Episode 021 – The Holladaze
A little booster episode to help you keep the Holidays from turning into the Holladaze.
Well, it’s that time of year.
I don’t know where you are in this world, where you’re listening from. Is it cold? Snowing? Decorated for the holidays? Or are you in a warm place with palm trees?
Are you traveling this holiday season? Are you holidaying in place? Are you huddled under the covers with the shades drawn; an emergent date scheduled for sometime in March?
I get it. The holiday season can be extremely stressful for so many. If you’re going through a rough patch, grieving the loss of a loved one, or in the grips of seasonal depression, you’re not alone. The Holiday Blues are for real.
So I’ve put together a little booster episode to help you keep the Holidays from turning into the Holladaze. Mother’s little helper… if you will, for when you’re hiding in the bathroom at your in-laws. Take your phone with you and give this episode a listen. I just might help.
Music composed by Oleg Fedak
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Until next time, be nice and do good stuff.
Well, it’s that time of year. I don’t know where you are in this world, where you’re listening from. Is it cold? Snowing? Decorated for the holidays? Or are you in a warm place with palm trees?
Whenever we get to this time of year, my mind reaches back to New York City at Christmas time. Rockefeller Center, lights on the lamp posts. Chunky sweaters and the smell of wood smoke on the crisp night air.
I wanna talk about the holidays. Are you traveling to see family? Are you holidaying in place? Are you huddled under the covers with the shades drawn; an emergent date scheduled for sometime in March?
I get it. The holiday season can be extremely stressful.
So I’ve put together a little booster episode. Mother’s little helper… for when you’re hiding in the bathroom at your in-laws. Take your phone and give this episode a listen. I just might help.
Last week, my American friends celebrated Thanksgiving, which has always been my favorite holiday. I know it’s not a happy day for our Native American community but for me… Thanksgiving isn’t about the pilgrims. It’s about being thankful and grateful.
As a musician in Nashville, none of us could travel home during the holidays because when other folks are on holiday, musicians are usually working as the entertainment. Back when people went to small music venues.
My house was the crash pad on Thanksgiving. I did the cooking and the doors were open from about 10 AM until 10 PM or whenever we just gave out. Everyone was welcome to stop by before their other commitments or after. I loved it.
Today is December 14th. We’re not even into the Holidays full swing and I just read a recent study that suggests 55% of Americans are already in the grips of the holiday blues.
The start of Las Posadas is just two days away on the 16th, Hanukkah on the 18th, then the Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s a couple of weeks down the road.
When it comes to the holiday blues, a lot of the triggers might seem obvious but some are not so obvious.
This time of year can be extremely painful for folks grieving the loss of a loved one, a broken relationship, or a divorce. Hard on the members of our military who can’t travel home to see family.
Last year, post-Covid lockdown, people couldn’t wait to reconnect and gather with family and friends. This year, with a tightening economy, people are feeling a different kind of strain. Some people just don’t have the money to participate the way they want.
Family conflict has risen in the ranks as one of the main causes of stress during the holidays. I talked about it in Episode 15 but I did some more investigating and here are some stats I found via Amy Morin’s fantastic website theverywellmind.com:
- 75% of people have concerns about conflict when it comes to their gatherings with family.
- 40% Expect conflict
Traveling can trigger anxiety, especially if you’re traveling with toddlers or adolescents, oh my God… it’s a nightmare these days.
People report having an amazing amount of stress caused by the pressure and expectations of gift-giving.
Disrupted routines: When you are staying in a hotel or with family, it’s really hard to stick to your normal routine. Mel and I just spent 6 weeks on the road staying in other people’s space and it was really difficult. Toss in the previous triggers and you can see where problems begin to arise.
Time off of work. This one is obvious. If you’re traveling, you’re going to incur expenses, not to mention missing a deadline or worse yet, having to remain connected and do check-ins while you’re trying to visit with family. That is a big one for us. We frequently find ourselves cramming in work after or before family gatherings.
I got curious and went back to look at just when all of this Holiday Syndrome started to see what the triggers were back then.
The farthest back I could find anything concrete was in 1941 when a young psychotherapist named Jule Eisenbud published a paper called, “Negative Reactions to Christmas.” Eisenbud’s paper basically put forth the premise that pre-existing distress could be attributed to the feeling of depression and anxiety and said it could be exacerbated by the holidays.
But he never actually suggested that the holidays themselves were the cause. And this, from a guy whose main area of study was mental telepathy.
After that, you have to jump to the 1980s to find regular, year after year, stories about Holiday Syndrome with one report claiming that nearly 70% of newspapers at the time would consistently report spiking suicide rates during the holidays. And that was a problem because if you dig further, you’ll find that suicide rates actually drop during the holidays. What does rise during the holidays is alcohol abuse and depression.
And finances have always been at the forefront. Social Media, which is a huge contributor to stress and anxiety these days, was a non-factor.
Along with social media, something else needs to be considered in the modern world analysis. Covid. I think post-Covid, any correlation to data from the days prior to the shutdown should be viewed with an asterisk.
In Episode 15, Family Practice, I talked about how curating the information we expose ourselves to has changed the family dynamic, specifically in the last ten years. In America especially, with all of the divisiveness, the holidays just become another block on an already overloaded stack.
Everything seems compressed and amplified.
Something else I talked about was Mo Gowdat’s book, Solve for Happy, and his assertion that managing expectations can do wonders for your happiness levels. Well, when I was putting this piece together, I found one word that came up over and over again when I was searching for ways to cope with the stress of the holidays.
It’s kinda cool and ironic how once you start looking for things, they appear and they are usually connected to some of the other things we might already know but fail to implement or just have trouble with.
When it comes to coping with the holidays, the first thing to dispense with might be forming expectations based on what happened in past holiday gatherings. I mean, all we have to go on is how it all played out before. The ghosts of holidays past.
You remember…that time Uncle Frank got drunk and dished all the lurid details about your Aunt Glady’s affair at the dinner table with your young nieces and nephews around, I could understand how that would cause some stress.
Or maybe you missed your connecting flight and had to spend the night in the terminal with two screaming kids and your angry partner?
That’s what I’d be thinking about going into this holiday. I wouldn’t want to leave the house.
But, maybe this year, if you’re traveling to see family…you actively talk yourself down and reset those expectations. Maybe you bolster your own defenses by calmly telling yourself that you’re not going to take the bait or get lured into a contentious discussion.
And… speaking for myself, I know all of this crap about the holidays yet, still feel like I have to remind myself every year. I say it a lot but I’ll say it again, I’m not telling you how to handle whichever holiday it is you celebrate. I’m confident you have the means within you to get through it.
But here are some thoughts on staying in front of the holiday blues this year. They help me and maybe they can help you too.
Cut back on the gifts. I know it’s hard. Other people might make more money than you. They are really good gift-givers. There’s a lot of pressure. But if you’re traveling home to see these folks, you’re the gift. If you want to do something really cool, make them a gift. I try to make my own Christmas cards. I do a quirky drawing and use watercolors or markers and every time it’s a big hit. People will love that you spent your time rather than your dollars.
Budget. If you are buying gifts for people, set your budget and don’t go over it.
Don’t overindulge. It’s really tempting to go overboard with sweets or alcohol during the holidays, especially if you are coping with a stressful family or work gathering. Walk away from the sweet table and don’t have that third Martini. Your system is already out of sorts. Try not to add to it.
Pay attention to your sleep patterns: Take it from me, I’m a horrible sleeper. I’m always playing catch-up. When you’re tired, you can’t function correctly. Little things become big things and get blown out of proportion. Managing your sleep routine is critical if you’re staying in other people’s space. Their bed is different. The pillow is different. They may keep the heat at 90 degrees. Or, like my mom, at 60 degrees.
Set Boundaries and learn to say No. Easy to say… very hard to do. BUT… you don’t have to attend every single work party or holiday gathering. People will understand if you decline because you need time to recharge.
Take breaks and plan your decompression:
I read a funny statistic that said, 3 hours and 54 minutes is the amount of time we can spend with family during the holidays before needing a break. 25% of the folks surveyed have hidden in a relative’s house while 37% have gone as far as to find a reason to leave the house altogether.
Guilty. My east coast friends will know exactly what I mean when I say, I’m going to Wawa for a coffee.
Seriously, everyone is different. If you’re in the grips of the holiday blues, ask for help. Don’t spend the holidays alone if you don’t want to. Many years ago, I spent a Christmas alone. It was after my divorce. I was embarrassed to see my family and friends so I shut myself in, and didn’t put up any decorations or attend any gatherings. It was horrible. I don’t think I’ve ever felt lonelier.
After all of this, I guess the takeaway… is to be kind to yourself.
As crazy as stuff appears out there on the mean streets, there is a lot of love to go around. If you need help, ask. If you have a little extra, spread it around.
Personally, I’m grateful for every one of you out there. Thank you for listening, for the comments, and the feedback. I wish you a very happy and safe holiday. I hope 2023 is full of love and joy. Take care of yourself and stay safe.
One more thing, if you’re hiding in the bathroom, you should probably get back to the shindig. People are gonna wonder where the hell you are.
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