Call a Holiday Time Out

Chaplain Benjamin Box, who serves DESRON 23 at Naval Base San Diego, Calif., shares ways to regain your holiday perspective through an intentional timeout. Prior to his military service, Chaplain Box was a civilian pastor for 10 years.

Along with the challenges of shopping, traveling, decorating, attending parties, consuming calories, and balancing family expectations, it seems as though we can find ourselves with an abundance of eggnog and ugly sweaters, yet suffering a shortage of money, time, and peace of mind.

Shipmates, let me encourage you to hit your pause button and call a “Holiday Time Out.” Be brave enough to slow down, find meaning, and rediscover perspective. A time out can be a walk, journaling, star-gazing, or simply giving yourself space to gather your thoughts for an hour. Now that you have this special time set aside, what do you do?

1. Reflect.

  • Family: Take time to give thanks for your family. Maybe write them a note or a letter and mail it to them or place it in their stocking.
  • Friends: Express gratitude for true friends who enrich your life. Make a point to call a friend or two to catch up; or better yet, schedule a time to get together and “talk life” over lunch or a coffee.
  • Faith: For many, the holiday season represents more than “winter” break and festive decorations. If you are a person of faith, set aside some time to refresh your soul, and to connect with the One who gives you hope, meaning, purpose, strength, and a reason to rejoice.

2. Regroup and Re-enter. Next, you will now want to prioritize and prepare to tackle the sources of your holiday stress. In your mind, or on paper, walk through the days ahead and ask yourself: What stress points can be reduced? Who do you need to discuss this with? Are expectations aligned and realistic? How can you be proactive, intentional, and assertive? With these questions addressed you can move forward with confidence, ready to make the most of the meaningful days ahead.

3. Focus. As 2014 draws to an end, give consideration to how the year went for you, and to how satisfied you are with it. What accomplishments are you proud of? What regrets do you have? What lessons did you learn? What memories did you make? How did you grow? Are you happy with whom you are as a person? What goals do you have for yourself in 2015? Do you have a clear vision for the year ahead and what you want your priorities to be?

Once you have completed your holiday time out, my sincere hope is that pressure gives way to perspective. May this busy, holiday season and New Year be blessed for you and your loved ones.

Holiday Festivities or Stressful Activities? 5 Tips for Celebrating Responsibly

The holidays are full of joy, love, and festivities, but they can also bring an increased level of stress and anxiety. While our social calendars fill quickly with trips to the mall, holiday parties, family get-togethers and other activities, we can easily become overwhelmed, anxious, and exhausted. Given the increase in social activities and related stress around the holidays, it is more important than ever to remember to drink responsibly.

Below are five tips on responsible drinking to help get you through the holiday season and keep what you’ve earned:

1. Don’t rely on alcohol to reduce your stress:

We’ve all heard the “I’ve had a stressful day” excuse for having a drink or two too many. Drinking alcohol may lead to positive feelings and relaxation momentarily, but if you try to deal with stress through drinking it can lead to serious problems. Instead of “calming your nerves,” drinking can actually work against you, increasing your risk for alcohol dependence and leading to other psychological health problems. If you’re feeling stressed this holiday season, look for other ways to reduce stress such as exercise, yoga, meditation, or just taking a moment each day for yourself to relax and be in the moment. If trying to de-stress with alcohol has become a common practice for you, it’s probably time to self-refer for help. Talk to your Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor (DAPA), chaplain, doctor, or command leadership about where to get help.

2. Practice good self-care:

Mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing and casserole, pie, pie, and more pie. There are many treats to indulge in over the holiday season and as your social calendar fills up it becomes more difficult to make time to stay healthy. During the holiday season it’s okay to allow yourself some additional treats, but be careful not to over-indulge—especially when it comes to alcohol. Drinking in excess during the holiday season can lead to bad decision making, whether it’s the decision to eat more than you had planned, skip out on the gym, or worse, drive yourself home after drinking. Keep your diet and exercise routines on track and don’t let alcohol steer you wrong—you’ll feel better for doing so!

3. Know your limit:

Many people, particularly those who don’t drink that often, find themselves participating in more social activities that involve drinking this time of year given the celebratory nature of the holidays. In fact, according to the Distilled Spirit Council of the United States, the $49 billion distilled-spirits industry makes more than 35% of its profits from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. If you find yourself drinking more often during the holiday season, you should know your limit, don’t try to keep up with others, and learn to say no to peer pressure to drink more than you had planned. Exercise Controllability, one of the Five Principles of Resilience, and monitor your consumption to help you keep what you’ve earned. Whether you’re the host or a guest, there are plenty of festive alcohol-free drinks to enjoy this season! Non-alcoholic eggnog, anyone?

4. Plan ahead for a safe ride home:

Studies show that during the holiday season there is an increase in drinking and driving, making it one of the most dangerous time of the year to be on the road. According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2012, more than 300 people were killed in traffic accidents nationwide. This holiday season, plan ahead for a safe ride home before you go out for the night. Make the choice: will you drink or will you drive? Stick to the plan! Remember that even buzzed driving is illegal and more importantly can lead to dangerous accidents.KWYE_Holiday

Furthermore, this season the Keep What You’ve Earned campaign is encouraging all Sailors to take the pledge to be a designated driver for a shipmate, friend, or family member. You can give the gift of a designated driver to a loved one by downloading the printable holiday gift cards, and don’t forget to take the pledge to be a designated driver this season. Exercise Trust, another one of the Five Principles of Resilience—don’t put your friends and shipmates at risk by deciding to drink after committing to serve as a designated driver.

5. Talk it out:

Do you blame your stress, loneliness, or feelings of depression on the “holiday blues?” Do you often feel alone amongst all of the holiday activities and social gatherings happening around you? Do the hardships you’ve experienced in the past 12 months feel magnified during this time of year? These feelings can slowly build up over time, especially as we deal with the stress and anxiety associated with preparing for the holiday season.

Rather than bottling up your feelings—or turning to the bottle to relieve stress—it’s important that you talk to a friend, family member, fellow Sailor, DAPA, chaplain, doctor, or any other resource available to you. If drinking to relieve stress has become a trend for you, remember that a self-referral is the best option for seeking help. When Sailors get help via a self-referral or through the help of their command, neither results in disciplinary action.

Keep an Even Keel, Shipmates—and Keep What You’ve Earned this holiday season!

The holidays are here… and it’s “crunch” time!

Lt. Cmdr. Austin Latour, an exercise physiologist, offers tips to encourage readers to maintain a physical fitness routine this holiday season.

Holiday parties, shopping, and family will be keeping everyone busy throughout the holidays, but don’t let your physical fitness fall to the wayside. To combat decreased activity levels this month and throughout the colder winter temperatures, here are a few tips to help you prioritize a fun fitness routine and maintain healthy stress levels.

  • Set a routine. Exercising early in the day will get you energized for the rest of the day’s events and help you feel more prepared for those unexpected social events that may pop up, such as a holiday cookie exchange. You can exercise at your local MWR fitness center or carve out a small area in your home to complete bodyweight exercises.
  • Maintain accountability. Find a partner to workout with you… someone who is a positive influence and committed to a similar fitness routine.
  • Rethink your strategy. A workout can be performed with minimal equipment, and you don’t have to complete a one-hour workout every day. In fact, a shorter, yet more effective, workout can be performed at a higher intensity level. Balancing high-intensity workouts with low-intensity workouts will decrease boredom and allow you to work around your busy schedule. Here is a quick, high-intensity workout that requires a minimal amount of equipment and space.

For 20 minutes (complete as many rounds as possible*):
10 Pushups
15 Squats
20 Crunches
Plank for 25 seconds

Remember that exercise should never be painful. Follow the instruction of your medical professional. If you have a certain injury, substitute a different exercise that accommodates your specific situation. Have fun and don’t be afraid to perform exercises you have never done before. Moving out of your comfort zone will enhance your fitness level and help you keep an even keel this holiday season and beyond!

* Exercises and repetitions can be changed to fit your needs. Count how many rounds you can do in 20 minutes and try to beat that score 2-3 weeks later. Push yourself as this should be completed at high intensity with minimal rest.

The 80/20 Approach to Stress (and Spend!) Less this Holiday Season, Part 3

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced Financial Counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a long-time volunteer blogger for and previously served at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. as a financial counselor. As a military spouse, Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte knows firsthand of the financial challenges and opportunities that face military families across the globe. To that end, she embraces a steadfast belief that financial success can be simple, just not easy, and offers budget-friendly tips to help us “Keep an Even Keel” this holiday season. – note

Now that we have determined what is most important to us this season in part121221-N-IN807-471 one of this series, and have adapted a budget-friendly means to gift giving in part two, it’s time to focus on how to celebrate the holidays without breaking the bank. Family gatherings are often the most anticipated events of the holiday season and expenses can quickly add up for both the travelling and host families. Late planning and missed holiday promotion opportunities can easily turn into very costly last-minute trips amidst swarming holiday shoppers. To keep spending and stress levels down, try these tips using the 80/20 rule:

  • In addition to searching for the best travel fares and booking in advance, keep in mind that you may not be able to visit everyone on your list. Decide what is in your budget, and which trip will be the most meaningful. Overspending to please everyone may result in detectable tension, fatigue, and financial strain.
  • If you are hosting a gathering, ask others to help out by contributing to the event. This can be in the form of a dish, drinks, cash, etc. Holiday meal planning costs can be kept reasonable by utilizing wholesale membership buying programs and using coupons. When everyone contributes to the process, there is a greater sense of community, which is what the holiday season is all about.
  • Choose inexpensive and free events that visiting family can enjoy. Base holiday concerts and activities and city/town lighting events are just a few ways to engage in cheap or free holiday fun. When your loved ones look back on these moments, the important thing will be the meaningful time spent together, not the amount of money it took to make it happen.

If you decide to opt-out of this year’s family reunion, perhaps your family can use this time to volunteer to serve others. Look for local events and activities where your family can contribute (local feeding events for the less fortunate, sponsor a service member for a holiday meal, etc.). Bringing joy to others is a gift that both the giver and recipient will relish.

Whether you’ll be spending the holidays in the company of family and friends, or through long distance communications during deployment, remember, you get the most value from nurturing your relationships with those important to you—not from stretching your financial limits. By considering what’s most meaningful, you’ll stay in control of your budget and “keep an even keel” this holiday season.

Food and Mood

Lt. Cmdr. Amit Sood, OPNAV N17 Dietitian, reflects on the impact food choices have on one’s mood to encourage readers to “Keep an Even Keel” this holiday season with family, friends and shipmates.

The holidays are here, and you deserve some much needed time off, so take George H.W. Bush is conducting training operations in the Atlantic Ocean.every opportunity to spend it with family and friends. Now, combine those relationships with good, conscious food choices, and you have the right ingredients to recharge your spirit!

Whether your time is spent with family, going to a potluck with friends, or sharing the holiday with your shipmates at sea, remember it’s all about balanced eating. The food we consume can affect the way we think, feel, act, and interact with those around us, so it is important to consume each of the food groups at each meal, at roughly the same time each day. In doing so, you can stabilize blood sugar levels and increase energy levels to enjoy the taste and spirit of the holiday.

Here are three ways food and mood can impact your relationships:

  1. Enjoying a meal with family and friends can enhance interpersonal relationships and boost your sense of community.
  2. Keeping a balanced and consistent food intake can positively affect your level of self-satisfaction and sense of controllability.
  3. Giving, such as contributing to a potluck and seeing others enjoy the food you provide, will increase your feelings of self-worth and meaning in your relationships.

You can also use a nutrition tracker, such as the SuperTracker on, to help you plan and manage your nutrient intake and portion sizes. With conscious effort and consistency, you’ll find monitoring your food intake to be a simple, yet incredibly powerful strategy to help keep your mental, emotional, physical, and social well-being in check. So, enjoy good food, share and spend time with others, recharge your spirit, and remain resilient and all season long!