It's called the most wonderful time of the year for a reason, right? The holidays are usually a joyous occasion. Depending on where you live, there may be fresh snow on the ground, the beautiful scenery of the leaves changing, homes decorated with wreaths, some may have already put lights up on their houses. It is a time to bring people together, share wonderful memories, and of course, get in some good old fashioned holiday eating. But for someone serving in the military, this may be one of the most difficult times of the year.
When I arrived at my first duty station, it was three months before the holidays. I didn't know that I had to put in my leave request so far in advance, so when I did two weeks prior, my request was denied. I was heartbroken.
It also meant that I would be spending my first holiday alone away from my family. What was usually a season I looked forward to quickly became one that I dreaded as the time became closer. When the day came, I immediately felt my anxiety rising and as a result, I isolated myself, didn't take any calls, and turned what should have been a happy occasion for my family, into one filled with worry and despair. Over the years, I learned how to navigate being away from my family during the holidays. What was once a season I dreaded turned into a season that I found myself loving again.
Here are a few tips for navigating the holidays while serving in the military.
Make Friends With Your Coworkers
Gone are the days of going into work and leaving without establishing a relationship with your coworkers. They know exactly what you're going through and how you are feeling. If they aren't active duty themselves, usually they are the spouses of someone serving and are going through the exact same thing. When I established these relationships, not only did I have amazing people to spend the holidays with, I created lifelong friendships with people I still keep in touch with to this day.
Reach Out To Your Family
It's hard enough spending the holidays alone, but you shouldn't make your family suffer your pain as well. Express your concerns, but don't drown them with your "woe is me" stories. When I began to communicate with my family during the holidays, it made the transition a lot easier. I was able to let them know they didn't have to worry. In hindsight, they didn't. I had my extended military family and let's be honest, I did not have to hear about the latest family drama.
Get Into The Holiday Spirit By Helping Others
It can be daunting to spend the holidays alone, but that doesn't mean you can't get into the holiday spirit. Do the things that bring you joy during the holidays. Do you have an amazing egg nog recipe? Make it for your job's holiday potluck! Does everyone always seem marvel at your holiday decor? Offer to help someone decorate. Volunteer your services to make someone's holiday brighter and in return, you'll find that it will make yours brighter as well.
Seek Help When Needed
If you are really struggling during this holiday season, don't be afraid to ask for help. The military offers plenty of resources such as Military One Source, The Military Crisis Line, and you can always speak to someone in your Mental Health unit at your base. You don't have to go through these feelings alone. Reach out and to someone and let them know what you are going through. Remember there is always someone who is willing to help you if you let them.
Going through the holiday season as a service member can be tough, but it doesn't have to be. These tips are a great start to help you have the best holiday season you can. They have helped me through some of my toughest times as a military member and I hope they can help you too.
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Shan Britton is a veteran of the United States Air Force. She is a mother who enjoys writing, traveling, and loves all things 90's R&B. She currently resides in Houston, TX.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Russell and Nina Westbrook are one of those low-key, unproblematic couples we don’t talk about enough. They met in college and got married in 2015. They also have a beautiful family with three kids. While Russell is an NBA star, Nina is a licensed family and marriage therapist and a mental health advocate.
She recently launched the podcast The Relationship Chronicles with Nina Westbrook, and in the latest episode, she had none other than her husband on as a guest. The college sweethearts dived into important topics from marriage to children and how they navigate it all.
One of the topics they touched on was dealing with resentment in your relationship. The former MVP highlighted the sacrifices his wife has had to make in order for him to pursue a career in the NBA, and that’s why it’s also important for him to support his wife whenever he can.
“For me is respecting and understanding what your partner do and the time it takes,” Russell said. “Not kind of downplaying what they do, understanding the time and energy and effort they're doing to make sure whether it’s their job or making sure home is taken care of, and understanding that, I think that is the challenge of not being resentful.”
Nina agreed and also shared her thoughts on resentment. According to her, one of the best things couples should do is have their own identity and passions outside of the relationship in an effort to be fulfilled.
“I also think that when you’re in a relationship, that’s why it’s so important that each individual kinda pursue their own passions and follow their own dreams as I feel like it only becomes or leads to resentment when one person is not feeling fulfilled in what they're doing in their lives,” she explained.
“And so, they will start to look at the other partner who’s happy or excelling or promoting or moving along in their journey, then they’re left feeling stuck like they sacrificed themselves, their happiness, their career, their future and have not pursued it in the name of the relationship or their partner. So, it’s so much easier to avoid those feelings of resentment when you’re each equally pursuing your passions.”
The couple has many passions that they work on together and separately. Outside of basketball and his family, Russell has become known for his eclectic style and started the fashion brand Honor The Gift. Nina has her podcast, and she also started the mental health website Bene. Together, they run the Why Not? Foundation, which works with kids in underserved communities.
“I’m a firm believer that one person can’t be everything to you, so you have to sort of seek out those different friendships or groups or hobbies or activities that help to fulfill you,” Nina concluded.
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Feature image by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Religion of Sports