Winter is Coming

  • Published
  • By SMSgt Paul Veles Jr.
  • 501st Combat Support Wing

With the recent reduction in daylight due to daylight savings, our days are getting shorter and our nights are becoming longer. Consequently, “Winter is Coming” and I’m not referring to the next season of Game of Thrones, but the arrive to work and go home in the dark, bone-chilling, is this darkness ever going to end, type of winter. Yet, as the cold winter months set in, it is imperative to our resilience that we counter the ill-effects of the “winter blues”. That said, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) lamps can reduce chemical imbalances and realign our circadian rhythm which is effective in countering winter blues; however, the lamps are not always available. Cardio workouts can help by increasing our energy levels, but if dragging yourself out of bed requires every effort in your body, staying in your warm bed might prevent that regularly scheduled gym session. Could there be an easier way to combat the winter blues, boost resiliency, and help each other push through the long winter months? Perhaps there is a way to tap into our “internal SAD lamps” by simply helping one another though, I’ll touch on that later.

Every First Sergeant is familiar with the term, “My Job is People…Everyone is My Business”. Our job is to deliver a mission ready force to our Commanders, which is accomplished by devoting our time and energy in taking care of Airmen. Whether in-processing a new Airman, responding to a 03:00 phone call, or coordinating an Airmen’s emergency leave in less than 12-hours, helping is our specialty. Helping others is meaningful, rewarding, and ultimately triggers the release of certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, known to contribute to feelings of well-being and happiness. These neurotransmitters can contribute to a condition known as “helpers high” which boosts energy levels, reduce our own stress levels, and simply put, makes us feel good! These feel-good hormones are constantly replenished as a result of serving others, strengthening our resiliency, which is why, for the most part, First Sergeants are always smiling (except for those 3 a.m. phone calls…no Shirt smiles for those).

Prior to becoming a First Sergeant, I would always hear Shirts mention how their job was the “best job in the Air Force.” I often wondered what kind of individual (in their right mind) would ever contemplate working long work hours, late night phone calls, and 24-hour/365 standby, and still refer to their job as the “best”? It wasn’t until several years later and after becoming a First Sergeant, that I truly understood why a Shirt can claim that. A Shirt’s job is to help Airmen, which continuously replenishes our feel-good hormones and naturally strengthens our resiliency. 

Now here is the best part, you do not need to display a Diamond on your sleeve to reap the benefits of a helper’s high. Anyone can assist another in need and unlock their own feel-good hormones, ultimately boosting their resiliency. This newfound resiliency can serve as an important foundation piece in pushing through the long winter months. In other words, the more you help others, the more resilient you become. The more resilient you become, the easier it will be for you to push through the long winter, helping others along the way.

So, whether you volunteer at the base post office during the busy holiday months or strive to be the best sponsor your new troop has ever had, there are endless ways we can tap into our feel-good hormones and activate our “internal SAD lamps.” These feel-good hormones may not drive us to Spring any sooner, however, they can solidify our resilience and assist us in becoming a beacon of light that shines through the dark winter months. After all, we are Pathfinders and Pathfinders Light the Way!