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Military spouses connect during holiday season through POTFF mindful retreat

Military spouses connect during holiday season through POTFF mindful retreat

A spouse, left, of a member assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing, stationed at RAF Mildenhall, and Sara Suzanne Hansen, right, a peer network coordinator for POTFF, participate in organised education time during a spouse retreat Dec 12, 2018, in York, England. The retreat was hosted by key members from 352nd Special Operations Wing Preservation of the Force and Family program, and served as an opportunity for spouses to fellowship as well learn how to be more mindful during the holiday season. (Photo by U.S. Air Force 1st Lt Kevyn Stinett)

Military spouses connect during holiday season through POTFF mindful retreat

A spouse of a member assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing, at RAF Mildenhall participates in an organised education time to reflect on an assigned book and answer a series of introspective life questions during a spouse retreat Dec 12-13, 2018, in York, England.The retreat was hosted by key members from 352nd Special Operations Wing Preservation of the Force and Family program, and served as an opportunity for spouses to fellowship as well learn to be more mindful during the holiday season. (Photo by U.S. Air Force 1st Lt Kevyn Stinett)

Military spouses connect during holiday season through POTFF mindful retreat

A spouse, left, of a member assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing, stationed at RAF Mildenhall, and Sara Suzanne Hansen, right, a peer network coordinator for POTFF, participate in organised education time during a spouse retreat Dec 12, 2018, in York, England. The retreat was hosted by key members from 352nd Special Operations Wing Preservation of the Force and Family program, and served as an opportunity for spouses to fellowship as well learn how to be more mindful during the holiday season. (Photo by U.S. Air Force 1st Lt Kevyn Stinett)

YORK, England -- The holiday season can sometimes be the most hectic time of the year for most people as they are usually busy shopping for the “perfect gift” for friends, family and co-workers.

To help combat some of the holiday stressors, key members from 352nd Special Operations Wing Preservation of the Force and Family program arranged a spouses only retreat to York. This retreat doubled as an opportunity for spouses to pause and reflect on their purchases, as well as community building.

POTFF, is a special operations command initiative that brings a holistic approach to address the pressure on the Special Operations military force and also the increased stress on the operators' families.

“We wanted to provide some perspective on material connection,” said Sara Suzanne Hansen, peer network coordinator for POTFF. “Going into the holiday season when you are doing a lot of shopping for gifts, home and decorating, we wanted people to be a little more mindful in their spending.”

Spouses were given a book days prior, to set the theme of mindfulness for the retreat and give the spouses a chance to meet.

“We provided a pre-retreat for this event to open the door to what we would be discussing more in depth during this event,” said Hansen.

The two-day retreat included a bus ride to York to explore the city, Christmas markets and a entrance to Castle Howard. During the three-hour bus ride, spouses participated in an organized education time to reflect on the assigned book and answer a series of introspective life questions.

“Even if the women didn't read the book, they were still excited about it being a pretty relevant topic,” said Danielle Cain, Key Spouse Leader for the 352nd Special Operations Wing, based out of RAF Mildenhall. “It’s really great to be mindful and introspective, especially for myself, a momma of three who also works. This was an amazing opportunity to just think about what I want from life and to realize what sparks joy.”

Additionally, the spouses were also asked to bring in one item from their home that they had been holding onto. This was used as a symbol for letting go and making space, spiritually, physically and mentally.

“The education was meant to provide a platform for the spouses to be vulnerable with each other and openly discuss and explore things that doesn't come up in normal conversation, explained Hansen. “The idea of tidying up your space and being mindful about what you surround yourself with is so much further reaching than just the idea of getting rid of a couple things in your closet.”

Tricia Wolanin, a POTFF clinical psychologist for the 352nd SOW, said one of her favorite aspects of her role is the community aspect because it creates a sense of intimacy that people may be lacking in their everyday life.

The POTFF team intends to continue future retreats and educational workshops for service members and their families to provide the opportunity to create social bonds as well as provide methods for being reflective.

“I think people crave community and when that’s created, they gravitate back towards it. We want to not just create that community for these spouses but also facilitate that continuation for them,” said Hansen.

To sign up for more of these opportunities, and how you can help or be helped, call the POTFF office at 07450212831 or email 352sow.potff@us.af.mil.