December 2019
The Holidays are Here... Don't Stress!
The Cohen Clinic at VVSD offers ways to overcome holiday stressors
There is a lot of activity that occurs during the holiday season: present exchanges, lots of eating, and, oh, by the way, an overload of gatherings and family interactions. But, while all of this is going on, some of us may be struggling with mental health challenges and other life stressors, which only leaves the holiday season to cause triggers.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but many veterans and military family members may be experiencing holiday stress. Shari Houser, Clinic Director at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Veterans Village of San Diego, has offered some advice below on how to get through the holidays:

  • Schedule time to grieve if you know you will miss a tradition, person or even how things used to be. For me, I lost both parents quite close to each other and Christmas always brings a fresh wave of pain. Now, I plan time to acknowledge it and sit with it. I know life goes on, but an hour here, 20 minutes there, allows me time to process the feelings, or hold them until I have time to process them. This works for deployed spouses away from family, divorced or separated parents spending the holiday away from their kiddos, or even the loss of a pet or house.

  • Stop chasing the unicorn. In other words, have realistic expectations. My mother was an amazing baker. She decorated cakes, made five types of cookies, five types of fudge and three to four types of candy. All looked perfect and she never broke a sweat. I cannot even make a cake from a box with my daughter supervising! I still want treats to be a part of my holiday traditions, so I no longer try to do what my mom did. I invite a friend to help, pick one recipe, and bake one night. That is now our tradition, and it works for us. Modify and move on.

  • Remember, it is a season of high hopes and searing losses for everyone, even if we don't know it. A lot of grace and forgiveness goes a long way. I remember when my daughter was a baby and my parents were sick, I was so rude to everyone around me. My expectations and my fear kept me hyper-vigilant and unable to connect and unaware of even who's feelings I hurt. So cut some slack. If it still bothers you a month later, talk to the person and see what was really going on.

If you are a post-9/11 veteran or military family member struggling with stress, depression and/or anxiety this holiday season, contact the Cohen Clinic at VVSD for help. Call us at 619-345-4611 or email us at
USO San Diego , part of the U nited Service Organizations Inc., an American nonprofit-charitable corporation that provides programs to members of the United States Armed Forces and their families. The three locations in San Diego provide a variety of programs for service members, veterans and military families, including a mobile food pantry, events, networking opportunities, discounts to a variety of entertainment, a reading program and more. To learn more about USO San Diego, visit
Intake Coordinator

What is your role at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD?    
I am the intake Coordinator. Although that is my main role, I also have a small caseload of clients since I am an Associate Professional Clinical Counselor.
What is most rewarding about your job?   
Getting to play a part in giving back to this community. Coming from a military family myself, I have always wanted to work with active duty service members, veterans and their families. Being trusted to be part of someone’s journey to getting back to better really is an honor and it’s amazing to witness transformation. What makes being the Intake Coordinator so special to me is that I get to be one of the first people to help someone start this journey. Asking for help isn’t always easy, so I try really hard to help make that step as easy and welcoming as possible. 

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but many veterans and military family members may be experiencing holiday stress. What is your advice to them?  
Ask for help, no matter what it is. I would say that to anyone, anytime of the season. Take things one day at a time and trust the process. And don’t forget to laugh when you can. Laughter really does go a long way and I know that for me, a little laugh, even during my most stressful times, helps makes things feel a little bit better. 

What is something most people do not know about you?  
Honestly, I’m a pretty open person, so this is a little tricky. My favorite movie is "Lord of the Rings" (all three), but I’ll probably tell you this within our first conversation because one of my dogs is named after Samwise Gamgee. So I guess something people may not know is that I love building and working on things. For the past year, I’ve been renovating my house with my husband and dad and it’s been really great. One day I want to help restore an old American muscle car with them, too. Ideally a Firebird Tans Am. 

Describe yourself in one word.  
Having just entered the season of thanksgiving, many of us are thinking about ways we can support our relatives and friends, as well as our local veterans and military family members. Last month, as part of  Cohen Veterans Network 's (CVN) Veterans Day initiative, our Cohen Clinic joined in a campaign called #BeyondTheThankYou, which became a conversation starter on how we all can take steps beyond just saying the common gesture, "Thank you for your service," to those who have served our country.

CVN was interested in diving deeper into honoring veterans and asked veterans themselves how they felt about this phrase or what civilians can do and say to honor all who have served. So, they released its Veterans Day Survey 2019, which collected responses from 2,019 civilians, active duty, and veterans to find out deeper and more meaningful ways to honor our service members every day of the year. This time of year, as we celebrate the holidays, these tips could come in handy. Watch CVN staff    from around the country discuss how to go “Beyond the Thank You” by clicking  HERE . You may see a familiar face.

The CVN Veterans Day Survey 2019 was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Cohen Veterans Network from October 10-14, 2019 among 2,019 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 218 are U.S. Military Veterans Or Currently Serving. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
December 24 (Christmas Eve): 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
December 25 (Christmas Day): CLOSED
December 26 (Day after Christmas): CLOSED
December 31 (New Year's Eve): CLOSED
January 1 (New Year's Day): CLOSED
For immediate help, call the Veterans Crisis Line at  1-800-273-8255 and Press #1.

The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic
at Veterans Village of San Diego
8885 San Diego Drive, Suite 301
San Diego, California 92108

Phone : (619) 345-4611
Email :