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Holiday resilience: Tips from the helping agencies

  • Published
  • By Staff Report
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

2020 has been an unusual year with physical distance, telework, mask-wearing and occasional quarantining as the nation responds to the COVID-19 pandemic. With infection numbers surging to record highs around the nation, this holiday season will likely follow the mold of a different kind of year for many 910th Airlift Wing Airmen and their families.

Following the recommendations of federal, state and local leaders, many people will forgo large holiday gatherings, opting for smaller celebrations with immediate family. Some are going through their first holiday season after the loss of a loved one. Others will face the season with concern for friends, family members or coworkers who are battling COVID-19.

All of these factors are added stressors to a time that can bring a fair amount of stress under normal circumstances. Personal resilience is a key factor in keeping the 910th Airlift Wing “Combat ready NOW…for tomorrow’s fight!” as the mission statement goes.

Members of the 910th Medical Squadron and the unit’s helping agencies offer tips for maintaining resilience through the holidays and are available to assist Airmen and their families.

910th Medical Squadron

Since the pandemic began, Senior Airman Daija Cammon, a public health technician with the 910th Medical Squadron, has been providing her 910th teammates strategies for staying safe and healthy. She offers the following advice for navigating the holidays this year:

“With these difficult times and our ‘new normal’ for the time being, this is a GREAT time to start some new holiday traditions. Keeping people safe is the number one priority, and although we may not be able to physically be with our loved ones, it doesn’t mean we have to be socially isolated and alone on the holidays. Families can host virtual gatherings where they can virtually participate in:

  • Pre-planned scavenger hunts for the children
  • Gift exchanges/secret Santa with various members
  • Cocktail parties
  • Holiday-themed bingo
  • Sending holiday boxes (hot cocoa mix/mug, fun holiday accessories, puzzles, photo props)
  • Holiday costume dress-up/murder mystery
  • Ornament decorating/stocking decorating
  • Organized Christmas tree decorating

During these unprecedented times, it is important that we stand together now more than ever to preserve the condition of our loved ones’ mental health and remind everyone that together we can get through this. Even without a pandemic, this can be a hard time of year, but there’s nothing we can’t get through together. Even if that means we have to be apart, we are still to keep our Wingmen in our hearts.”

Director of Psychological Health

The 910th Airlift Wing director of psychological health is Terri Ann Naughton. She emphasizes the importance of maintaining connectedness with others even while keeping physical distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Naughton says:

“This year, the holidays will look different from previous years. Managing expectations will be the key to making the most of what we have and what we can do. Scale back and think differently about what connection and belongingness mean to you. If in-person meals are not an option for wellness reasons, have a lunch or dinner via any of the meeting or social connection apps, and include people who would not otherwise be at your table. If grief is part of your experience in 2020, be even gentler with yourself, friends, and family. This year is an opportunity to create new and meaningful holiday traditions.”

910th Chapel Staff 

While many religious organizations have switched to online-only options, 910th Airlift Wing Chaplain (1st Lt.) Douglas Craver emphasizes the importance of tending to personal spiritual resilience. 

He gives two key tips for this:

  1. “Balance: We often talk about living in balance. As life happens and the holidays add more stress, the tendency is a balancing act of sorts. More than trying to balance everything, we should focus on harmony instead. Adding things into an already crazy schedule can throw us off balance, but if we shift our focus on trying to have different obligations work together we can reduce our stress and be more able to actually enjoy this time of year.

  2. Be still: Take a minute or two and just be still! I know it sounds counterproductive, but if you can take just a fraction of time to sit in the quiet, you can effectively ‘recharge,’ and you will actually be more fruitful in the end. Be intentional with this time for yourself!”

Violence Prevention Integrator and Sexual Assault Response Coordinator

Karen Hazle-Johnson, the 910th’s violence prevention integrator, and Shelly Trimble, the 910th’s Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, point to the plethora of resources available for bolstering and maintaining resilience, both from the Department of Defense and from external sources. 

Hazle-Johnson says:

“There is nothing wrong with feeling overwhelmed during the holidays, but now add health issues from COVID, how do you cope? You use the same tools you always had handy but forgot where you put them. Acknowledge what is coming your way and figure out a way to cushion the blow. Nothing has been the way anyone wanted in 2020 and we are all in it together. If you need assistance, it is always a phone call away to any of the helping agencies.”

She points to an article from the Centers for Disease Control on coping with the holidays this year:

Trimble emphasizes the importance of practicing gratitude, even amid trying circumstances, and offers some ideas for doing so from Air Force Reserve Command headquarters.

  • A gratitude journal. It doesn’t have to be words, it can be drawings, cards, notes, whatever you want it to be.
  • Remember those paper chains you made when you were a kid to put on the tree? Well, make those with thankful messages of people on each link.  You can drape it around the table at Thanksgiving, and then put it on the tree. This is a great family event so your children are involved in building this chain of awesomeness!
  • Write or draw a gratitude card for someone you might think needs it more as an individual, it is always nice to receive a handwritten/drawn card in the mail from someone you love. 
  • Instead of “prank calls” make “thanks” calls!  I know it’s a play on words, but you know it is a great concept. Have fun with it.
  • Send virtual care packages, like a bunch of photos and silly video clips with you and your family, (the kids love this one) they get to be kids, silly, funny, dancing, and email this package to people you care about or want to share with.
  • House decorating is a family event at my home during the Holidays, it is a fun activity that instantly brightens the mood of the entire neighborhood.
  • Paint rocks. Have the family, especially the children, paint rocks and then after the Holiday meal go on a small walk along the path of all these wonderfully painted rocks with special messages, pictures, etc. 
  • Give Back: Talk to your children and family about causes that matter to them and the people and things in the community they would like to help.  Reach out to those organizations to see how you and your children can give back, donate or volunteer in some way that’s COVID safe.

Although this year has been quite different in many ways, 910th Airlift Wing Airmen and their families have myriad resources for maintaining resilience. Airmen needing help to thrive through the holiday season should contact the installation’s helping agencies and count on their wingmen.