Holidays

From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Holiday Stress

When the Holidays Aren’t So Merry—Making it Through the Season

“What’s wrong with me?” my patient (fictional) asked, shredding the tissue in her hands as she wept on my couch. “Shouldn’t this be a happy time of year? Why can’t I feel Christmassy and jolly?”

And she is not alone. When you think of all of the people who are grieving and/or going through their first holiday season after divorce, widowhood, or the loss of a loved one, you realize that the memories can make the holidays more painful than happy at this time of year. Add to that the additional stress the season brings in the form of activities, shopping, and school events—well, you can see the problem. It’s like adding that last too-much drop of water to an already overflowing bucket.

What to do? If you are experiencing loss this time of year, your goal is this: to make it through. This is not the time to fill your chore list with handmade gifts (or gifts at all—who’s going to blame you this year?) or high stress dinners. If ever there was a time in your life to put you (and your children, if any) first, this is it. Exercise your “say-no” muscle with a firm and assertive smile and pass on committees, obligations, and entertaining. The people who might judge you—and believe me, there are fewer than you imagine—are simply not worth a second thought.

When the memories and tears come, allow them. What we resist, grows stronger, so don’t fight the feelings that arise. Tears actually expel cortisol, a stress hormone that is damaging to the body and needs to come out in order for you to be healthy.

Ask your friends and family for what you need this year, specifically. Do you need help making decisions? You probably have at least one friend who would love to help you. Do you need people to just listen to your grief without advising you? Tell them that you really just need an ear, not a response, from them.

These are just a few ideas; you know best what helps you stay strong. Just remember that you WILL make it through. Rest, heal, and wait for better days.

From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - When the Holidays Aren’t So Merry

When the Holidays Aren’t So Merry—Making it Through the Season

“What’s wrong with me?” my patient (fictional) asked, shredding the tissue in her hands as she wept on my couch. “Shouldn’t this be a happy time of year? Why can’t I feel Christmassy and jolly?”

And she is not alone. When you think of all of the people who are grieving and/or going through their first holiday season after divorce, widowhood, or the loss of a loved one, you realize that the memories can make the holidays more painful than happy at this time of year. Add to that the additional stress the season brings in the form of activities, shopping, and school events—well, you can see the problem. It’s like adding that last too-much drop of water to an already overflowing bucket.

What to do? If you are experiencing loss this time of year, your goal is this: to make it through. This is not the time to fill your chore list with handmade gifts (or gifts at all—who’s going to blame you this year?) or high stress dinners. If ever there was a time in your life to put you (and your children, if any) first, this is it. Exercise your “say-no” muscle with a firm and assertive smile and pass on committees, obligations, and entertaining. The people who might judge you—and believe me, there are fewer than you imagine—are simply not worth a second thought.

When the memories and tears come, allow them. What we resist, grows stronger, so don’t fight the feelings that arise. Tears actually expel cortisol, a stress hormone that is damaging to the body and needs to come out in order for you to be healthy.

Ask your friends and family for what you need this year, specifically. Do you need help making decisions? You probably have at least one friend who would love to help you. Do you need people to just listen to your grief without advising you? Tell them that you really just need an ear, not a response, from them.

These are just a few ideas; you know best what helps you stay strong. Just remember that you WILL make it through. Rest, heal, and wait for better days.

From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Exercise and Mental Health

This time of year in South Florida, many people find themselves a little blue, or even outright depressed.  From shorter days to the memories of holiday seasons past, it can be a tough time for many.  One solution:  workout!  This is a great article on the value of exercise during the holidays, written by fitness trainer Michael Shaw:

"Typically this time of year I tend to write about all the good things about the holidays and all the positive things we can all do with our families. I stand by all the advice I’ve given, but this year I want to discuss the elephant in the room: Holiday Depression. As much as many of us would like to shrug it off, the truth is that depression this time of year is very real.

There can be any number of triggers that bring it on: stress in spending money you don’t have; missing relatives who are no longer with us; spending time with people you don’t want to see; feeling hopeless; or a combination of these things. Folks who are suffering from clinical depression may feel an exacerbation of anxiety and sadness from a pre-existing condition, but others go through this illness during holiday time (Thanksgiving to New Year’s). Pictured with this article is Steven, one of the fitness models I manage, representing the frustration and sadness that holiday depression can bring on.

You all know my feelings about the importance of exercise and the role it can take in our mental and physical well-being. In the case of holiday sadness, combining the mental with the physical can make a huge difference. For example, in the morning take deep breaths and focus on either clearing your mind or on a memory that’s bound to make you smile. Taking deep breaths relieves stress and triggers relaxation.

The next thing is utilizing the outdoors. Taking a walk during the morning or the day will provide sunlight and cool air, the combination of which increases endorphins, allowing us to feel better and bring us a little happiness. Jogging or running will additionally help by increasing the heart rate, burning calories, and relieving additional stress.

Another important thing is doing exercises that require us to use our brain. For instance, doing multiple exercises in a circuit like squat and press, kettlebell swings, and barbell presses requires our brains to stay aware and in the moment. The act of using our brains can relieve stress and give us purpose. In context, if we compare doing exercises like those I mentioned to simply running on a treadmill, you can see how easily it would be for our minds to wander during the treadmill exercise, versus keeping our brains sharp during compound exercises.

Including active rest is also important. Active rest is typically light exercises that don’t directly involve specific muscle groups. In the general sense, vacuuming, cleaning the house, raking the lawn, doing construction around the house are all examples of active rest. In the holiday sense, this could be delivering meals to the homeless, spending the day walking and talking with someone who is all alone, or collecting canned goods for those in need.

Obtaining a sense of purpose and helping others are good ways to combat Holiday Depression. Another thing that can help is strength training. Doing light resistance training with dumbbells and body weight can improve our bodily strength as well as our mental strength.

Yoga is another exercise that helps depression.  Many of you know how I feel about Yoga. Its benefits can never be overstated. It protects the body from injury, increases flexibility and strength; and improves respiration, energy, and vitality. Yoga can also help with weight loss and keeping a good and balanced metabolism.

There really are a number of different ways for us to help ourselves and those we know who are suffering from holiday sadness. For anyone whose depression is more severe, assistance from your doctor, which may include taking specific prescriptions and working with a therapist or counselor, is the proper way to go. That doesn’t exclude exercise, as many doctors would still want you doing light to moderate exercise.

The holidays are a wonderful time of year. Imagine it without all the sales marketing, “It’s a Wonderful Life” type movies, and dozens of people you know talking about presents and shopping. Different right? Stripped down to just basics: being around people you love, sharing a meal, celebrating your religion in its purest sense, being happy to be alive and see a new year arrive, it can be beautiful. But the reality is that the trappings of what we know as the modern day holiday can be suffocating to a lot of people.

Having the courage to help ourselves or help someone else is probably one of the best spirits of the holidays that I love. In the words of Aristotle, “You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.”

I know the mere act of doing this article will make a difference in someone’s life. I believe that. I wish you all a wonderful and joyous holiday."

From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Ten Gifts to Give Yourself This Year

Well, it's that time of year...a time for friends, holiday parties, good cheer and yes...sometimes more stress and anxiety.  It's important to remember that while it's important to give, it's also even more important to take care of ourselves.  Here are a few ways to do just that:

  1. Turn off the TV news for the holiday season.  Instead, light candles and put on music.
  2. Notice even the smallest of your daily accomplishments instead of what you DIDN’T get done. Keep a “success list!” 
  3. Remember that we get what we focus on in life. Focusing on good points in yourself and others will bring MORE of them.
  4. Take a “senses walk” for 20 minutes, 4 times a week. Notice the breath in your lungs, the smell of the air, the change of the seasons. Outdoor light and exercise both stimulate serotonin production, lifting mood.
  5. Take a few minutes daily to “hibernate.” Close your door, remove your shoes, dim the lights, and focus on what makes you happy.
  6. Breathe in to the slow count of four. Hold it four slow counts. Release in four slow counts. Repeat until you feel the muscles relax all over!
  7. Stay aware of your thoughts. 
  8. Don’t take on another person’s bad mood. Guard yourself, removing yourself from their company if necessary.
  9. Find freedom by letting go of criticizing and complaining about yourself or someone else.
  10.  If you need to make changes, act NOW. Don’t put off health or happiness! 

Maesk Group Counseling hopes you have a very happy Holiday Season!