Strategies for a Stress-Free Holiday with Krista Wells, The Military Spouse Coach

Wendy Poling
Frequent Contributor

Going through the holidays with our spouse deployed or far from home can be stressful. How do we still create fun and positive memories for our family while missing our spouse terribly? Do we travel to be with family? Do we create our own holiday traditions at home? Planning a holiday celebration without our loved one can truly be overwhelming. It's tough to know where to begin.


I recently sat down with Krista Wells, Ph.D., The Military Spouse Coach™ LIVE and in person, in our nation's capital where we were both attending a Military Spouse Networking event. We talked about how we can have a more joy-filled holiday season that is filled with less stress. Here is what she had to say:


Me: For many spouses reading this, their loved one is far from home. What is your advice for navigating the holidays when your spouse is deployed? It's hard to celebrate, guilt free, when our loved ones are in harm's way.


Krista: You want your loved one to know they are missed, but that you aren't miserable—there is a subtle difference. It isn't realistic to expect the holiday season to be without occasional hurdles, especially for those of you who are dealing with deployment, but much of how the holiday season feels is dependent on our overall attitude and focusing on gratitude really helps. So like you, I remind myself of this often and give myself little pep talks that force me to focus on joy and gratitude and let go of most else.


When my husband was deployed over the Christmas holidays I can't say that I didn't have a small pity party. I did! But it is important to make separation an opportunity to grow as individuals even during this difficult time of year, and staying strong is something that takes practice. And once you have children you can still express your honest feelings so they know you aren't repressing the truth, but focus on the importance of service. You can express your authentic fear along with strength and appreciation for the sacrifice you are both making. Even when you can't be together you can focus on being grateful for the belief in the greater good and the love you have for each other.

Me: How can we set ourselves up for a simpler and more joyful holiday?


Krista: Think about what really brings you joy and put those activities on the top of your wish list. Don't feel you have to think of everything yourself. I often pop onto Food Network or Pinterest for some simple new ideas and try and have fun. I copied the idea for using simple mason jars for decorating, to swap out candy corns for holiday berries, low fat recipes, and great homemade gifts. I prefer my home with a few white candles in the windows, and my military nutcrackers on the tree than years where I have overdone it. Instead of the mall, how about a family walk where you talk and look at all the lights. Let go of the long "to do" lists and consider a short "to be" list.


Me: What are some tips to make the holidays more stress free?


Krista: Look at what has stressed you in the past and then come up with some creative solutions based on your reflections. For example my friend Lori hosts a "Christmas work party" where she pours mulled cider, blares the carols, and invites her friends to come over and get their cards sent out. Another friend suggested a Christmas chick flick with co-workers rather than previous gift exchanges. I am a big fan of cookies from the bakery, premade potpies, simple crock-pot dinners, holiday paper plates, finger foods, and potlucks. Go crazy with making life easier and see how much more time you will have for what matters most. Consider bringing a big bowl of fresh fruit with a little dollop of brandied whipped cream when asked to bring dessert. Trust me; people appreciate not going overboard.


What is your top tip for simplifying the holidays?