Find your P.E.A.C.E this holiday season


For many, the holidays are a time for love, fellowship, and good spirits, but this may not be the case for individuals who have experienced some type of adversity prior to the start of the season. Traumatic losses such as the death of a loved one, serious illness or injury, or loss of stability can have a profound effect on one’s mental, physical, and spiritual health. Coping with the negative emotions and feelings generated by losses may be exacerbated during the holidays because of the societal pressure to be happy and surrounded by family during the holiday season. Though it may seem far-fetched, there are ways to cope with loss during the holidays. Navigating the seas of disparity to the island of optimism and serenity can be accomplished by adhering to the P.E.A.C.E principle:


Put your needs first. During this time of year it is so easy for others to make you feel as if you should negate your pain for the greater good, so as not to dampen the spirits of those around you. This will not help you express your hurt and sorrow and may have consequences later in the form of negative health outcomes, further isolation, or sometimes even worse. Your feelings are valid, and expression of your feelings is not abnormal. Do not let others pressure you into participating in events or festivities unless you feel that you are ready. Grief is a process that must run its course and it does not adhere to a holiday schedule.


Experiment with innovative ideas and traditions. This is the perfect time for you to create some new experiences and traditions for yourself while abandoning ones that may no longer feel appropriate or necessary. Consider doing something unorthodox such as going on a holiday vacation, visiting a restaurant for holiday meals, or abandoning the dreaded holiday sweater photo!


Allow yourself some healthy distractions. Exercise has proven to be, not only an excellent anecdote for physical health, but mental health as well. Flooding the body with natural mood boosters will elevate your mood and help your feel better. Watching a favorite television program, attending a movie premiere with good friends, or catching a live sporting event are excellent distractions to lift your spirits.


Community service is key. The sense of fulfillment that comes with helping others in need should never be underestimated. If you have ever volunteered to help others during the holidays, whether it be with a charitable organization, community service establishment, or religious activity, you will find that this type of work may not only help to quell negative thoughts and feelings but also give you a clearer perspective on the bleakness of your situation. The sense that you have given back to those less fortunate can elevate you to new levels.


Embrace the opportunity to grow. Emotional, physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual growth all have one thing in common: they are all fed by challenges. It may seem overwhelming to ponder at times but consider how you will grow as a person from your experience. Ask yourself, what can I do in the coming year to prepare for this next holiday season? How do I want next year to look for me this time? Where do I want to be as a person mentally and physically? Questions like these inspire one to chart a clear path and set positive goals for themselves, which in turn builds on resiliency and strength.

There are a number of resources available to help those who are having problems coping with the stress of the season. Army Community Services, Military Family Life Counselors, online support groups, behavioral health and crisis hotlines such as the Military Crisis Line (00800 1273 8255) are agencies and resources that are there to help someone who is having a difficult time.

Finding the “silver lining” while coping with loss may seem like a daunting task, but it can be accomplished with support from family and community interventions. These are vital resources because they help us find the light when emotional pain dims our vison and clouds our sense of purpose. Positive communication and experiences help us recover and move forward to brighter horizons.

Being thankful enhances resiliency by allowing you to appreciate what you have and what you have accomplished rather than being mired down in disillusionment and hopelessness. If you can find thankfulness through adversity it strengthens the will and desire to move forward. Disillusionment and hopelessness leave one stuck and unable to see opportunities for happiness and growth.

Finding thankfulness is one of the most important elements of resiliency. I feel thankfulness gives us the presence of mind to understand that nothing in life is guaranteed and that we must find value in every day, even in times of loss. When we really value things, whether tangible or intangible, we want to protect them and appreciate them. This thought process goes a long way toward helping us cope in challenging times. Valuing other people, principles, or possessions can help us navigate life’s rough seas to a place of calm and peace.