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Keep spirit of Christmas alive and kick the post-holiday slump

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- In the story "A Christmas Carol," Scrooge learns to keep Christmas all year long. No matter the religion or how one celebrates, some of the things that are loved and cherished about the holiday season are things that can continue all year long.

Time with family and friends doesn't need to be only at the holidays. Plan to spend quality time during the year tending to relationships. Lunch with a friend or a group of friends once a month or so will do wonders for lifting spirits. Invite friends over for an old fashioned game night and play cards or dust off the old board games for some fun interaction. For families spread apart geographically, talk on the phone more frequently, text, skype, email or send written notes to stay connected. If time and funds permit, plan a long weekend getaway to visit loved ones.

During the holidays generosity abounds, so why not continue through the year? Pick a charity and give during the year. If money is tight, give of yourself and donate some time to help out choice organizations. Volunteer-ing time to help feed the needy, answering phones or rolling up the sleeves with some manual labor can really help an organization out and save them money from having to hire someone to do the work.

Charities can use gently used clothing and household items. Cleaning out the closets or the garage will certainly free up clutter from your life, while helping someone else out in return. After all, as the old adage says, one man's trash is another man's treasure.
Face it, one of the fun parts of the holidays is the anticipation. Keep anticipating by making plans to see a special movie or plan an event like a day at the zoo or a weekend trip to have something to look forward to. Put it on the calendar so the entire family can get ready for the special day. Granted, it isn't the same as looking forward to Christmas, but it will trick the brain a bit and still feel good, thus staving off the blues.

A favorite part of Christmas is the tree and all the pretty decorations. No, don't leave the tree up all year long, but perhaps bring in some beautiful plants or flowers to spruce up the place a bit. Home decorating shows and magazines often encourage people to decorate for spring, summer, fall and winter. A change of scenery does wonders for one's frame of mind, and this is the perfect time of year to do some big projects in the house.

For many, the Christmas holiday is all about the birth of Christ. Having a spiritual connection is important to our well-being. Maintaining spiritual health is one of the four-pillars of fitness.

"Take time to reflect on your blessings and to get involved with friends, church groups or volunteer," said Chaplain (Maj.) Scott Nupson, Tinker Chapel's deputy wing chaplain. "Make plans and goals to work toward."

According to the Air Force's Comprehensive Airman Fitness program, "The spiritual pillar is different things to different people. It is simply the recognition of a higher power, whether divine or man-made...provides the sense of purpose in life. Spiritual practices tend to improve coping skills and social support, foster feelings of optimism and hope, promote healthy behavior, reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, and encourage a sense of relaxation." To speak to someone about spiritual health, call the Base Chapel at 734-2111.

The start of a new year is a great time to do something just for you. Try out a new exercise or sport, read a new author, get organized at home and the office or try a new hobby. Plan to quit smoking, drinking, overeating or whatever vice, and that will feel really good too. Why not go back to school to broaden your horizons? Whatever the choice, enjoy it.

If you just can't shake the post-holiday blues, reach out for a little help. Call on friends, family, a chaplain or the Mental Health clinic at 582-6603 to make an appointment to speak with a professional. According to Airman 1st Class Kasandra Dugger, staff at the Mental Health Clinic is required to report if a person says they are going to hurt themselves or someone else, or if they have violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice in any way. "So 100 percent confidentiality is not provided," she said. "Otherwise, a patient's record is protected and no one looks at it except for in a need-to-know basis."

Airman Dugger went on to say that, of course, they can provide other resources to contact who can help. "Definitely, call someone if the blues just won't go away," she said.
Anything that we do to celebrate during the holiday season can be continued throughout the year as a way of maintaining our mental health. Keeping Christmas doesn't need to be difficult or painful. Wish people a happy day, be pleasant, do a random act of kindness once in a while and benefit from all the feelings of joy and goodness.