Holiday Stress – Podcast

Woman in stress about Christmas holidays
By LifeStance Health on December 14, 2020

Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hi, welcome to Reset Your Mindset by LifeStance Health, myself, Dwight Thompson, and my cohost Nicholette Leanza will bring you conversations with leading LifeStance Health professionals who will help guide you on your journey to positive mental health and wellbeing. At LifeStance, we believe in the three pillars of mental health; mental flexibility, mindfulness, and resilience.
Speaker 1 (00:33):
Welcome back everyone, to another episode of Reset Your Mindset by LifeStance Health. Myself, Dwight Thompson and Nicki Leanza are joining you once again.
Speaker 2 (00:43):
Hi everybody.
Speaker 1 (00:44):
And really happy to bring back a previous guest of ours, Kim Hardy. Kim, welcome back. Thank you as always for taking some time with us and letting us pick your brain. For those that maybe didn’t hear you when you were initially on our podcast, tell us a little bit about you and what you do with LifeStance Health.
Speaker 3 (01:03):
I am the regional lead clinician for our West side offices here in the Midwest division. I am also seeing patients actively, so I also carry a caseload.
Speaker 1 (01:19):
Awesome. Well, you’re a phenomenal clinician and really happy to have you, and we’re happy just to get your feedback on something that a lot of people struggle with this time of year more than anything. We’re coming up on the holiday season, which in so many ways is such a special time and such a time for so much reflection and it comes with so much positive, but it would be naive to overlook some of the stressors that come with the holiday times and in such an unparalleled year too. So you got the holiday season in 2020, where we’ve already seen so much chaos. So in general, tell us a little bit about some basic tips that people can do to manage stress around the holidays.
Speaker 3 (02:05):
Well, I would most definitely say that some of the best tips right now would be to… For one, drop those expectations, what we thought or believed the holidays are supposed to be, perhaps taking a step back and looking at what those beliefs and values are, would be wise. Also, taking care of yourself, having some self-care is going to be paramount right now because we’re making a lot of decisions amidst unprecedented times and some of those decisions may not be popular with our family and loved ones. So making sure that we’re taking that time to take care of ourselves and to make these decisions for what’s best for us overall.
Speaker 2 (03:01):
[crosstalk 00:03:01] I agree for sure, Kim. I think what happens during this time is that we forget that it’s about enjoying the holidays, enjoying this time of year and that we very much forget to take care of ourselves and just kind of gets consumed by the stress. Why are we [crosstalk 00:03:14] going to add something to that?
Speaker 1 (03:15):
Yeah. So, some of the things that you’re speaking to… Tells me that… And you’re seeing this probably in your caseload, a lot of people tend to give so much of themselves and it sounds like almost exhausts themselves around this time of year. What are some ways that… What are some actual action items that people can take away that can play towards that self care and [inaudible 00:03:39] that you’re being the best version of yourself this time of year?
Speaker 3 (03:44):
I didn’t hear your question. I’m sorry you kind of went in and out.
Speaker 1 (03:46):
That’s okay. That’s 2020, we’re now… Everyone’s relying on technology, so we’ll get there. So, what are some action items that you would… Some recommendations that you can actually implement for folks to practice more self-care and making sure that they’re not wearing themselves thin this time of year?
Speaker 3 (04:06):
Well, some of the recommendations I’ve actually taken off of a worksheet called the Holiday Stress worksheet that I started utilizing back in 2019. And one of the things that they recommend is having a plan. Having a budget, say, for example, so on this budget, I may say, this is what I’m going to spend. That this is all I can do right now and not going over that. Or this is all I’m going to drink this year, I’m not going to go over that. And I’ve tried to share with my clients and most recently, that when it comes to that particular plan is helpful to understand where these challenges are for us. So like say mine’s may be that I’m around too much family or there’s too much contact with family. Then my plan is going to be focused on that instead of the alcohol or the eating or the money aspect of things. Something as simple as shopping from home, from my laptop versus going into the stores where I know what’s going to be stressful. So taking some of those things into consideration would be really helpful.
Speaker 2 (05:36):
I think that’s such an amazing idea of people being planful about it, instead of just kind of like… Just like saying willy nilly, we’ll see what just happens. It’s like do your best you can to manage what you can have this time, being planful, having a budget. I think having these conversations as well as thinking ahead and doing the best you can to plan, really can help manage people’s anxiety with that. So I think that’s…
Speaker 3 (06:03):
For sure it can and you know that’s actually part of the problem. A lot of people think that they have to jump right in, that they… It’s the holidays, everybody’s rushing about and there’s no time being taken to stop and consider what your needs are and the needs of your loved ones, quite honestly. So when we take that time to make a plan and be intentional where we’re taking that opportunity to take care of ourselves…
Speaker 2 (06:32):
I agree.
Speaker 3 (06:32):
… And it’s going to be super important.
Speaker 2 (06:35):
And for that to be seen as another way to take care of ourselves. I think when people think about care, they think very specific things, but being planful is another way of self caring and helping you manage your anxiety. So, that’s a great way of looking at it. You mentioned loved ones, which makes me think the stress and the drama that sometimes come about when we get together with our loved ones. And I know with the time of COVID, things are going to look a little different as we’re getting together with our loved ones, it’s going to hopefully be smaller gatherings, but can you give us some tips on how to navigate that potential family drama that can come up during this time of year?
Speaker 3 (07:14):
Most definitely keeping some healthy boundaries and those boundaries are derived from our values and our beliefs. And right now, those may differ from some of our family and our friends. So taking time to identify what those are, so if I don’t believe in a very large gathering, then I want to be able… Make sure that I communicate that with my family ahead of time. So, setting that seed or planting that seed ahead of time saying, Hey, look, we’re not going to be doing that, we’re going to be at staying home and it’s just going to be the two of us and understanding that that’s enough and that there’s not a lot of guilt around that.
Speaker 3 (08:03):
The other thing is when it comes to having a trauma history. Sometimes when we’re engaging in those holiday settings, emotions are high. There’s a lot of people around, we don’t always stop to think about how we can take care of ourselves in those moments. So, some of the things that I’ve recommended in the past is maybe carrying something to help ground yourself, like in your pocket or even having your partner or your parent, or a loved one, maybe come by every now and then pat you on your shoulder or squeeze your hand [crosstalk 00:00:08:51]
Speaker 2 (08:52):
Added reassurance from them.
Speaker 3 (08:53):
Absolutely. And letting you know that they’re there and taking that time to step away from the crowd, from the busyness, going into another room, stepping outside for fresh air, all of those things are ways that we can keep those healthy boundaries and at the same time take care of ourselves.
Speaker 1 (09:24):
So kind of shifting gears a little bit and looking at a more macro level of things, why are there.. We know, I mean, we have the statistics, we have the data, this is tangible. Why is it… Why is there such an excess, an increase in mental health issues around the holiday season?
Speaker 3 (09:44):
Quite honestly, I believe that those issues have always been there. And unfortunately we’re not practicing skills as a preventive measuring tool oftentimes. So, they go up more than likely because of the stress and those expectations [crosstalk 00:10:03].
Speaker 1 (10:03):
It’s just exacerbating something that’s there already.
Speaker 3 (10:07):
That’s already been there… And taking time to reflect on how we can put supportive people and tools in place ahead of time, can help us decrease that likelihood that things are going to get bad during this time of the year. Also, more parties, time around a lot of people, not really taking time to yourself because you’re rushing about trying to get the perfect gift. Situations like that have put us in a position where that anxiety is going to be high. And right now, there’s a lot of job loss. There’s a lot of illness, people are watching the news a lot and those things again are increasing that anxiety.
Speaker 1 (10:58):
Yeah, of course. There’s just a lot of anxiety with, for everything obviously with the pandemic that doesn’t need to be said. So let me ask you this. If you’re sort of looking around you and you know, that there’s people in your life and people within your family or your friends that tend to struggle, and you kind of are anticipating this, like you said, exacerbating an issue that you’re aware is there from a support system standpoint, what’s your recommendation how to be a good support system this time of year?
Speaker 3 (11:30):
The first thing I do is I try to enroll my leg as much as I possibly can to my loved ones. And I do check in on them. So I make those phone calls. I try and touch base, find out where people are at and I give them those reminders. And I give them that permission that I think a lot of people are looking for a lot of people under the… Will they need that permission that it’s okay to say no, and that no is a complete sentence. And that is okay.
Speaker 2 (12:04):
To add to that, what I see with some clients is that they’re overly empathetic. They’ll take on everybody, else’s problems and feelings and, and struggles. And so that then weighs them down. So, you know, jumping back to boundaries, setting that boundary for yourself, where you are maybe seeing no. So you’re not overspending yourself. And I think that’s definitely what you’re alluding to Kim. Good suggestion and very important. And that’s firm.
Speaker 3 (12:26):
Yes. There’s a, there’s actually a saying that if I feel like I need it… If I feel like I need an extra heart, that I’m being too empathetic, that’s a time to step back and take a look at, are these my feelings, my emotions that I’m carrying or do they belong to someone else?
Speaker 1 (12:49):
Thank you for, for these tangible items, which I think is very helpful with navigating these times. Because I do think it’s important to normalize that these issues do arise within, during the holiday season. And it’s… If you’re not being realistic about them and being sort of oblivious to them, you’ve missed to do so. And one piece that I think is interesting is thinking about, I know in the worksheet that you alluded to, that you use, when I looked at worksheet over, there’s a piece in there talking about issues in the past that you’ve had, because again, the holidays, it’s so family centric and issues that in the past that you maybe have had with a family member, they don’t just disappear around the holiday times, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to co-exist in the same environment. If you’re comfortable, if that’s within your boundary, how do you navigate that kind of situation in that dynamic where there’s a history of some conflict, but you know, that you might be in the same place at the same time?
Speaker 3 (13:49):
Well, from my experience and the recommendations I’ve given my clients in the past, it’s been again to set those boundaries. So say for example, if you know, a certain families members going to be present for dinner, you could potentially arrange time to be with that family prior to that person coming. It doesn’t have to be dinner. You could arrange to say, well, you know what, we’ll stop by on Christmas eve instead of Christmas day, or we’ll stop by for brunch versus dinner. Sometimes… Most of the time we quite honestly have to stop and think about our needs and how we may be responding to certain… I’m so reluctant to call them triggers because from a trauma viewpoint, they can… They’re honestly emotional responses and our body is normally where they’re supposed to be doing in those circumstances.
Speaker 3 (14:55):
So when these things happen or we’re aware again, complete that worksheet, you’re taking a look at how you have responded in the past and what that has looked like. So now I’m going to make those changes moving forward. I’m not going to continue to do the same thing that I’ve done that before and the year before that. I have to be very clear as to what I’m going to allow, what I’m not going to allow in my life in order for me and my family having to have an enjoyable holiday.
Speaker 1 (15:24):
And that’s really helpful too. And I think something that… I know that we’ve talked quite a bit about on this podcast is just the piece of being kind to yourself, you know, being patient, we way back in March, we’re talking about, everyone’s facing this quarantine and it’s a new territory for everybody and just be kind to yourself and be patient with yourself. And I feel very strongly about that. And I think that you do did a good job of speaking to that of. Kind of go at your own pace for lack of a better way of putting it, making sure that you’re in that… Within that boundary that you set for not only yourself, but with your family members.
Speaker 1 (16:04):
And so I appreciate that. So the other thing though, that I think is interesting is there are… There’s so much positive that comes with the holiday season and maybe some past holidays. Can you talk a little bit about something that I feel a lot of people will struggle with? Is this going to be the first holiday, perhaps without a loved one and that can be uncharted territory. How do you approach that with your clients and having that discussion?
Speaker 3 (16:31):
Well, what would I have recommended in the past is that clients take the time to take a look at what those holidays have looked like in the past and ways to still incorporate that person into their lives. Again, a lot of that’s going to have to do with what those beliefs and values are surrounding loss and surrounding grief, and even what your spiritual or your religious values or beliefs may be. So, in many cultures or some cultures, I won’t say many. In some cultures, it’s still setting a place at the table for that person, or perhaps doing something as far as a memorial for them on that day and making something that was their favorite dish. I think I heard that recently.
Speaker 1 (17:22):
Sure. Keeping up with those traditions. [crosstalk 00:17:23]
Speaker 3 (17:25):
Yeah, absolutely. So, when you may have normally have had a cake on their birthday, say for example, you might make their favorite dish during the holiday, or maybe even write a letter or trying to remember them that day in a positive light for sure.
Speaker 2 (17:49):
I think that could definitely help with the healing process when it comes to grief, especially during this time that remembering the person can be such a painful time, especially if you lose someone during… Around this time and if it’s the anniversary of a loss. So I liked that idea of like honoring them in some way and keeping up the traditions. I think that’s very important Kim.
Speaker 2 (18:17):
So Kim, those people who are maybe struggling with some significant depression, either during this time of year or just in general, and maybe one of those symptoms they tend to struggle with most is that they tend to really withdraw and isolate. What feedback would you give people who are struggling with significant depression, especially if they tend to isolate or withdraw from others.
Speaker 3 (18:38):
So, referring back to the Holiday Stress worksheet, some of the tips that they recommend is inviting others to get together with you, understanding the difference between being proactive versus being reactive, emotionally, constantly on edge, constantly giving it back to someone and staying active. My concern with that though, is that we have to be very intentional as to who we choose to be in that circle with us. So if I’m going to choose someone, who’s going to be a good support person, I want someone that’s going to meet those needs that I need met, and that they’re not going to be coming necessarily with their ideas that may not be a good fit for me at the time.
Speaker 2 (19:31):
So what should people do then if that’s the case where, they’re trying to select their small circle around them, but there is a person that is more about getting their own needs met and maybe not meeting our emotional needs. What would you say to navigate that?
Speaker 3 (19:48):
Well, again, understanding what your beliefs or your values are. So if I know that during the holidays, I’m really anxious and I get easily upset when a family member may bring up something I did in the past as a kid, let’s say, for example, then I’m going to make sure I have someone around me or even a friend that I know kind of gets my point of view, perhaps texts me at certain times…
Speaker 2 (20:21):
I like that.
Speaker 1 (20:21):
I like that too.
Speaker 3 (20:23):
[inaudible 00:20:23] or they could… Like if I take somebody with me, if I have my partner or my spouse, they’re going to go with me to these family events, maybe practicing even like a meditation with me before I sit down with my family or holding my hand or having me walk out of the room with them or me, those breaks again, they’re going to kind of cover for me or they’re going to at least be that support person where they’re going to empathize with me, understand where I’m coming from and that they’re not going to ridicule me or make it worse.
Speaker 2 (21:05):
Sounds like it’s helpful to have like a little bit of a cheerleader, to kind of help support words…
Speaker 3 (21:11):
[crosstalk 00:21:11] Or absent…
Speaker 1 (21:12):
…And not not only that, I like how much you’re encouraging people to allow yourself to be a little vulnerable, allow yourself to recognize that vulnerability and recognize that that support is needed. And that it’s okay to need that support.
Speaker 3 (21:26):
Yes. And telling them what you need.
Speaker 1 (21:28):
Speaker 3 (21:29):
[crosstalk 00:21:29] don’t think that right. Don’t think that your support people know what you need, tell them what you need.
Speaker 2 (21:34):
So important.
Speaker 3 (21:37):
There’s no guessing.
Speaker 1 (21:38):
Love that. So Kim, to kind of wrap up here a little bit, I do think it is important, nonetheless, for us to also be mindful of all of the positive things that come with the holiday season. I think that kind of helps with our mental health in general and our overall mood. And it allows us to be thankful and allow the season to have a positive impact on us because it does have the potential to do that. What are some of the things that you find special about this time of year, especially about the holidays and stuff like that.
Speaker 3 (22:15):
Well, I find being able to go see lights, being able to buy those scented pine cones and have [inaudible 00:22:27] house, that has been fun and also having some quiet time. For me, the holidays have always been about quiet time. I come from a large family of eight. So I have found that when I have those moments of solitude at home, before I go to see my family is probably some of the best moments. Not because I don’t want to engage with them, but that’s my opportunity to reflect on what has gone well throughout the year. So that’s another thing that I find positive. Those moments of reflection and what can I change and how can I move forward in the new year? This time of year can be whatever we decide that we want it to be, but it’s most definitely a time of renewal, especially a missed coach. What not a better opportunity to step back and take a look at what has gone well and what we can do even better in 2021.
Speaker 1 (23:33):
Well said, easy to take some things for granted. So, that’s very well said.
Speaker 3 (23:38):
Thank you,
Speaker 1 (23:40):
Kim, thank you so much for joining. Been incredibly impactful and you’ve had this so much great insights. So I know I appreciate it.
Speaker 2 (23:49):
As well as I Kim. As well, you’ve provided a lot of great information for a lot of people to carry forward and have some extra tips now on how to navigate this difficult time for some people and to make sure we’re working on it to be more responsible for ourselves during this time. So [inaudible 00:24:06]
Speaker 3 (24:07):
I appreciate the two of you and all the work that you do. And I can’t wait to hear everything that’s coming from this podcast and actually appreciate it.
Speaker 1 (24:15):
Thank you for listening as always our podcast reset your mindset can be found on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Anchor, or wherever you get your podcasts. For more information on our practice, or to schedule an appointment, please visit staging.lifestance.flywheelsites.com. That is staging.lifestance.flywheelsites.com.