Holiday Stress – Podcast

By LifeStance Health on May 19, 2020

Dwight Thompson (00:08):
Hi, welcome to Reset Your Mindset by Life Stance Health. Myself, Dwight Thompson, and my cohost Nicolette Leanza will bring you conversations with leading Life Stance Health professionals who will help guide you on your journey to positive mental health and wellbeing. At Life Stance we believe in the three pillars of mental health, mental flexibility, mindfulness, and resilience.

Nicolette Leanza (00:36):
Today on our episode, we will be talking with Chloe [Booth 00:00:40] who will be discussing the topic of holiday stress. Chloe, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Chloe Booth (00:46):
I am a psychiatric nurse practitioner at our PsychBC campus in Louisville. I’ve been with PsychBC for about a year. I’m really enjoying it. Before that I worked in community health, so I was working with a lot of patients with schizophrenia and that kind of thing. And then prior to that, I was working mostly in women’s health. Now I’m seeing a combination of all kinds of things, so I really enjoy it. And then in my personal life, I’m a newlywed and a new mom, so going through some transitions at home as well, I think has helped me connect with some patients in some other ways, too.

Nicolette Leanza (01:32):
Got you. Because it’s coming up to be the holiday season, I’m sure your [inaudible 00:01:38] family have very specific traditions. And with those traditions of families getting together, we know stress and drama also comes about, right?

Chloe Booth (01:48):
Oh, yeah.

Nicolette Leanza (01:49):
With your clients, are they often coming to you and asking you for some ways to navigate some of the stress of the holidays?

Chloe Booth (01:56):
Oh, completely. And some people don’t even ask me, but I can tell that they’re more tense this year, more frazzled. And so, I ask how are the holidays for you? But yeah, absolutely. I’ve been having a conversation with almost all my patients about the holidays and they’re not always cheery and bright for everyone [crosstalk 00:02:21] here in the Christmas Carol [crosstalk 00:02:24].

Nicolette Leanza (02:22):
Right. Say that again.

Chloe Booth (02:25):
[crosstalk 00:02:25] they’re dark or depressing or stressful and feel like the Grinch, but I don’t think you’re alone if you feel that way.

Nicolette Leanza (02:33):
Right. It sounds like you probably do a lot of validating of them if they are saying how sad they’re feeling or depressed. You’re probably also validating those feelings.

Chloe Booth (02:41):
Yeah. And I’m sure you’ve been doing the same thing, but just you’re not the only one feeling this way and it’s okay if you’re not totally bought into the holiday spirit this year.

Nicolette Leanza (02:53):
Right. Say that again. And I think [inaudible 00:02:55] being up here in Cleveland, how a good portion of the year we often don’t get to see the lovely sun, and so you have a lot of the seasonal affective stuff going on.

Chloe Booth (03:06):
Oh, yeah.

Nicolette Leanza (03:07):
Down there do you get a little bit of the people feeling just around this time of year, just-

Chloe Booth (03:12):

Nicolette Leanza (03:12):
Whether too?

Chloe Booth (03:14):
Oh, absolutely. I don’t think it’s as bad as Cleveland, so I can’t imagine going through surviving a single winter up there. But yeah, a lot of-

Nicolette Leanza (03:25):
[crosstalk 00:03:25] into this.

Chloe Booth (03:27):
Yeah. And even if it’s not the snow and the ice it just gets dark so early. 4:30 it starts getting dark, so you feel like what have I done with my day? And so, a lot of people experience it even probably in warmer climates too.

Nicolette Leanza (03:43):
Right. I agree for sure. As we’re talking about this topic of tips for managing stress around the holiday season, I think we’re talking about getting together with families and some of the drama that can come with that. But if we just take it from a broader perspective of just this time of year, if you’re celebrating Hanukkah or Christmas or whatever, just the busy-ness of the season and if they’re shopping and all of that stuff. What would you offer to manage the overall stress of this time of year?

Chloe Booth (04:19):
That’s a really good question. I think that a lot of people, like you said, you get this idea that you have to do it all, that perfectionism. You want to host the perfect dinner, find your kids the perfect gifts. You want to try to appease every family member and their different dietary restrictions, different beliefs. Some people unfortunately feel like they have to be subjected to some unhealthy family dynamics. So yeah, it can be really hard just to manage those basic stressors. And I think that while it’s hard to do, trying to let go of that perfectionism-

Nicolette Leanza (05:10):
Yeah, that’s huge there.

Chloe Booth (05:12):
It sure is.

Nicolette Leanza (05:15):
[inaudible 00:05:15] what’s shown to us on the media and in movies, all the Hallmark movies, right?

Chloe Booth (05:20):
Yes, social media. I don’t think it would be a bad idea to take an Instagram cleanse or a Facebook cleanse during the holidays, because-

Nicolette Leanza (05:31):
Oh, I love that.

Chloe Booth (05:33):
You’re seeing somebody’s highlight reel. You’re seeing their kids are all lined up in their matching outfits and smiling. And then you look down, you’re in yesterday’s close still, and you’ve got spit up on you and your baby’s crying and you didn’t get that perfect picture. It’s hard not to feel bad about yourself or-

Nicolette Leanza (05:54):
Very true.

Chloe Booth (05:54):
Or seeing someone’s traditions on Facebook and thinking well, I wish my family had those cute traditions or I wish my family didn’t argue every time we got together. Well, their family has that weird drunk relative, just like your family does. They just didn’t put them on Facebook.

Nicolette Leanza (06:14):
Exactly. You hit a good point there of when we’re navigating social media and we’re comparing ourselves and our family to other people. People are putting their best foot forward. They’re not showing drunk uncle Louie in the corner [crosstalk 00:06:28].

Chloe Booth (06:30):
Yes, there’s a reason why they have the Saturday Night Live skit, the drunk uncle, because I swear every family has that relative.

Nicolette Leanza (06:38):

Chloe Booth (06:38):
But yeah, like you said, the comparisons can be really hard. Or if your family’s not together and you watched that Hallmark movie or you see those pictures of that cute little family unit and it can cause a lot of pain sometimes.

Nicolette Leanza (06:58):
Yeah. And that’s the key, I think that word pain, it can cause a lot of pain, especially if you’re already going into the holiday season with depression or anxiety symptoms going in. I think it just kind of jabs at that pain even more.

Chloe Booth (07:15):
Oh, 100%. Or what if you have been subjected to abuse before, emotional abuse or sexual abuse, physical, and a lot of people relive that during the holidays, especially if you have to be around family members. So, no wonder it’s so hard for a lot of people

Nicolette Leanza (07:41):
And to piggyback on that is also something I think about when I’m working with my own clients. If they’ve had a loss of someone around this time of year.

Chloe Booth (07:50):

Nicolette Leanza (07:52):
That’s another. It changes this time of year for them because it’s the anniversary of the loss, so I think that also puts another layer onto this time for a lot of people if they’ve lost someone during this time.

Chloe Booth (08:06):
Oh, 100%. If you’re grieving, and not even recently, if you lost someone 10, 20, 50 years ago, those anniversaries and holidays are extremely difficult. And you may feel like … You look around and you’re like okay, the family’s moving on, but I’m still really in pain here. Or how come nobody’s brought up my late husband?

Nicolette Leanza (08:35):

Chloe Booth (08:35):
It’s the elephant in the room.

Nicolette Leanza (08:37):
Exactly. And that’s then what spurs a lot of the family drama, especially if there is this elephant in the room that everyone’s ignoring. The person sitting with the pain is like, this is not good for me. This isn’t right.

Chloe Booth (08:50):
Oh, 100%.

Nicolette Leanza (08:51):
I think a lot of what we try to do as we’re working with clients during this time of year, I think is helping them reframe what they are thinking during this time of year. When they’re going in and having to be with their families and they’re ignoring the elephant in the room of them being able to switch around some of the thinking of I know this is how my family … dynamics, arguments this time of year. Maybe I shouldn’t take it so personal. I know a lot of what I’m doing with my clients is helping them reframe it to make it sound a little different than what they’re telling themselves back.

Chloe Booth (09:23):
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And I think that seeing a therapist during this time, if it can offer you that kind of perspective, or if it can offer you that safe place where you can get emotional and cuss and scream and have that safe place to express yourself is really key.

Nicolette Leanza (09:50):

Chloe Booth (09:50):
Yeah, I think that’s very important.

Nicolette Leanza (09:52):
And even if it’s not within a therapy office, hopefully the support of a close family or friends or a social network to that. I think that’s part of the hard part of the holiday season. If someone doesn’t have that close support network, there is that one person that you can confide in to just reach out to and talk to that could be at least helpful as well.

Chloe Booth (10:16):
Right. I hope that everyone has one ally and they can communicate ahead of time, like hey this is going to be a really hard year for me. If I need to go out for a walk, will you just go with me, or-

Nicolette Leanza (10:31):

Chloe Booth (10:32):
If I say the code word, will you make up an excuse so we can get the hell out of here? Because as much as you can prepare ahead of time is probably going to be the key here.

Nicolette Leanza (10:44):
I think you hit it on the head right there, is prepare. Open to setting things up for yourself so you are the most successful in how you navigate it. Hey, if things are getting too heated, hey, come on, let’s go for a walk. Or maybe I’ll just take myself for a walk. I think that’s so key that you brought that up Chloe, of just [crosstalk 00:11:05]

Chloe Booth (11:05):
Preparing ahead of time. If you’ve got that family member that it’s always painfully awkward thinking of conversation points, thinking about if politics get brought up at the dinner table and it upsets you, what you can do in that moment, what you can say. You may know that the kids are going to have their kid table, so maybe that’s when you need to get up and say, “I’m going to go check on the kids,” or something. Go watch football with the drunk uncle.

Nicolette Leanza (11:41):

Chloe Booth (11:42):
So, you can have that escape plan, your planning ahead, and just think through the scenarios in your head so that you don’t get stuck and become upset in that moment.

Nicolette Leanza (11:54):
Right. And if all else fails, if you’ve gone for walks and you’ve done your best to prepare and things are still really tough, I think the option is that if you need to distance yourself and actually maybe cut the night a little shorter than you [crosstalk 00:12:08]. It’s okay to set boundaries and being like okay, you know what? I did everything I could. And at this point in time, maybe because my boundaries are now being stepped over, and maybe it’s time for me to step away and maybe leave or something like that.

Chloe Booth (12:21):
Yes. And for some reason it’s so hard for all of us to set those boundaries and to be able to say, “You know what? I’m going to call it a night.” We don’t want to seem rude. We don’t want to offend anyone. But you have to take some type of [crosstalk 00:12:43] reclaiming your power and-

Nicolette Leanza (12:44):
Yes, that’s it right there-

Chloe Booth (12:45):
Setting boundaries is getting your power back. And if things are not going in a healthy way, if you are feeling distressed, then hopefully you’re able to say, “You know what? I need to call tonight.” And then you get out of there.

Nicolette Leanza (13:02):
Oh no, I love that. I think that’s great. I love that you said reclaiming your power, because that’s so key right there. I think a lot of times people go into family situations thinking they don’t have any power. They’re just trying to keep themselves together, duct taped together. And it is about reclaiming your power. I think that’s [crosstalk 00:13:21] you said.

Chloe Booth (13:21):
And like you said, setting those boundaries, which is really hard. That’s really important.

Nicolette Leanza (13:28):
I agree for sure. And shifting gears and as we’re talking about how to help people set the boundaries and reclaiming power and things like that, it’s also taking time to the place of gratitude of being appreciative for what is going right with the holidays or well, or things that people are really grateful for. Sometimes it’s hard to tell with families, like it just all feels dark and negative, but really when you dig a little deeper, you can maybe be really appreciative for somebody.

Chloe Booth (13:58):
Right. Taking some time to be mindful and appreciate some things, even though a lot of times if you are in that situation, you’ve got that negative heaviness. And that’s very common in depression, so it’s hard to see what is actually going right, and it’s hard to see at least this is a time we’re here, we got together. I’ve got this one thing and it’s even if it’s just a pet, then that’s what you focus on-

Nicolette Leanza (14:39):
Right. I agree. It’s just this picking out what you are grateful for. And if you had the best darn dog in the world and you’re grateful for your dog, great. It’s at least something.

Chloe Booth (14:48):
Yes. Oh hey, they’re better than a good family member.

Nicolette Leanza (14:52):
A lot of times, for sure. I’m sure there’d be a lot of people who agree with us on that one too. You brought up another keyword of just mindfulness and I know mindfulness is a very trendy word these days, but it’s so important. Mindfulness, in my definition of it is awareness, of tapping the brakes of life and maybe just really sitting with something. I sometimes do these mindfulness exercises of like, you know what. If you’re drinking a cup of tea, just mindfully drink that cup of tea. Smell it, take a sip of it, hold that sip in your mouth. It’s all about the awareness and just really being in the moment. That’s what I do with mindfulness. And as we talk about that for this holiday season in times that we can all be mindful, because we all … I know there’s going to be times in my holiday time here that I know I need to be mindful of myself and other people, and just taking that moment to be in the moment. Is that something you also practice in your life and trying to be mindful and things like that?

Chloe Booth (15:55):
Well, I don’t know. I’m not very good at it, but I try.

Nicolette Leanza (16:00):
We’re all on our own journey.

Chloe Booth (16:02):
Yeah. And honestly, for me, it’s kind of like I mentioned earlier, just you think okay, this is what I have to do for the holiday season. I have to get all of my Christmas decorations out, decorate the tree, get gifts for X, Y, and Z, wrap the gifts, family get togethers, get to church, do this, do that, get our outfits together, get our photos taken, get the Christmas card out. So, my mind automatically starts doing that from before Thanksgiving, I hate to admit. But that’s not being mindful. Then I breeze over Thanksgiving because I’m so focused on everything I have to do for Christmas and I’m not really enjoying the holidays that way. So, that’s how I think mindfulness pertains to the holidays. It’s just like, do we really enjoy them if we’re thinking about the next thing?

Nicolette Leanza (16:59):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And that’s perfect, and I really appreciate your genuineness of sharing how you tend to get swept up in all this and the that. And I know I do as well, so it’s true. Are we really being mindful and enjoying the holidays if we’re doing all of that? How do we just pump the brakes and be like okay, let me stop? What do I appreciate? What else can I … Breathe here and not [crosstalk 00:17:23] me so much. That’s the key. It’s easier said than done though, right?

Chloe Booth (17:27):
It’s easier said than done, yeah. And it’s a daily practice for me. It’s not like I flip a switch and suddenly I’m mindful. I’m just trying to-

Nicolette Leanza (17:37):
Wouldn’t that be awesome? Be like, boop, I [crosstalk 00:17:41] my mindfulness.

Chloe Booth (17:44):
That would be great. I would just love that, but it’s not like that.

Nicolette Leanza (17:46):

Chloe Booth (17:46):
And even just trying to be mindful of the meaning of the holidays for you, even if it’s not religious, maybe the meaning of the holidays is just togetherness. How can you put that in the forefront throughout the season, even if it is a more difficult year?

Nicolette Leanza (18:09):
Right. Well, let me say this. As we start to wind down our time, I want to just hit some of the highlights that we had talked about because I think we hit so many key points together.

Chloe Booth (18:20):

Nicolette Leanza (18:22):
The fact that you said a social media cleanse. Wow. I think another one of those easier said than done things.

Chloe Booth (18:28):
I think so too. And you can delete the apps from your phone. It’s not deleting your whole account and you can reactivate your Facebook and get it back. But yeah, if you can take a break. I feel better about just myself when I do that.

Nicolette Leanza (18:44):
Yes. No, I love that. And then you brought up another point of the perfectionism of trying to replicate what we see on the Hallmark movie, and that’s one of the ways we spiral down when we’re trying to get [crosstalk 00:18:56] perfect. I thought that was another key thing that you had mentioned. And then that trickles into how to reclaim your power. And I think part of how we reclaim our power is by setting boundaries with our family-

Chloe Booth (19:10):
Yeah, and boundaries don’t have to be a negative thing or a cold thing. That’s how you keep a relationship with someone.

Nicolette Leanza (19:20):
Good point right there. And then I think to wrap it all up is bringing in the mindfulness piece and stopping and taking a breath and being grateful and truly enjoying the holiday, as opposed to just rushing to the next thing to the next thing to the next thing, for sure. This has been such a delight to have this conversation with you, Chloe. I really appreciate it for sure.

Chloe Booth (19:44):
Thank you so much for having me. This has been-

Nicolette Leanza (19:45):
We’d love to have you again sometime, for sure.

Chloe Booth (19:48):
Yeah, that’d be great.

Nicolette Leanza (19:49):
And happy holidays to you.

Chloe Booth (19:51):
Happy holidays. I hope you enjoy them the best you can.

Nicolette Leanza (19:53):
I will. All right.

Chloe Booth (19:55):
Okay, thanks.

Nicolette Leanza (19:55):
Bye bye.