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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Caring For Our Mental Health During A Pandemic Holiday Season

Speaker 1: 00:00 This Thanksgiving officer's hall, a unique challenge. How to keep the focus on gratitude, even when under considerable stress, the pandemic has left. Many of us, either isolated and lonely, or on the other hand, overwhelmed by constant contact with the ones we love here to help us with insights on how to stay sane. And remember, the reason we are celebrating is David Peters, a marriage and family therapist who has a practice here in San Diego. David, welcome. Good to be with you. So now according to a CDC study, more than two in five Americans have said they're experiencing mental health issues associated with the pandemic. Almost half of us. How do you expect these stressors to show up in the coming holidays? Speaker 2: 00:43 Well, I, as I'm observing my clients, I find them to be short on attention short on temper, short on patients. People feel overwhelmed and their margins for relaxation are very, very small. Now people are experiencing the environment outside and the environment on television and in the media to be extra stressful. And I think it's, uh, shortening everybody's ability to relax and to be in a healthy connection with one another. Speaker 1: 01:18 Now, the survey also found that that certain groups are more effective than others. Talk a bit about who is finding this pandemic, the toughest and why. Speaker 2: 01:25 Yeah, well, unfortunately, while some of us are just finding a little bit of a loneliness in our home, while we sit home on the weekend, others are experiencing job losses, a threat of losing their apartment, that they're renting a threat of losing their house. And these are extraordinary stressors for the average family, black and Hispanic citizens around us are more, it'd be essential workers who are exposed to the virus and who are forced to continue working or first to lose their jobs. And so from both ends, they're experiencing extra stressors that are what we call existential threat to the family. Uh, otherwise those who are first responders, medical technicians, uh, doctors, nurses, they're experiencing extraordinary levels of stress coming home from long days and feeling low on hope, feeling low on energy, feeling that they're depleted. So yeah, some of us have minor disruptions such as myself. I continue to work, uh, online, continue to be in good health and there's not a threat, but for others this time is an existential threat, Speaker 1: 02:36 An existential threat. Talk about what's some of the people coming to you for help or telling you about how the holidays make them feel Speaker 2: 02:44 Well. For some they're finding that they have to spend their holidays away from loved ones for the first time where we had plans to be traveling and visiting family, or have come to see them many are finding themselves just going to be alone at home for the holiday. And that's very, very new for some people, uh, some are wishing they could, uh, be joining their family in another state and other city. And they're deprived of that opportunity. Uh, people are fatigued of finding their friends online or finding their friends by zoom video. And they want to join them. They want to have that gathering and this is leaving them feeling more isolated. We find that sometimes people spending time in zoom meetings with friends, find it unsatisfying. They, they don't get to hug their friends. They don't get to feel like they're really with them. And even that can be adding the sense of alienation, Speaker 1: 03:48 Right? That feeling of loneliness is tough, especially at Thanksgiving when you're expecting to be with other people. What would you say is the best way to approach feelings of isolation and loneliness? Speaker 2: 04:00 Yeah. For those who are unfortunate enough that they're spending Thanksgiving alone there, particularly my concern, I would say, make a plan for the whole weekend. Don't think about missing a holiday dinner. Think about what do I want to do with the entire weekend? And I'd say, make a list of people you'd like to spend some time with on the phone, make a list of those. You'd like to share a warm conversation with and make a plan for contacting each one of them go down that list. So every day, your spending time sharing, catching up, laughing, telling stories, whatever you can do for some zoom video or something will feel good for others. The telephone might be better, but don't spend this time just laying in front of the television or scrolling social media on your phone. Spend this time in as much connection as possible with your loved ones. Speaker 2: 04:57 Relationships are really, really important. But also I think for those who are at risk of depression and anxiety in this holiday season, it's really, really important to take care of your brain and take care of your body. So I tell people minimize the amount of alcohol you're using. Don't get lost in a cannabis fog. That's not going to help you take care of your sleep, make sure you're getting to bed in the dark and waking up in the morning and getting some exercise, good sleep and good exercise are some of the best preventions for depression and anxiety that we have short of medications. And so to really be thinking of what can I do, that's going to contribute to my health and wellbeing for a lot of people. You can get outside, especially those of us in San Diego County, you can go on hikes and you can go walk neighborhoods. Speaker 2: 05:49 You can, as long as you're staying away from crowds, you can be outdoors in a park. You can be exposing yourself to beauty at the beach and the mountains, and to do that allows you to feel more free, feel more active, and feel more connected to the world around us. And also I think it's important to be thinking of what can I do that it's creative. Can you spend time in an art project? Can you spend time trying new recipes, poetry, reading, or writing things that allow you to be creative. Things that allow you to feel yourself are those that are going to help you prevent depression and anxiety during this holiday? Speaker 1: 06:30 Let me ask you, should we be forgiving ourselves more this year? If we have a hard time, you know, feeling grateful and find ourselves getting irritated more easily? Yeah. Speaker 2: 06:39 Well, when times of stress, when I coach my clients is to practice compassion. Any of my clients will recognize, Oh, David's talking about compassion practice again, but it's really, really important to be practicing compassion for yourself and practicing compassion for one another. Particularly in this time where the politics has been so stressful, that politics has been nearly ugly between families and friends sometimes. And by practicing compassion. What I mean is forgiving people for their short temper for giving ourselves for our limited ability to reach out, uh, forgiving all of us and showing respect and care and gentleness for those around us, but showing respect and care for ourselves. Thank you so much. David go always good to be with you. Speaker 1: 07:27 Speaking with David Peters, a marriage and family therapist who has a practice here in San Diego.

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This Thanksgiving offers us all a unique challenge: how to keep the focus on gratitude, even when under considerable stress. The pandemic has left many of us either isolated and lonely, or, on the other hand, overwhelmed by constant contact with the ones we love.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments