FORT RILEY, Kan, — Many soldiers are concerned with staying physically fit during the holidays with all the tempting food choices available, but staying mentally fit is also important.

The holidays can be challenging for anyone as the season is often connected to traditions, memories and emotions — and some of those may evoke feelings of happiness or sadness. For soldiers not able to be near loved ones and family during this time, it can be especially hard.

Daily lives stay just as busy and the holidays add a layer of activities and responsibilities — both real and imagined — that take up time, money and emotional energy. Although many people look forward to the holiday season, others may long for another time, such as a leisure day at the pool in June.

Each person paints a mental picture of the ideal holiday and reality sometimes falls short. Try to manage expectations by creating new traditions, getting together with extended family or trying something new. For those of who can’t be with family, try connecting with local friends. It won’t replace the traditions you grew up with, but you might discover new ones and broaden your experiences of the holidays.

If time cannot be spent with family this holiday due to location or deployment, make it a priority to use the electronics available to reach across the miles and connect with loved ones whenever possible.

Financial stress might make some wish they could skip the whole holiday thing, but a solution is stick to a budget. Overspending carries over and affects life in the new year.

Look for opportunities to volunteer. Being in a festive atmosphere with other people doing good work can lift your mood and lead to new friendships.

Reach out to local resources if help is needed to get through the season. Most of us as at some time during our life have difficulty coping with situations — there is no shame in seeking assistance. Your Army family is there to help: Army Community Service, veteran centers and chaplains are local resources that can be contacted for assistance.

If looking for self-help, Military OneSource has information and suggestions on many topics. Visit to learn more.

The bottom line is to recognize the challenges this time of year and to do the best to make it a joyful, happy season for all.

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