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  • Writer's pictureRachelle Zemlok, PsyD


If you’re married to a police officer or firefighter chances are they are going to work during one of these upcoming holidays. This increases the stress on us at home of course because it’s one more plan we have to accommodate, more single parenting, less time our kids get with their parent, and of course more missed opportunities for memories. Click here for ways to manage the holiday schedule of a first responder family when it comes to missed traditions.

Holiday seasons might be portrayed in movies and on Hallmark cards as relaxing and joyful, but in reality can be far from that. Things that increase our stress can be getting together with family members you keep your distance from the rest of the year for good reason. Family dynamics can be triggering for us all. There’s more alcohol consumption which can lead to other problems. People often feel a lot of pressure to make it all happen from gifts to dinners to decorations. Not to mention finances take a hit! I can keep going on but you get it.

As much as us police and firefighter wives can be frustrated with our spouses working on a special holiday, it’s important to remind ourselves of the added stress they also experience during this time. Not only do they have to be away from their family and the comfort of their home on the special day but they have to spend their holiday managing all the problems other people are facing. They might be spending their holiday with sick individuals, people threatening to harm themselves or who have ended their lives, domestic violence calls, unfortunate accidents that happened on a holiday etc. Far from how anyone envisions their holiday.

Needless to say, first responder families can always benefit from a low stress holiday! Here are 3 tips you can you can use to keep your stress in check.

1. Decide what your priority is this holiday. Is it an instagram worthy picture? Is it feeling less stressed? More memories together? Or something else… When you can identify one main objective this will help you make every decision to support it. Disposable plates or glass? Well, I hate washing dishes and my goal is less stress so disposable it is! Don’t stretch yourself further than necessary.

2. Focus on the now. It’s amazing how much time we can spend thinking about things that already happened or worries about the future (what if, what if…). Being “mindful” means focusing on the present and exactly what’s going on right now. When you find yourself overwhelmed or stressed try bringing your attention to something you notice in the here and now such as what your breath is doing (is it shallow or deep? Is it fast or slow? are you holding it?). Here’s an awesome article with more mindfulness exercises you can easily apply this holiday season.

3. Adjust your expectations. We know that in general people relate to others the same way over time unless they have done some significant self reflection and make a big effort towards changing that. So, If you’re headed to see people that can often frustrate you, don’t have different expectations for them. They will likely relate to you how they always have, but it can help expecting that. This is so you’re not surprised and offended when they do. Prep yourself for it. We always do better when we’re prepared. Maybe you’re going to stay for less time or respond differently or not at all or just remind yourself that it’s one day out of the year… whatever helps! Remember that stress is the result of how we interpret an event and react to it, it’s not actually what’s happening but the meaning we give it.

Remember, if you or a family member are needing some extra support or help feel free to reach out for a free 30 min consultation to see if I can help!

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