The holiday season is here, now! For many, this is a season of enjoying family, food, football, and other festivities. However, some people can’t handle the smell of excitement in the air from the place they are emotionally or physically right now. Even if they wish to, it’s a battle to see through, to move past the holiday blues. Unfortunately, tragedies and adversities don’t know when to take a holiday for themselves. Our guest, Dr. Kelly Holder shares her expertise on holiday blues and mental health. She gives insights on managing holiday blues, self-care, and handling family traditions. Holiday blues can strike anyone, but you can strike back and create a new “normal.” This timely and important conversation is to support and encourage anyone with the holiday blues or other health issues. This conversation will make a difference for you or a friend, neighbor, or anyone you know, and love. A key message is: There is help, and you are never alone!
“We are ultimately responsible for our own mental health. Learning how to ask for help is really important.” -Dr. Kelly Holder
00:28 Strange Holidays
03:54 Holiday Blues vs. Mental Illness
06:29 How to Hold the Best Holiday
09:10 Signs to Watch Out For
10:55 How to Fulfill Your Responsibility to Yourself
14:39 Self-Care Is Not Selfish
19:21 How to Make Family Traditions More Meaningful
22:51 You Are Not Alone
Celebrate the holidays without the blues! Join in to this timely dialogue between @arlene_gale and Dr. Kelly Holder about #mentalhealth #selfcare #stress #holidays #connection #gratitude #familytraditions Click To Tweet
“Anytime we’re not feeling or doing our best is a reason to be concerned.” -Dr. Kelly Holder
“Sometimes we put too much stress on ourselves about making sure that we do we do everything all right, just perfectly.” -Arlene Gale
“That’s what the holiday gatherings should be about- It should be a focus on the heart connections instead of the food and drink but… sometimes we get invested in the wrong things.” -Arlene Gale
“It’s always good to have a connection with someone. And sometimes just listening to someone else is really what other people need from us most.” -Dr. Kelly Holder
“We are ultimately responsible for our own mental health. And so learning how to ask for help is really important.” -Dr. Kelly Holder
“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of wisdom!” -Arlene Gale
“In caring for others, we have to start asking for help for ourselves.” -Dr. Kelly Holder
“If we’re seen as strong and all put together, then we don’t show vulnerability and ask for help when we need it, then the people who respect us are not going to see that it’s okay for them to ask for help either.” -Arlene Gale
“We are really not able to do for others unless we have done for ourselves.” -Dr. Kelly Holder
“We are made for connection… you really aren’t alone. You are not the only person experiencing what you’re experiencing.” -Dr. Kelly Holder
“Gratitude just changes everything. It makes even the smallest of things most beautiful.” -Dr. Kelly Holder
Meet Dr. Kelly:
Dr. Kelly Holder is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Instructor of Mental Health First Aid, and Director of the Office of Student Mental Health and Counselling at Penn State University. Dr. Holder brings in years of experience in multiple clinical settings including community mental health, private practice and college counselling. Her goal is to help others improve their well-being and quality of life. She emphasizes on the power of making connections in overcoming mental illness, especially during critical times. When things are off-target, Dr. Holder can help bring back the motivation in you.
Arlene Gale: Welcome everybody. Today we’re going to talk about the myths, mindsets, and misconceptions about holiday blues. Now the holidays for most of us is about family feasts of nonstop food, football, watching parties and other festivities, lots of noise and lots of activity. To an outsider, it may seem like chaos, but in our hearts, because we’re with our family and friends, it’s controlled chaos. It’s what love looks like in our lives, and that’s what the holiday is for most of us, but for other people, the holidays are about the blues. Now, before you tune out, please stay connected here because we all know someone or a handful of someones who will get the holiday blues, or maybe we are that someone who is dealing with the holiday blues. That’s why I wanted to vote this podcast and give some attention and INTENTION to the holiday blues topic. It’s a hard one to talk about. It is a downer. I understand that, but there are myths and mindsets about the holiday blues and mental illness and how they go hand in hand or not, but today’s information can be life changing, maybe even life saving. So I want to start by talking to someone who’s a whole lot smarter than me on this topic. Her name is Dr. Kelly Holder, and she is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and serves as the Director of the Office of Student Mental Health and Counseling at Penn State University, the College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Dr. Holder under PhD in clinical psychology from Loma Linda University, and completed postdoctoral training at Harbor-UCLA in HIV Mental Health/Behavioral Medicine. She has worked in multiple clinical settings, which include counseling at college counseling centers, in private practice, and community mental health. Her interest include depression, anxiety, sleep, general life stress, and dissatisfaction, and health and wellness. She’s a certified instructor of Mental Health First Aid. Dr. Holder is passionate about mental health and aiding individuals to improve their wellbeing and quality of their lives. She’s got fascinating insight into what drives us, what motivates and inspires us, and what to do when things don’t. So please help me welcome my special guest today, Dr. Kelly Holder. Hi, Kelly.
Dr. Kelly Holder: Hello. Hi. Thank you for having me.
Arlene Gale: Well, thank you for being willing to spend the time today talking about your brilliance, your background in this topic of holiday blues. And I just kind of want to start with the first myth or mindset that I hear people talk about is, you know, what is the difference between holiday blues and mental illness? Is there a reason to be concerned if you have quote holiday blues?
Dr. Kelly Holder: Well, I think anytime that we’re not feeling or doing our best is a reason to be concerned. However, there is a great difference between someone having the holiday blues and someone with a mental health condition. And in truth, individuals who have mental health conditions can kind of escalate or have harder times if they also have the holiday blues. The national American mental illness society has taken a survey and they found that about 64% of Americans say that they’re affected by the holiday blues. And these things can be triggered by, maybe having unrealistic expectations about what the holidays are supposed to be about. Maybe feeling extra stressed or extra worried because of all the things that go into the holidays. And then it can put people at risk who are having loneliness, sadness, maybe even fatigue from a busy schedule. And then you add the holiday expectations on top of that. And then individuals who had lost, and then the holidays bring up their own loneliness and trauma within their own family. Those memories that are different things can kind of trigger the holiday blues.“Anytime we're not feeling or doing our best is a reason to be concerned.” -Dr. Kelly Holder Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Well, I think that brings up a good point, you know, because if we personally are dealing with a loss or we know someone else who is, some of those losses might be something like a divorce, or an illness in the family, or maybe our own illness that it does change the way we feel inside and how we receive and project on others. So, are there other things that you think might be triggers, that would make us go, Oh yeah, I’d been there, or yes I am dealing with divorce, or death, or whatever else. Anything else you can think of that might be a scenario that would make us be more aware?
Dr. Kelly Holder: Yeah, so loss I think is a major one. Either loss of a relationship, loss due to death, even having a history of poor family relationships. And so, while people are excited about getting together with family, individuals who might not be excited about getting together with a family, but then there are also just regular life things for individuals who live in a high level of stress or anxiety for long periods of time. And then you add additional pressures and things that have to be done during the holiday season. Those things can kind of increase fatigue, and frustration, and tension, and also create an atmosphere where there could be a holiday blues as well.
Arlene Gale: You know, and one of the best holidays I had because I used to put that stress on me, because I would have like 10 or 12 people come to my house for Thanksgiving, and I would spend 18 hours cooking and getting everything just right. And by the time we sat down at the table, I was exhausted and in pain and everybody would wolf everything down in 20 minutes and then leave the table. And there I was, now, I’ve got to clean up this mess and I’m exhausted. So the best holiday I had was, when I told everybody to come over a couple hours before we were to sit down and eat, and I made everybody help in the kitchen. We had the best time, and even the little kids can mash potatoes, or open a can, or set the table. And I think sometimes, we put too much stress on ourselves about making sure that we do it and we do it all right, just perfectly. Any comments about that?“Sometimes we put too much stress on ourselves about making sure that we do we do everything all right, just perfectly.” -Arlene Gale Click To Tweet
Dr. Kelly Holder: Yeah, I think you’re exactly right. Sometimes when we add that extra pressure and then we’re just doing more than we normally do, or just continuing to do so much. And especially, it’s the time of year where some of us really do need a break. And some of the tips for avoiding the holiday blues include, like, sticking to a more normal schedule as much as possible. Sometimes during the holidays, we want to spend more time with people, or go to parties and do different things. And so we don’t keep our normal schedule. And so we’re not getting enough sleep. Maybe we’re not eating regularly, maybe we’re eating too much, maybe we’re drinking too much, and we know that alcohol is a depressant, right? And so, if we’re not doing that in moderation, during we might feel good, but on the backend we get the downside of drinking too much and that can aid us in feeling down with. With all the holiday things going on, oftentimes we might not exercise as much as we do during the rest of the year. And so, we know that exercise relieves tension, helps us with anxiety, helps us with depression. And so, making sure we make time to do that, and I think the thing your story highlighted is keeping things simple, not overdoing our to do list and making it much longer than it normally is, and putting too much pressure on ourselves. Setting reasonable expectations of things that we can accomplish so that we can enjoy the time as much as possible.
Arlene Gale: Yeah. Because that’s what the holiday gathering should be about. It should be more of a focus on the heart connections instead of the food and drink. But I think sometimes we get invested in the wrong things, and I think that has an impact on our mental too.“That's what the holiday gatherings should be about- It should be a focus on the heart connections instead of the food and drink but… sometimes we get invested in the wrong things.” -Arlene Gale Click To Tweet
Dr. Kelly Holder: Yeah, it does.
Arlene Gale: Do you have any other words of wisdom? Wisdoms about symptoms that we should watch out for in ourselves or in other people, and how can we reach out to other people?
Dr. Kelly Holder: Yeah, so when we’re talking about supporting other people, let’s start with the people who are closest to us, the ones that we know very well. And so, when we notice people close to us withdrawing, maybe they’re not doing the things that they used to enjoy. You know this person enjoys this activity and they don’t want to do it anymore. They don’t want to engage. Maybe you notice that they’re eating a whole lot more, or eating a whole lot less, or sleeping a whole lot more, sleeping a whole lot less, and then just minor irritations with things. When we notice these subtle differences, being able to pull that person aside, and just flat out saying, Hey, I’ve noticed, you know, you’re not enjoying the thing you used to do, or whatever the other symptom is, and say, I’m concerned about you. How can I help? And allowing that person to have the opportunity to tell you what’s going on. It’s always good to have a connection with someone and sometimes just listening to someone else is really what other people need from us most, and then we can escalate those things by being able to give people supportive numbers to support people in our community that they can reach out to. And at the end of this podcast, I’ll give some national numbers that people can use and feel free to pass along to individuals that they might have some concerns for.“It's always good to have a connection with someone. And sometimes just listening to someone else is really what other people need from us most.” -Dr. Kelly Holder Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Well, and one of the things, at least in my life, and this is me being vulnerable, and you can tell me if I’m crazy or not, or if you experience this in the real world, but the way I grew up, asking for help was a sign of weakness. It was a sign of vulnerability that would get you in trouble. It’s almost like, you know that old saying that the dog can smell fear and they’ll come in for the attack. So, talk a little bit about that, and about asking for help and self care during the holidays.“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of wisdom!” -Arlene Gale Click To Tweet
Dr. Kelly Holder: Yeah, I think learning how to ask for help is a skill that we all need to have. The truth is that, when it comes to our mental health and wellness as individuals, we are ultimately responsible for our own mental health. And so, learning how to ask for help is just really important. And so, knowing where your safe spaces are so that you can reach out to someone and say, Hey, things are not going the way I’d like them to go. I need to talk. I need someone to listen. I need someone to point me in the right direction. It can be humbling then, it’s not a skill that you’ve grown over time, but it is well worth growing and developing. Oftentimes, especially for individuals who are perceived by others as being strong. Oftentimes, people may not ask, and being able to build those connections to saying, I’m a human being too and I need to ask for help, can also encourage people in our lives to ask for help as well. We can model that to those that we love very much. So, I guess what I’d like to say is, for those of us who care a lot for others, and caring for others, we have to start asking for help for ourselves so we can model that behavior to the ones we love.“We are ultimately responsible for our own mental health. And so learning how to ask for help is really important.” -Dr. Kelly Holder Click To Tweet “In caring for others, we have to start asking for help for ourselves.” -Dr. Kelly Holder Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Absolutely. That’s such a great point because, you know, people perceive us a certain way and I love that. If people perceive you as strong and having all of that together, then we take that on. It’s other people’s perceptions of us and we take that on. If we allow that to keep us from asking for help and we don’t show that vulnerability, then the people who respect us are not going to see that it’s okay for them to ask for help too. That’s what I got out of what you said.“If we’re seen as strong and all put together, then we don't show vulnerability and ask for help when we need it, then the people who respect us are not going to see that it's okay for them to ask for help either.” -Arlene Gale Click To Tweet
Dr. Kelly Holder: Yeah.
Arlene Gale: Well, we’re going to take a quick break and then get back to this conversation about holiday blues and self care with my guest, Dr. Kelly Holder. When we come back, I really do want to get more into the conversation of self care, and how self care is not the same as being selfish, so we’ll be back to Mindset Meets Mastery with Arlene Gale in just a few minutes.
Welcome back. This is Arlene Gale with my guest, Dr. Kelly Holder, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, and we’re talking about mental health issues around the holiday blues, what causes it, and how to be aware of people around us who are dealing with the blues. And if we’re one of those people, some of the things that we can do, and I’d like to pick up again talking about self care because if you’re one of those people who’s been through a life changing event, a divorce or a death in the family, or an illness, a major illness in the family, or maybe you’re the one that’s dealing with the illness, how to shift that mindset that you should just go on and play the game like you normally would have to respect your feelings and this change in your life. And how do you do that in a way that honors who you are, right here, right now so that you apply self care, and Dr. Holder, I hear so many people say, well, I can’t take care of myself because that’s selfish. Talk to us about the difference in the mindset around that idea.
Dr. Kelly Holder: That’s something that I think I hear fairly often, this idea that we’re just pour into others and that anytime or any space taken for ourselves is selfish. When the truth is really the opposite. We are really not able to do for others unless we have done for ourselves. And I’m sure that many have, you know, heard the analogy from riding on a plane where they’ll say, take down the air mask and put yours on first before assisting others. And they say that because if you are out of oxygen and you can’t breath, you cannot help the other people on that plane, on that flight. And it’s true in our own lives, if we’re not doing the things to take care of ourselves to sustain life and then to thrive in life, how will it be that we’ll be able to aid anyone, and making any goodness out of their lives if we can’t make goodness out of our own? And so, I always encourage people to think about their own self care. What does that look like? What is it made up of? How do you sustain it? And sustain it in a way so that you can then do all the other things you want to do, and then also care for someone else.“We are really not able to do for others unless we have done for ourselves.” -Dr. Kelly Holder Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Absolutely. And self care doesn’t have to be expensive. My friends and family know, don’t call me between 2 and 3:00 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon cause Sunday afternoon is my nap time. So, that doesn’t cost me anything. Any other ideas or suggestions on what you might advise somebody to do for self care?
Dr. Kelly Holder: Yes. I really like talking about these things because oftentimes, we think about self care as a spa day, or going shopping, or taking a vacation. But self care starts with the basic. It starts with, am I eating regularly, right? Am I sustaining my life? Am I getting a good amount of sleep at night? Am I taking care of my body in a way that allows me to feel good about myself and show up in my workplace, or my home, or wherever I am in a way that maintains my own self integrity. So self care can just start at the level of are just basic human needs, and then building on those things. I like how you just carve out that time to take a nap on a Sunday. It’s something simple, It’s affordable. It’s something that you can do, it’s sustainable. And so, you know, some people really enjoy the arts or music. Making sure you have time to fill your life with music, if that’s just listening to your favorite song. That’s a small way of doing self care. Some regular maintenance, things like journaling, meditation, participating in like active mindfulness. Like, when I wash these dishes, I’m going to be grateful and wash them well, and concentrate just on this one task and be thankful in this task. It can be a simple way of having self care also during a necessary task. So there’s all sorts of ways that we can apply self care in our lives that’s not expensive, or taking tons of time away from our family, and the necessary duties in our lives.
Arlene Gale: Well, and that’s funny that you bring up dishes because I can tell you doing dishes is probably one of the top three things that I absolutely despise. Dishes and laundry, like, you know, they alternate back and forth, which is my number one least favorite thing to do. But I’ve made it so that it’s more fun and easier because I will turn on some music. So yeah, you get the right kind of music, and your hips are swaying, and your feet are tapping, and your shoulders are rocking back and forth, and then you’re singing out loud, and which is really bad for me because I can’t sing, that was not one of the gifts I was given, you know? Then all of a sudden the dishes are done, and it really, you know, it really wasn’t that bad.
Dr. Kelly Holder: Yeah. And I think that’s also a way of self care. The dishes have to be done if there’s no one else to delegate them to. Why not do them in a way that allows you to get tasks done but have some sort of joy in your life, or even be able to be grateful that you got it done without, you know, all the inks that can come with doing a task that you don’t want to do.
Arlene Gale: Right. And I’m also all about sharing the love. So, you know, from a young age, my children have learned to do dishes, and sort laundry, and move laundry, and hang laundry. So if I got to do this, you’re going to help me. But that may be a whole different topic anyway. So the holidays, do you think that family traditions put a lot of stress and strain on what we think we should or shouldn’t do? And how do we handle family traditions? And what they do to us, and that sort of thing?
Dr. Kelly Holder: Yeah, family traditions can be challenging because, you know, depending on who your family is and your family makeup, you know, is this a tradition that you’ve taken on, and internalized, and have meaning for it for yourself, or is it something that you just do because everybody in your family does it. I think the meaning that we personally ascribed to whatever the tradition is, is what then helps us figure out what to do. When we don’t have much meaning for the thing that’s going on, it really does make it hard to do that thing, or we might feel extra pressure to do that thing in a way that someone else says we have to do it, versus saying, okay, what is the real meaning for doing this? And what’s the best way I can do this simply so that I get the meaning and enjoy the family, but without the pressure. And so, I really encourage people to be really self-reflective about your family traditions, and does it have a meaning? I mean, there’s a tradition that you personally want to continue, and if you do, how can you continue it in a way that’s sustainable so that you can enjoy the holiday? So it doesn’t add to the holiday blues, but it ends up being something that brings you joy, and meaning, and something that you can be grateful for that you participated in.
Arlene Gale: That’s excellent. The other thing is that I happen to know a few people right now who are dealing with divorce or a death of a spouse. So they have a lot of family traditions, but this year, they don’t want to think about them. they don’t want to face them, they don’t want to deal with them. They want to do something completely different, and you know, that creates its own sort of stress. What would you say in a scenario like that, what would you advise?
Dr. Kelly Holder: I would encourage, you know, when there is a major change or shift in the family due to a death, or due to a loss of a relationship, or a breakup, it is a good time to reevaluate family traditions. Maybe it is time to start a new tradition for you as an individual. Maybe it’s time to take a break from that tradition and do something else that’s more meaningful and makes sense given the changes that you had. Whatever the person decides though, I think it’s important to make that decision based in integrity. Just really being thoughtful and reflective about what it means for you and then the other people in your family that it will impact, instead of just making a rushed decision just because, you know, in the moment you feel a certain way. Having someone that trusted that you can talk through the situation with, and say, okay, what can I do that’s a little bit different so I can take care of myself, but also have, whatever the meaning is that you want for this season. So, you know, there’s no easy answer or specific answer for everyone, but I think it’s one worth taking the time to be very self reflective. Talking it through with someone you trust, and then coming up with something that makes sense for this time. And maybe it’s just a break. Maybe this year, we do something else, and we come back to our tradition next year. Or maybe it’s, you know what, it’s time for us to start a new tradition and starting something new, figuring that out, taking the time to really figure it out so that there’s some value and some real meaning made out of whatever the decision is.
Arlene Gale: Absolutely. Well, and I just want to throw in my 2 cents worth because, you know, I admit, I’m at the point where, you know, I know just enough to be dangerous on this topic, so I’ll ask for your feedback on this, but it’s so important I think to remember you are not alone. You are not alone. I don’t care if it’s family, friends, neighbors, going out and volunteering in your community just so you can be around strangers, but strangers who are coming together to do something good, you are not alone. You want to add to that?
Dr. Kelly Holder: I just like how you say that. I give lots of presentations on mental health, and I like to end them exactly what that phrase, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Oftentimes, when we’re struggling with something, we think we are the only ones who have that struggle where the truth is that there’s multitudes of people why they don’t have our same exact problem. They can empathize or understand what we’re experiencing because everyone is experiencing something. And so, holding that knowledge that you are not alone, and then I think, like, you’re suggesting, making sure that there is some way that we could be part of a community, whether it’s a big community as far as volunteering, or being somewhere with a bunch of strangers who are just down for the same cause, or whether it’s a few close friends who really know you and when they look at you they see you and feeling that connection. But whatever it is, in some way, because as human beings we are made for connection. So having that connection but also holding the knowledge that you really aren’t alone, you are not the only person experiencing what you’re experiencing.“We are made for connection… you really aren't alone. You are not the only person experiencing what you're experiencing.” -Dr. Kelly Holder Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Absolutely. So with that, I would like to put you on the hot seat. Are you ready?
Dr. Kelly Holder: Okay.
Arlene Gale: Well, I’m going to ask you three questions to help us wrap up this Holiday Blues, Mindset Meets Mastery Podcast. So the first one is, whether it’s you or someone you know, or just based on your experience, when we’re thinking holiday blues and mental health, what is the BIGGEST mindset that hinders people from moving in a direction that helps them master their personal or professional life?
Dr. Kelly Holder: Well, along this topic of holiday blues, I think I would just have to go back to something we already talked about asking for help. Oftentimes, we just plunge right through the season, or just like, you know, this season is going to come and go, let’s get to the other side. January 3, will be here before we know it. And just, you know, push through without taking the time to be self-reflective, or ask for help, or to talk with someone, and there’s no need to do that. You can go through the season in a meaningful way. You can ask for help, and this time can be important to you. You don’t have to put on the blinders on and just kind of barrel right through it because this is part of your life too. And so, I think the mindset to be broken is that I can’t ask for help, or no one can help me, or no one understands. People do understand and there is a place for you to get help.
Arlene Gale: Absolutely. Awesome. So the next question is, what is a mindset around the holidays that personally helps you and your family connect? What is one thing that is front and center for you and your mind that might, other people might pick up and think about.
Dr. Kelly Holder: During the holidays, one of my major mindsets is just around gratitude. I spend a lot of time being thankful. I celebrate the holidays with passion based on my thankfulness and because of my spiritual and faith beliefs, I pretty much package my gratitude in that. And then that just centers me on how I’m going to spend my time, who I’m going to spend my time with. And I think the gratitude just changes everything. It just makes, even the smallest of things most beautiful. And then it also allows me to realize what’s really important, so I don’t have to overdo things as well. I can be grateful for those small things. I think the gratitude, having lots of gratitude has been very important to me.“Gratitude just changes everything. It makes even the smallest of things most beautiful.” -Dr. Kelly Holder Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Awesome. Such great wisdom. So this is the last hot seat question, and you kind of alluded to it a little while ago, but can you give a couple places that people might call or connect with if they are having the holiday blues and they’re concerned about something, or they’re feeling alone, what are some of the places you would recommend they might try to reach out to?
Dr. Kelly Holder: Yeah, so the first resource that I would give, I think it’s a great resource. That’s the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, it’s a 24/7 free and confidential support service for people who are in distressed that aid with prevention and crisis support. And that number is 1-800-273-88255 or 1-800-273-TALK. And there’s also a crisis text line, and that number is 741741 for one for people who don’t want to be on the phone chatting but can text away, that’s a great resource. And I also want to correct something I said at the VERY beginning. I quoted a stat, and I don’t even know what I said, but I was trying to say the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and they also have a webpage that has tons of information and you can go there @nami.org which is in N-A-M-I.O-R-G.
Arlene Gale: Awesome. Dr. Kelly Holder is my guest and has been a wealth of information. My hope is that together we have shared some thoughts, and tools, and things that will help make the holiday season just that much more festive for my listeners, and I appreciate your time, I thank you so much for being here, it has meant a lot to me. So, I want to leave my listeners with this final thought. “Don’t let the world dictate your story. Be mindful of the stories you tell yourself about what is or is not possible for you. You get to choose to write your story your own way, every day.”