What to do if the 'holiday blues' strike
Speaker 1: (00:13)
Chest nuts, roasting on an open fire act,
Speaker 2: (00:21)
Frost sniping. By now we've heard that song a few times, wafting over the speakers at the store. I know I have, and it's one that always fills me with sadness. It makes me long for Christmases that have long past, and the nostalgia hits deep, especially this year. As we finish out year two of the pandemic, these so called holiday blues are part of the season for many of us. And in the week leading up to new year's Eve, these feelings can start to feel well, a little heavy here to help us parse out. Some of those emotions is Seanette Smith, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a senior specialist at sharp Mesa Vista outpatient and sharp McDonald old center. Welcome Ette.
Speaker 3: (01:03)
Hi, thanks so much for having me. Why
Speaker 2: (01:05)
Exactly do so many people feel a sense of sadness during this time of year? What is it about the holidays?
Speaker 3: (01:12)
Yeah, that's a great question. The holidays can be really bittersweet from people's overwhelming schedules to work deadlines, to loss. And we have seen a lot of that in the last year. Gloomy days. We don't have many of those in San Diego, but definitely as of most recently, we've seen several gloomy days. Uh, people also suffer from a lack of time or in the case of the pandemic sometimes too much time. Um, financial pressures gift giving, losing the spirit of the holiday season, family gatherings. We know family gatherings can be really stressful because of family dynamics. But now you add in COVID and people are stressed about family gatherings because we don't know where people have been. So we're just really overwhelmed with those things recently.
Speaker 2: (02:01)
What are signs that you might it be experiencing these so-called holiday blues? How does it actually manifest in our bodies and the way we're thinking and the way that we're interacting with our family and friends,
Speaker 3: (02:11)
It really shows up a little differently for everyone. I wanna give that disclaimer, first and foremost, we all feel things in the way they manifest in our, uh, emotional space and physical can look a little different. So I want people to be aware of that, but generally speaking, uh, these symptoms manifest with fatigue. We are a lot more tired than normal, or we can feel a little snacky or irritable. We can withdraw, you know, the way we withdraw looks different for everyone, uh, frustration and sadness, anxiety, just the general overwhelm. And then sometimes we can really lean too far in because we're trying to combat that overwhelm and that stress,
Speaker 2: (02:56)
Right? I think in past years when there was less restrictions, people kind of did that more often, right? It was easy to keep busy, to just keep going from party to party, you know, shopping trip to shopping trip. That's less possible during the pandemic. You mentioned that we all maybe have a little more time on our hands. So how can people check in with themselves, address their feelings if they do bubble up, what's kind of a process they can do to do these type of personal check-ins know
Speaker 3: (03:21)
That self I'm gonna say that. That is one of the biggest things that I tell people is really know and understand yourself and what you're feeling, what you're experiencing and lean into that. Don't be afraid to feel the feelings of sadness. Don't be afraid to acknowledge it. And I think that's one of the biggest concerns for many of us is that we know what's happening, but we don't want to feel it. We wanna stuff and push those feelings away. So lean in because the further you try to lean out those feelings will really sort of chase you. If you are withdraw from family or friends or, you know, whether that's on zoom or an actual, maybe weekly dinner that you have with your circle, your cohort, if you will, under this pandemic, notice that and check in with yourself and try to combat all of the anxieties that you're having, not to necess necessarily make them go away or quote unquote better, but really just checking in with, is there truth to this? Is there fact in this, or is this my emotion getting the best of me? You
Speaker 2: (04:33)
Know, it can feel so isolating to not feel cheery. We all kind of wanna perform for one another. So, you know, you're bringing something, let's not run away from feelings as they bubble up, but rather kind of embrace and manage them. So how can people communicate what's going on with them to their loved ones, to their friends, to their coworkers and on the flip, how can people show up for their loved ones if they are going through a hard time, what are some tips to help people
Speaker 3: (04:59)
Hacking in with each other? I see think is, is the, the best tip, checking in with yourself, checking in with each other, not being afraid of that. I think if I can say something good that has come from this pandemic is the recognition of mental health and the need for good mental health sound, mental health over the last 12 months, 18 months, really, uh, we have seen an influx in people reaching out for supports for themselves as well as other people. So if you are feeling down, don't be afraid to say that, tell your friends, your family, your loved ones, Hey, I'm just really not in the mood today. I need a mental timeout and it's okay to that to yourself. You don't wanna live in that space for too long for the person wanting to check in on someone, really taking a stance of not being afraid to ask the question, how are you? And when that person says, okay, dig a little deeper and say, well, what does that mean today? What do you need today? How can I support you today?
Speaker 2: (06:02)
The past two years have been marked by so much loss, the loss of loved ones, as well as the loss of any sense of what a normal life was. The holidays can really bring up our sense of grief. It really brings it to the surface. What can people do to a process this kind of grieving that might be kind of bubbling up as well?
Speaker 3: (06:21)
The process of grief looks different for everyone. Um, and studies show that the more you talk about the loss, that is how you best grieve it because you're really talking yourself through the emotions, through, through the ups and downs of any loss, the loss of a job, the loss of a loved one, the loss of your identity. Uh, and we have all seen a little bit of that loss in identity under COVID. We have also found some great things in this time. And so really having a balanced outlook on this, that yes, while something or someone is missing from the equation, there are lots of great and positive memories. So really taking a balanced approach to your thought process and really letting yourself just feel,
Speaker 2: (07:15)
You're making me think of this kind of great line from Disney's w division, which is what is grief, but love persevering. And what I'm hearing from you is kind of embrace that, reframe it, what is grief, but if not the, the sign that there was loved ones,
Speaker 3: (07:30)
Memories can never be taken from us. And I encourage everyone to rely on that, to sit in that space and remember the good and remembering comes with some not so great. Um, we are going to have memories that make us sad or memories that anchor us or frustrate us. And that's okay, because that is the sign that there was something there like you,
Speaker 2: (07:59)
Do you have any recommendations, activities or rituals, especially for folks who haven't been able to gather together or are maybe spending a very different type of holiday this year to help us create, you know, a new type of holiday experience and holiday expectation.
Speaker 3: (08:14)
Yeah, I do. we rely really heavily, I think on sure. Ions and we can absolutely make new traditions. And under this pandemic, maybe it's worth creating some new traditions, exploring new opportunities, options for us. I I'm gonna share a little bit of a personal story in that. I had an exposure, um, over this Chris Smith break and I was not able to engage with my family the way that I wanted to. And so I had a moment of sadness in that I sat and I wallowed a bit and I felt sorry for myself. And then after, you know, probably like two hours of me giving myself the space to just feel the frustration that I was feeling I decided to get up. And I went out for a walk by myself with my mask on, and then I did some self care and I did a facial and a hair mask. And I did my neck and my toes, and I listened to a whole book and I was really able to move myself out of that space. And the reason I share that is because we are going to have many of these moments over the next couple of weeks, especially as we tread into this new year and rates have increased. So a balanced dynamic for yourself, create new traditions, create various ways that you can engage yourself as well as your family. Different doesn't mean bad. I've been speaking with
Speaker 2: (09:48)
Seanette Smith, a licensed marriage and family therapist. Thank you so much. Thank you.
The holiday blues are part of the season for many of us and in the week leading up to New Year’s Eve these feelings can start to feel heavy, especially as we finish out year two of the pandemic.
"The holidays can really be bittersweet from people's overwhelming schedules to work deadlines to loss and we've seen a lot of that in the last year," therapist Shanette Smith said.
"Gloomy days..., people also suffer from a lack of time or in the case of the pandemic, sometimes too much time. Financial pressures, gift giving, loosing the spirit of the holiday season, family gatherings. We know family gatherings can be really stressful because of family dynamics, but now you add in COVID and people are stressed about family gatherings because we don't know where people have been."
Smith, a marriage and family therapist and senior specialist at Sharp Mesa Vista Outpatient and Sharp McDonald Center, joined Midday Edition on Tuesday to help us parse out some of the emotions that come up during the holiday season.
She said the holiday blues show up differently for everyone, but fatigue, feeling irritable, withdrawing, feeling frustrated, sad, anxious and/or overwhelmed are common signs.
The goal isn't to run away or combat those emotions when they bubble up. Instead, Smith recommended recognizing your feelings and checking in with yourself and others.