realistic expectations about outcomes. DCoE has specific suggestions on how to accomplish realistic optimism. And for more Mind Tactics to promote resilience, check out HPRC’s Mental Resilience section.
Check your money assumptions
Continuing our series on keeping the happy in the holidays this year, this week’s tip is to check your money assumptions. Finances can be strained during the holidays. This is not just an emotional problem, but how you think about money can affect you emotionally. Do you find yourself thinking, “I must give my family as good a Christmas as I had as a kid” or “I should be able to buy my kids whatever they want”? The fact is, you may like things to be different, but must or should they? Get rid of words such as “must” or “should” and focus instead on thoughts such as “What can I afford?” and “Are there ways I can make the holidays special without spending a lot of money?” Then notice how you feel without the constraints of what you must or should do. Instead, give yourself permission to give your family the holiday you can afford this year.
Happy Thanksgiving! In HPRC’s series on “Keeping the Happy in the Holidays,” this week we focus on being a gratitude-seeker. Gratitude is a state of mind that that can be hard to foster in our busy lives, particularly during the holidays. This holiday season set some time aside for gratitude.
The Defense Centers of Excellence suggests some tips for cultivating this skill, including:
• Spend two minutes a day thinking about what you are grateful for,
• Write five things daily in a gratitude journal
• Look for things to be grateful for in your everyday life.
For more ideas on fostering happiness, check out HPRC’s section on Mental Resilience.
HPRC’s series on staying happy over the holidays started last week (read the first BLUF here). This week, try experimenting with your expectations in order to sail through the holidays with a smile.
If you have visions of the holidays being a certain way—with lots of fun, togetherness, love, joy, and no discord—you may feel disappointed when the reality turns out to be something else. It’s natural to feel this way, but take stock of how your expectations perhaps contributed to your disappointment. Try experimenting with different ways of looking at things. For example, think about what’s behind your holiday expectations. Is it really a happier holiday when you spend more money? Can the entire holidays be filled with fun? Can you get along with everyone all the time? Are your expectations realistic?
Afterdeployment.org describes how to foster realistic thinking and have a clearer lens to the world by focusing on what is probable instead of wasting time thinking about things that are unlikely. In other words, focus on what you can control, not what you can’t. This can be particularly helpful for your relationships.
The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, but for many the expectations around the season leave them feeling depressed, lacking in motivation, feeling family friction more acutely, and on top of all of that, vulnerable to overeating. Now’s the time to shift your thinking to stay happy this holiday season. Check back every week as we present tips on how you can do this for yourself.
Tip #1: Shift your thinking to decrease stress
Realistically, it’s unlikely you can make holiday stress just go away, but you can change your response to that stress. Noticing your thoughts and emotional reactions can empower you to experience different, less-charged reactions, resulting in more positive thoughts and actions. Learn about the common thinking traps that you can get stuck in and how to reframe them. Noticing and then shifting your thinking can have a big impact on what you feel—try it out and see for yourself.
For more ideas, check out HPRC’s section on Mental Resilience.