Relax: It's the holiday season!

  • Published
  • By Lt. Gen. Norman Seip
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) commander
Let's face it: our job is inherently stressful. Whether it's a time-sensitive target or a time-sensitive performance report, stress is an inevitable part of the military career.

Stress has a personal cost, both to your health and your pocketbook. In this month's Money magazine, Patricia Gray reports, "Chronic stress, the kind you experience when the demands of life exceed your ability to cope, boosts the risk of developing ailments ranging from the common cold and gum disease to obesity and heart disease." Her article goes on to put a price tag on the physical manifestations of stress...more than $6,000 per year! 

Thankfully, there are ways to reduce the effects of stress on your life. While I can't promise to suddenly make your job easier, I can promise if you follow this simple piece of advice, the feelings of stress in your life will diminish.

Simply put: spend some quality time with your loved ones over the holidays. Take a walk or take in an afternoon matinee. Tell those that have supported you throughout the year how much their sacrifice and commitment to our nation has meant to you and your mission. Without them, your life would be immensely more stressful and your health would surely suffer. A warm embrace or kind word is the valve that reduces stress almost instantaneously and reminds us why our service is so vital to our nation's and our family's well being.

Family members are also one of the key checks in operational risk management. Everyone can remember a time when their spouse told them to "slow down" (figuratively and literally) or "buckle up" -- it's these people in our life that act as living angels to ensure our plans don't "over-G" our limits.

Thankfully, our team has been committed to safety -- this year will mark the second consecutive year of extremely low on- and off-duty incidents. It's my sincerest holiday wish to reduce these numbers to zero; each and every one of you is a valued member of our team and an important individual in our military family.

During this holiday season, take a moment to preflight your plans with a trusted friend or spouse. Look out for your wingman -- the most important gift you might give this year could simply be a ride home after a Christmas party or a moment to patiently listen to a coworker during a Hanukkah celebration.

Friends and family are the vital agents that will ensure your holidays are stress-reducing, safe and enjoyable. Every year, approximately 5,800 persons are injured in fall-related incidents as a result of holiday activities. Had a spouse been consulted prior to hanging lights or positioning a ladder -- I'll bet these numbers would be significantly reduced.

Especially disheartening is the fact that more than 70 percent of our mishaps are due to vehicle accidents, some involving alcohol. Reminding a wingman to plan ahead and relax (your destination isn't going anywhere -- so why rush?!) or double-checking your children's seat belts and safety seats are some of the easiest, and most effective, ways to reduce the likelihood these members will become holiday statistics.

This season is intended for you to reflect on the many blessings you've received throughout the year and with proper planning, will serve to revitalize your personal outlook. Our mission is stressful enough; I urge you to take this opportunity to reconnect with your family, reignite your romance and reinvigorate your spirit. Your health, your wallet, your friends and family will thank you!

Kathleen and I would also like to thank everyone in our military family for another outstanding year. To those serving on the home front, we would like to extend our deepest thanks for your continued support and sacrifice. And to the brave men and women serving around the world, have a safe and happy holiday -- our nation is truly blessed to have the dedicated leaders found inside every Airman, Soldier, Sailor and Marine serving in her defense.

1 Money magazine, December 2007, p. 44 

2 As reported by: JA Stevens, PhD, Div of Unintentional Injury Prevention; M Vajani, MPH, Office of Statistics and Programming, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Center for Disease Control. During 2000--2003, a total of 225 fall-related injuries that occurred to persons treated in participating hospital emergency departments were attributed to holiday decorating or related activities, yielding a weighted national estimate of 17,465 injuries, an average of 5,822 injuries per season. The overall injury rate was 8.1 per 100,000 population. The majority of injuries (62%) occurred to persons aged 20--49 years. Persons aged >49 years sustained 24%, and persons aged 0--19 years sustained 15% of fall-related injuries.

3 12th Air Force Safety Office