Written with input from Capt. Gregory Todd, chaplain of the Coast Guard
Throughout the holiday season, it seems like time just flies by. Between traveling, buying gifts, scheduling and attending various holiday events and other normal responsibilities, it’s easy for everyone to rush through the season. The holidays can also be a hard time for many people, and with all those other obligations added on, stress can pile up. That’s why Chaplain of the Coast Guard Capt. Gregory Todd has a simple piece of advice for every member of the Coast Guard family this holiday season: Slow down.
Here are a few tips from Todd to help keep Coast Guard members and their loved ones safe this holiday season:
EXPECTATIONS: The holidays are a prime time for us to set completely unrealistic expectations. We want our holidays to be as spectacular as those we see in the movies. So we get off duty, we graduate from bootcamp, we start leave, rush home and expect that ‘Hallmark’ moment. But our family didn’t get the script or they have a different movie in mind or maybe they want to be the star—and we’re left with disappointment. We can slow down those expectations by being realistic and not focused on special events or the “perfect holiday” (whatever that means) but focused on people—friends and family—and focused on the reason for the holiday—faith. It’s fun to have special traditions, special decorations, and special events but trying to get in too much can actually ruin it all. Slow down and keep things simple and special. And put the focus outside of ourselves on friends, family, and faith.
LOOK OUT FOR OTHERS: Speaking of putting the focus outside of ourselves, the holidays are often a time when people have some emotional struggles. Slow down and look out for shipmates, friends, or family members who are having a tough time. Maybe they’re struggling with painful memories brought up by the holidays, or maybe a loved one died this year and this is the first holiday without them. Whatever the struggle, it’s important that we look out for others, not leave them alone if they’re struggling, and get them to appropriate helping professionals if the struggle is too great. Chaplains, medical personnel, and Work-Life staff are just some of the people ready and willing to help in the struggle. To contact your nearest chaplain, just call 1-855-USCG-CHC (872-4242). To contact medical and Work-Life support, call 1-855-CGSUPRT (247-8778).
FINANCES: In our efforts to make things special for those we love, we often get overextended on our budget. Slow down and set a limit of what you’re going to spend on the holidays. Slow down and realize that the special quality of the holiday will not be determined by how many or how expensive everyone’s gift is. Many parents have been disappointed when they’ve bought that huge expensive gift and their little one would rather play with the big box! What will really make a difference in a child’s life will be the time spent with you—reading, rough-housing, just hanging out. As Coast Guardsmen whose job often keeps us away from home, the most precious thing you can give your child is your time. Slow down and give the gift of your time. I would also recommend that if you find yourself “underwater” in regard to finances, there are plenty of people ready to help or point you to the right help: your chaplain, your chief, your chain of command, and CG SUPRT.
ALCOHOL: Let’s be real, here—people often “imbibe” a little alcohol during the holidays and a little drink in celebration is no big deal. But when a little drink becomes three or four, or even more, alcohol can actually ruin the holiday. Slow down and realize that alcohol clouds our ability to make good decisions and we could say and do things that we’ll regret later. This is especially true if get in an argument or have a disagreement with someone. If you’ve been drinking, slow down the disagreement and go for a walk. Get some air. Put the argument on hold until everyone sobers up and you can talk about it with a clear head. If you’re watching alcohol cloud the judgment of your shipmates, your friends, your family, the most courageous and kind thing you can do is jump in and help them slow down until everyone has a clear head again. And again, if you find alcohol is controlling your life, there are many people available to help you take back control—your command, your chaplain, your chief, medical personnel and Work-Life.
With all of the holidays approaching, “Let’s allow those celebrations to move slow so we can enjoy them,” said Todd.