A Holiday Survival Guide

Archive for the ‘Depression’ Category

A Holiday Survival Guide

Posted on: December 15th, 2016 by Justin Tobin

Written by: Lindsey Rogers

Before the Halloween candy is even handed out, stores like Target roll out holiday decor signaling that the time is upon us. Before it is time to “fall back,” let alone dig out some winter scarves, we are swiftly inundated with advertisements heralding “the most wonderful time of year!” But all this ever-present messaging of joy and cheer can cause a real disconnect for those of us who aren’t part of a loving, “traditional” family like the ones depicted in those saccharine Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. It can feel like a lot of pressure to engage in joyful gatherings when you feel stressed or depressed. Holidays evoke all sorts of feelings and memories in all of us—the good, the bad, and even the ugly.

Perhaps your family is similar to the ones in those iconic Norman Rockwell paintings in that you feel all warm and fuzzy when you think of the holidays and time with your loved ones. But even if you feel like you are one of the lucky ones who really get along well with your relatives, the holidays can mean pressure to follow through with traditions and rituals from the past. If you have a more challenging relationship with the people you grew up with, being back in your original home environment can trigger feelings of sadness and frustration. With the recent election results, family time can be even more fraught if you and your family members do not share similar viewpoints.

As if the days getting shorter and the weather getting colder were not enough, the holidays and their attendant obligations can bring up substantial anxiety and dread. Maybe it has for you? Well, grab a long pull of that hot cocoa and take a breath. There are ways to manage the ups and downs of holiday time with family. It is important to identify what you are worried about: Is it answering the question of who you voted for and why? Is it being asked about your plans for the future and yeesh, when are you going to settle down already?! Or is it criticism that this stuffing is not nearly as good as Grandma’s? If you are worried about judgment and disapproval, you can work on setting boundaries to decrease the likelihood of those fears being realized. Imagine putting on that suit of armor to protect yourself from emotional attacks. Perhaps this means asking to take all political talk off the table or having a good comeback like: “I don’t have an answer but I am feeling happy about the future” to ward off pressure to talk about yourself.  When all else fails, change the subject toward a more innocuous topic. And recall that, although family systems can make us feel like we are tiny children again, in reality, we are still adults and sometimes adults need to go take a walk. If holiday family time is feeling too stressful, take a break—whether that means going to the store for more ice or just escaping to that peaceful place in your mind for a few moments.


The holidays can not only make us feel less than jolly when it comes to our family situations but they can also bring a lot of other imposed celebrations. Work parties, gatherings with friends, and neighborhood get-togethers can create a dynamic in which the overload of forced cheer is impossible to push back against. Why keep up with healthy habits like good sleep hygiene, working out, and eating healthy when you can stay up late, party with your bosses, gorge yourself on holiday confections and drink so much spiked eggnog that it starts to taste good?! Not only can the holidays wreak havoc on things like caloric intake, but they can also do some financial damage. So before you create a debt-filled and out-of-shape new year to deal with, set some goals for yourself. The holidays are about indulgence—but indulge within reason. Build in some time to recharge and relax outside of those social gatherings and try to get back to your normal routine in between parties. That way, once 2017 hits, you won’t feel like you’ll need a scroll to capture all your resolutions.

So, maybe the holidays give you a mixture of feelings and that’s okay. Just know that before you realize it, there will be commercials telling you it is time for spring break and swimsuits…this holiday season will go by quickly. And with anything that is stressful, difficult, or pressure-filled, it is best to have a plan of action, implement ways to stay in control, and just try to keep it all in perspective.

The Boss, The Rock, and Don Draper walk into a therapist’s office…

Posted on: October 5th, 2016 by Justin Tobin

Written by: Justin Tobin

You know how that one goes, right?  Or maybe you don’t.  Because men, ‘real men’ like Bruce Springsteen, Dwayne Johnson, and Jon Hamm wouldn’t need therapy.  They don’t get depressed or anxious.  Or if they did, they certainly wouldn’t talk about it openly.  Or let it be known they have worked with a psychotherapist. But it turns out, that’s not true.  All three of these respected male celebrities have experienced and talked openly about their struggles with their mental health; Bruce Springsteen recently got candid about his lifelong struggle with depression in his new autobiography.  And it is time more men took their cue without fearing it would strip them of their masculinity.

frustrated young business man

Depression is prevalent in our society, and you’ve probably come across the staggering statistics one way or another: 15 million American adults experience depression in a given year; which breaks down to about 5 million men and 10 million women.  I personally think the rates are grossly underreported, especially for men, primarily due to the lingering stigma of depression. Too many men hide their depression from their wives, girlfriends, husbands, and boyfriends for fear of burdening them with their problems.  They hide their depression from their friends and family for fear of being seen as weak and not able to handle their problems or rise to life’s challenges.  Hiding not only echoes the belief that being depressed is not normal or healthy for a man, it also causes unnecessary isolation and crushing loneliness.

It would be unfair to fault the depressed man for not outwardly acknowledging or talking about their depression.  Simply put, they may not be ready to address their depression.  But there are many men who have decided to speak out, be honest, and shed shame.  And because some of these are high profile men like Springsteen, Johnson, and Hamm, it has made it easier to talk about in general because these men have been helping to flip the stigma upside down through their honesty.  We can even look to revered heroes such as Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and successful artists like Mark Twain and F. Scott Fitzgerald – they have all dealt with depression and found a way to reveal their struggles as part of their collective histories we can all learn from with fuller perspectives and appreciation for what it means to be a man working through mental health issues.

More men today need to follow this lead on talking about their depression.  Depression does not need to define who you are.  Like a Springsteen song, you can also be in charge of your own story.


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