OSI's holistic approach to mental wellness, holiday stress

  • Published
  • By Thomas Brading
  • OSI Public Affairs

For the Office of Special Investigations, an agency where law enforcement intersects with military service, resiliency is not just a concept but an element of mission readiness. As the holiday season approaches the importance of mental health increases and with it.   

OSI’s senior leaders are even more deeply committed to fostering a workplace culture that recognizes the need of mental health resources. 
"Seeking out mental health professionals is not a weakness; it's a part of our overall fitness for duty and mission readiness,” said Brig. Gen. Amy Bumgarner, OSI’s commander. “The bravest thing a person can do is to acknowledge when they need support.”
The holiday season amplifies any feelings you may be having -- positive or negative, said Maj. Kendra Ekundayo, an OSI board-certified clinical psychologist, who emphasized the continuum of care approach to mental health, and how important it is to take initial steps toward it. Even if it is just opening up to trusted individuals in addressing mental health concerns.
"The holiday season often brings a mix of emotions," Ekundayo said. "While it's commonly associated with joy, it can also be a challenging time for many, making it crucial to recognize and address both holiday stressors, and the things that bring you comfort or calm.
"A simple yet effective step can be reaching out to a trusted coworker or friend to share what you're going through," she added. "Such conversations with familiar and supportive people are invaluable in navigating the path to mental well-being."
According to Ekundayo, developing connection can be done through a variety of ways, such as through texting, phone calls, video chats, or in-person visits. It’s important to also make time to strengthen and build quality social connections especially to combat stress, loneliness, and social isolation during the holiday season.
"It's about identifying those individuals you feel more at ease to talk, and who can offer understanding and a different perspective," Ekundayo said. 
Beyond seeking support from loved ones or colleagues, Ekundayo added the importance of self-care, and suggested individuals to also focus on personal habits, like establishing healthy eating habits, engaging in regular exercise and following a consistent sleep schedule.
According to the Air Force Medical Service, experts recommend adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. 
“Unfortunately, it is all too common for people to take whatever is left for sleep instead of prioritizing the amount of sleep required to function optimally," she said. "To ensure good health and well-being, it's important to allow ourselves the necessary amount of time for sleep, and then consider other tasks to accomplish throughout the day."
Building on the concept of self-care, especially during the hectic holiday season, the Defense Health Agency recommends setting aside about 15 minutes each day for alone time, whether it's to unwind or indulge in a personal activity. 
"Even if someone gave themselves a few minutes to do some sort of mindfulness meditation or relaxation breathing, it can be helpful," she said. 
According to Ekundayo, something else to keep in mind is the importance of establishing personal and professional boundaries, especially during the holiday season when social interactions intensify, she said. 
"Consider what you need for your own well-being and make your expectations clear from the start," she added. This emphasis on clear communication and boundary-setting is crucial for maintaining mental health during busy and potentially stressful times.
"Assess what you need for your own well-being and be upfront about your boundaries," she continued. Such clarity in communication and boundary-setting is pivotal for maintaining mental health during potentially stressful periods.
Bumgarner reiterated OSI’s commitment to mental wellness. 
"As OSI works to protect the Department of the Air Force’s people and assets, we are dedicated to promoting a culture where mental well-being is prioritized,” she said. “Supporting each other enhances not just our individual resilience but also strengthens our collective force.” 
Editor’s Note: Please remember the following resources are always available to support you:
For military: 
The Military Crisis Line is available at all hours at 1-800-273-8255, press 1, or
access online chat by texting 838255; or Military One Source: 800-342-9647
For USAF civilians: 
The USAF Employee Assistance Program is also available for USAF civilian employees at 1-866-
For military and civilians: 
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 988 or 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
Crisis Textline: Text “home” to 741 741