Managing Holiday Stress – PediaCast 505
- The holidays are fast approaching. They are a favorite time of year for many but they can also bring feelings of anxiety, sadness and loneliness. Dr Jessica Bailey visits the studio as we explore strategies for managing holiday stress. We hope you can join us!
- Managing Holiday Stress
- Big Lots Behavioral Health Services at Nationwide Children’s
- On Our Sleeves – The Movement for Children’s Mental Health
- Tips to Prevent Holiday Stress for Children (and Parents)
- COVID-19 and Holiday Stress
- How to Navigate Mental Health and the Holidays
- Rethinking the Holidays
- Find a Mental Health Professional
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Announcer 1: This is PediaCast.
Announcer 2: Welcome to PediaCast, a pediatric podcast for parents. And now, direct from the campus of Nationwide Children's, here is your host, Dr. Mike.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to PediaCast. It is a pediatric podcast for moms and dads. This is Dr. Mike coming to you from Nationwide Children's Hospital. We are in Columbus, Ohio.
It's Episode 505 for November 3rd, 2021. We're calling this one "Managing Holiday Stress". I want to welcome all of you to the program.
So, Halloween is behind us, which means we are standing at the very beginning of the holiday season, which over the years has become one extended two-month period of celebrations and parties and get-togethers. And with COVID dwindling for now and with so many people vaccinated and protected from COVID, which by the way now includes 5- to 11-year-olds, which is very exciting and highly recommended, given that, the holidays this year feels somewhat less confining and isolating compared to a year ago.
Of course, we still want to be safe and protect those who are not vaccinated and those with compromised immune systems. But this year, compared to last, it's a little easier to imagine in-person get-togethers, especially among vaccinated and low-risk family and friends.
Of course, this is good news for many, including myself, because the holiday season is a favorite time of the year. But as much as many of us love the holidays, it is also a stressful time for the majority of us. In fact, a recent survey found that nearly 80% of US adults report feeling somewhat stressed or very stressed during the holiday season.
And it's no wonder when you consider all of the expectations and family traditions, and decorating, and baking, and shopping, and spending, and planning, right? Family and friends will want to get together for celebrations and catching up. But there are still safety concerns during the pandemic, not to mention all of the differences of opinion that have surfaced among family and friends in light of the pandemic, and politics, and vaccination and mask-wearing.
Many of us feeling anxious or sad or lonely during the holidays during a regular year. And, of course, this is not a regular year, not even close.
On the other hand, stress during the holidays can be somewhat predictable. And if we know how to anticipate it and recognize it and manage it as we journey through to the end of the year, we have a better chance of also relaxing a bit and enjoying this time with family and friends. So, how do we accomplish this task of managing holiday stress?
Well, you come to the right place for answers because Dr. Jessica Bailey will be joining us in a few minutes. She's a pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an expert at helping parents, and children, and teenagers work through the stress of a holiday season.
Before we welcome her to the studio, just a few quick reminders. Don't forget, you can find PediaCast wherever podcasts are found. We're in the Apple and Google podcast apps, iHeartRadio, Spotify, SoundCloud, Amazon Music, and most other podcast apps for iOS and Android.
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So, let's take a quick break. We'll get Dr. Jessica Bailey connected to the studio and then we will be back to talk about managing holiday stress. It's coming up right after this.
Dr. Jessica Bailey is a pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. She is here right at the starting line of the 2021 holiday season to talk about managing stress in kids and parents. Because if we can prepare for the holidays by knowing what to expect in managing stress as it comes along, we have a better chance of making it through to the finish line with our mental health intact.
So, let's give a warm PediaCast welcome to our guest, Dr. Jessica Bailey. Thank you so much for stopping by today.
Dr. Jessica Bailey: I am so excited to be here. And can I just start by saying that I love the holidays? I consider the holiday season to like already started with Halloweens. So, I am already celebrating.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, in our house, it's the same way. And some members of our family used to fight it more than others but since the pandemic, nobody even fights it anymore. As soon as Halloween is over, those decorations are coming down and the Christmas tree and the Christmas decoration will be up very soon.
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Yeah, I know.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, and I think, too, especially with the pandemic and so many other stresses in our lives, the thought of being able to celebrate another holiday season is sort of comforting. But at the same time there's that comfort, it does bring about new stresses as well. What makes the holidays so stressful during a normal year?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Ooh, during a normal year, that's a great question. I think that everything is stressful. The most simple answer is everything. For parents, children at home, family may be coming to visit. They may be taking their own trip, which is a whole different set of challenges right now.
There's the food, there's the decorations, there's the guests. There are other people's emotions. We really want to see our loved ones and everyone feel really happy during the holiday season.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. And then, for some people, you may have memories of bad holidays or lost during the holidays that can make it particularly tough for those family members.
And then I would say, as much as people love the holiday season, 80% of adults would characterize the holidays as somewhat stressful or very stressful. So, this is a topic that really speaks to so many of us, that this is the time of the year when there is a lot of stress, right?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: You're absolutely right. It's a time of the year where we're supposed to be taking this breath. We're supposed to be recharging, reflecting, and just feeling like joy. I think there's a lot of pressure to feel joy, but you're exactly right.
And I actually was during a little research on my own, just to see if there was any good stats on what is holiday stress like during the holidays. And 77% of people actually said that it's very hard for them to relax during the holiday. And about half of people actually said they wish that they could avoid Christmas.
Dr. Mike Patrick: What about kids and teens? Do they have particular stresses this time of year?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: I think they do. Our kids, teens, and even young adults. They, in by their very nature, are performing at a very high level. Kids have a lot of expectations.
So, when holidays are coming on, holidays are normally a little bit following or even during their exams. They can be winding down college courses. They could have plays and recitals coming up on top of exchanges and scheduling, too.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And then, with their schoolwork, as the semester comes to an end, it's just as we're trying to start celebrating with the holidays, they may have final exams. And they're trying to study and there's the distractions of all the different things that are going on and different events that surround this time of year.
And then, of course, the impact of stress on their parents. So, parents are having a lot of stress that can really impact the daily lives of their children too, right?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Absolutely. And to add another component in here, there are a lot of children, adults, and families that are managing chronic conditions that are even more stressful during the holidays that impact how they can enjoy the holidays. Children with maybe Type I, Type II diabetes, inflammatory bowel, even autism and sensory issues can just feel overwhelmed by the scheduling and the partying, too.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. So, all of that that we talked about is during a normal holiday season. How does the pandemic then add to the anxiety and stress of this time of year?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: When I was listening and you were talking about some of those stats, I actually know that those were in
2019. Now, we've been through a holiday season in this pandemic and we're now coming through another holiday season in the pandemic.
I think one of the most important things to consider is that there's a lot of loss. There has been a lot of loss in many families and there is the proverbial saying of there's an empty chair sitting around the table this year.
Dr. Mike Patrick: A literal loss. I mean, a lot of people lost loved ones to COVID over the last 18 months.
Dr. Jessica Bailey: And we're not out of this pandemic. This pandemic is still altering our lives and adding extra challenges. Holiday travel can be altered. I have already heard some stories about airline challenges.
In addition, we are still scared of catching the virus or spreading the virus despite vaccine status. We are quiet back to the normal state of our life. And we still have to go by some restrictions.
Can we also add, we've all have heard this supply chain-demands too maybe making the holiday shopping a little more challenging.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yes, absolutely. I mean, that's really tough because your kids may have a particular item that they want for Christmas. And you want nothing more than to be able to get that for them, especially because everybody has had such a hard time. And you know that's going to bring them joy and then with the supply chain issues, you just may not be able to get exactly what it is that your kids are looking for.
So, how then do we handle feelings of anxiety or even sadness during the holidays, like when those first start to appear in ourselves, how do we address those?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: It's very important to realize that we're really not alone in these emotions. These are emotions that we all feel. They're not emotions that we like always.
It doesn't feel good to be sad. It doesn't feel good to be anxious. So, we want to move away from them very quickly. And sometimes, they're there to be felt. So, sadness is something that actually goes away a lot faster if it's just given a little space and support.
That can be very hard because this is the joyful time of the year but making a little room for the anxiety and the sadness, hopefully around supportive people, can actually make it go away a lot quicker.
Dr. Mike Patrick: So, it is good to acknowledge those feelings and just really have to feel them to get through them. And when we kind of push them aside and don't let them be there, then they're more likely to linger maybe and then keep coming back. Is that true?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Yes, that is a very great way to put it. A lot of people will use the bottle of soda that gets shaken and shaken, and then eventually explodes.
But an analogy that actually fits a little bit better is emotions are a little like trying to hold a very full beach ball under water. It's so hard to hold it underwater and when it does come out, it's going to hit whoever is nearby. So sometimes, those emotions actually end up coming out in a different way.
Dr. Mike Patrick: That's a really good point. Sometimes, as we travel through this holiday season together, I mean, there may be some outbursts. There may be some more heated exchanges than typically happen amongst family members.
And so just right at the beginning, if you think if that does happen, let's have some understanding and some space and some forgiveness for when those outbursts happen. Because they may not be really directed at a particular person. It maybe because of feelings that are inside.
Dr. Jessica Bailey: That's very true. And we don't lose the joy though in those other emotions because I think another thing that happens is, we feel, or we try not to feel those big heavy emotions. And then, that's actually how we lose our joy in the holiday seasons. So, if the emotions like you're saying have space and may have room, then joy comes in a lot quicker.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Some folks may have feelings of isolation or feeling like they're really alone this time of the year. I guess the first thing that would come to mind is like the single parent. Maybe they've had some loss of loved ones. They've got their kids at home but from an adult standpoint, you feel kind of isolated. What advice do you have for folks who are feeling alone this time of year?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: I think that that's also difficult because like you were saying, there's several reason that person could feel alone or isolated right now. And if we feel that, this might sound almost counterintuitive but considering even how we can reach out to support others that feel the same way, that's very powerful.
When we are recognizing feeling alone and isolated in our lives, even reaching out to support someone, we may not feel like doing it, it reduces those feelings.
I think also to add in too like how we're navigating this pandemic, there's still some isolation that's happening naturally. In the beginning of the pandemic, we did this great job with connecting on Zoom. We did this great job of connecting our FaceTime. And so, I almost want people to get back to that here in this season, too.
If there's family members that can't travel, that have experienced loss, reconnecting with them when we recognize those feelings in ourselves, it makes that feeling feel a little bit better.
But I'll add on to that, too. I think that there is a lot of support in communities right now. And there's a lot of programs that are trying to offer extra support for those that are struggling and that are maybe needing some extra support. I feel like there's a good rally from a lot of communities and local organizations to kind of help with those challenges that might lead to feeling alone and isolated.
Dr. Mike Patrick: So, reach out, right? Reach out.
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Reach out. Reach out. And I also think like that part goes into this part of positive psychology, which is getting a lot of play right now. When we reach out or even when we do positive things for others, and this don't have to be a big monetary things, we feel more connected. We feel less stressed, and we get a decent uplift in mood.
So, when we're reaching out and we are even supporting another person, that does help when we feel alone and isolated but that also helps when we feel really sad or really down. There's a natural boost for both parties when we can be supportive of each other.
I got a good example of this. Right now, the clinical work can be very stressful, and we have so many amazing interns and trainees. And last week, I was feeling like a little exhausted and working a little late. And at the end of the day, I was just thinking about how hard the interns were working. And so, I sent them all a little e-card, which for those of you who don't know is that in the hospital, we can kind of recognize another employee.
And after that, I didn't hope to have this intention. I was just like, "Oh, it might be a little supportive." I sent them all an e-card with a little message and I felt better. I was like, "Oh, that actually recharged me a little bit." That wasn't my intention, but I actually felt a little bit better after.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Absolutely. As we were kind of brainstorming topics for this particular episode, we came up with a list of sort of important things to keep in mind as we travel through the holiday season that can help reduce stress and anxiety. One of those was to be realistic during the holiday season. Why is it important to be realistic?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: I read those unrealistic goals or even those perfectionistic goals that we may not even realize that we have can tank our mood and can make the stress of the holidays feel a little more like anxiety. It just doesn't go away.
I think this is hard in our culture because there's so many examples on social media and so many examples on television. And so, I think that we see how others are portraying their holidays. And then we experience our holiday a little differently, we feel really disenfranchised and disappointed.
Dr. Mike Patrick: I mean, the holidays, they don't have to be perfect, right?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Not at all.
Dr. Mike Patrick: We get this perfect vision in our mind of what it's supposed to be like. And then, when we see others, it would seem that they're having that perfect experience because that's what they're putting on social media. That's just a little slice of their day and you really don't know what sort of stresses and anxiety and loneliness that they may be having in the background as well.
The other place where I think we have to give ourselves some space is that a lot of us over the years, your family has traditions and rituals that you've done year after year after year. And so, to some degree, you feel like you're losing out or you kind of disappoint your family if you don't hold on to everyone's tradition and rituals.
But we also have to be realistic that there's often not enough time to do all of those things. And so, it's good to hold on to some traditions but we can also be willing to create new ones as well.
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Absolutely.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And put ones aside for the year, right?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Right, absolutely. And I think this can be really challenging especially for in a period of time to where we don't really want to stress others out by saying no or changing up the tradition. But we end up feeling really resentful or overwhelmed or we feel like we don't want to go necessarily carry on a tradition. We are able to be there but feel like we have to be.
I encourage people and patients and friends all the time to consider what really matters and where you can set a boundary maybe on some of those traditions, too.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And especially when you think about your kids, instead of just saying, "No, we're not going to do this", explain. Explain "And it doesn't mean that we won't do it next year, but this year is a little different. It's a little stressful but let's find something new to do that will be fun and just a little bit different.
"Just to still have fun together as a family but maybe we're not going to do quite like we've done it in previous years and that's going to be okay."
Another important item that we came up with was that we need to plan for this season. And this is something that's going to be a little bit easier to do here in early November as we have the whole holiday season before us. What does it look like to plan for the season?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Planning this year is, you're right, it's going to be very very important. I think that in addition to, I wanted to add in that what I'm talking about is very traditional American holidays. And there are actually between, I'm going to tie this back into planning, there's 30 to 40 holidays celebrated between November and December across other religions and other groups.
So, planning might be something as simple like acquiring gifts, right? We want to make sure that we have, if we're celebrating Christmas, our presents ordered early. We want to make sure that we are sticking to our budget and not overbuying to kind of help out for some of the other challenges.
But I think planning also for stress and what can be stressful is actually really, really important too. And if I know whether that is going to be stressful, for example, taking my four-year-old to the grocery store, I'll prepare ahead of time for that challenge and that stress. So, he might get some tablet time. He might get to pick his favorite snack if he is having a good trip.
So, I think even preparing for that stressful trip to the airport or setting those maybe stressful boundaries on some things that we're not able to make it to this year or not able to do ahead of time, helps us out with that a lot.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. In our house, often, we'll have like a day of baking. You plan ahead.
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Yes, that too.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Instead of trying to making…
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Practical plan.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yes, yes. And then that's an idea, get family members to come over and have a big baking party together. Then you get some family time, but you get some work done and more hands make the work a little bit easier.
You said earlier that we have to sometimes say no. That can be difficult. Not only in terms of thinking about family traditions, but really in life in general, it's good to set boundaries and to know how to say no.
As a psychologist, how do you help folks get over that barrier when they just want to please and say yes to everyone? How do you learn to say no?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: It is a very very fine art, especially when, like I said before too, we really want everyone to feel happy right now. And knowing the challenges that might be going on with our children or parents or just like life in general, all those stresses we are talking about in the beginning, being able to say no is a very liberating experience. And it doesn't have to be a harsh experience.
I think people can be very understanding and, of course, I know there's challenges. Sometimes people aren't very understanding and there's communication challenges.
Giving the background for why you're saying no. And you're not just saying, "No, I don't want to do that," or "No, like it's…" Because a lot of people we all know might get their feelings hurt when they're told no. But it's very important also to explain why the no.
And it's not a harsh like "No!" It's more like, "At this time right now, I'm really struggling, and I got to think about what I can actually do this holiday season, how I can make it enjoyable for myself."
So, given that context, we're actually able to connect on a different level. And it's not just a hard no. It's "no, and this is why. I just need a different, I need something right now."
Dr. Mike Patrick: And then…
Dr. Jessica Bailey: That also normalizes their experience, too. So, they can be stressed and struggling and thinking we never know what another person is thinking. So, we could be thinking they're going to be so hurt by this no. Like I said earlier, they can also feel really good that maybe an event is getting canceled. Or maybe there's something that they're not going to do, release some stress from them.
Or connect that they're feeling that same way, "Oh, it's so great to hear sometimes that we're not the only one that's feeling stressed or overwhelmed or even down." So, sharing our needs and what we want connects us to that person, too. Easier said than done though.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. But we're being a good role model when we do that. Because then that person maybe learned, hey, it is okay to say no. And then they go on and pay that forward, so to speak.
Dr. Jessica Bailey: That's true.
Dr. Mike Patrick: The other thing that can be helpful is that when you get a no is to have empathy and understand where that no is coming from. So that as we practice saying no, we also receive no a little bit better.
Dr. Jessica Bailey: I think there's so many challenges that go into being able to maintain our boundaries or being able to say no. There are times where it's not received well or there are times it can create a lot of conflict. And I think it's still acceptable for us to hold that boundary.
There's a lot of challenges in communication over the holidays and a lot of expectations. So, I give a great answer, but I also appreciate that it can be really really hard. It gets easier with practice and with maintaining the boundary, too.
You can be flexible in so many areas, of course, but if you know there's a particular thing, event, or anything that's coming up, keeping the boundary of the 'no' like realizing maybe we can be flexible, let's jump on FaceTime. Maybe we can call them for a few minutes, maybe that flexibility too can provide a little bit of balance. Holidays are so about balance.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yes, absolutely. What about sticking to a budget? You mentioned that earlier that by having a budget as we go into the holiday, that can help relieve stress a little bit. But at the same time, we want to make people happy especially as we think about our kids. But how do we stick to a budget when we really want to spread joy?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: My first response is like, "Ah, don't ask me."
Dr. Jessica Bailey: I'm still sticking to a budget, but I have gotten much, much, much better. So, what I do with my spouse is… So, I call for support, that's the first thing, because I know that I have that tendency to really want to see everybody happy and want to have like something for everyone. And I've realized that that's stressful for me, so I'm reining that back in.
So, get support. If you have a supportive spouse, if you have a supportive friend that help you stick to your budget, that's great. We have to also set very realistic expectations with our children.
Like I said before, I have a delightful four-year-old and we just got the Amazon catalog in the mail and it's got these stickers in the middle where they can mark what they want. And he has the entire book marked right now. And so, I have that conversations with him that, "We're not getting everything in the book. Yes, we might get two or three gifts." So, I've set that expectation with him.
And I think that can also be hard because how do you tell a little four-year-old he can't have everything in Amazon book. But he seemed to really understand it and say like, "This is my number one." So, any conversations with children too and having them have some realistic expectations can help us set too our budget.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Great. One thing that's going to be I think difficult for families this year, and I think we've all experienced this to some degree, is that there are some really passionate opinions as we think about politics, as we think about really many things. Vaccine, for example, masking.
And there had actually been wedges driven between family members with differing opinions and maybe some things has been said on social media. And there's really tensions that's there. How do we come together as families during the holidays when there are such differences of opinions?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Yeah. I feel like this is also challenging. I always recommend, especially around the holidays, to consider settings and boundaries for family and friends around conversation that could cause big emotions. That's very hard to do and only works in certain situations. So, my family, we have hot button topics that we literally just don't talk about.
But I think, also, our voices on some of these things and being able to have the conversation is how we're going to connect the best. It may not be always possible but if we're in a situation to where it's possible to have a conversation, connect on a common ground and coming at it from a more curious position, if it's an appropriate setting, can facilitate that conversation. And it's actually okay to avoid the conversation topics too and reconnect on more common issues.
Funny little tip, people connect really well about neutral things. And they connect really well about things that we don't like, so mutual things we don't like. Let's talk about your least favorite food. Talk about your least favorite member of One Direction. Talk about something funny.
Connect on those issues that are common. The positive ones like "Oh, I really love being here at this group." "I really want the show right now." And also connect on some other funnier stuff, too.
And if conversations are becoming difficult and I think there are some cases to where we are more activated right now around certain topics, take a breather for yourself.
I do this thing with myself and it's something that I teach kids as young as six, and adults as well, to rate your level of distress. I'm at 0 to 10, 0 means I'm feeling maybe really fine, no anxiety. Ten might mean I am really really needing to take a break right now. I'm feeling very anxious.
I actually like to catch myself around a 6 or 7 and say now is the time to take a breather. So much harder to calm down when we already at a 10, when we can try to calm ourselves down, set our boundaries and take a breather.
I think too it can be very easy on, like what you were saying, Dr. Mike, there has been almost like disruptions to families lately over hot button topics and differences in perspective.
Try to remember what you enjoy and value in that person. And if it's appropriate, circle back later about painful things or about things that may really need to be talked about further, if it's appropriate, in a safe space to do so.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. The idea of taking a breather is so important, not only around tensions within family, but just during the day, taking some time, even just spending 15 minutes alone without distraction can go along to recharging you. And you're going to be able to better concentrate. You're going to be more productive when you take little breaks during the day than if just try to go long time all at once, right?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Absolutely. And that's very hard to do. It actually takes practice. Our brain is not very good about walking away when it's upset. It wants to quickly resolve and feel better. But taking a breather is actually going to be what's going to do that.
So, if that's hard to do, that's okay. It's going to get better with practice. It's going to get better as you know your distress level. So, practice, practice, practice. And if you don't feel like you're doing a good job at taking a breather or it just doesn't work for you, just practice and you'll be glad you did.
Dr. Mike Patrick: What are some other healthy habits that can help us manage stress, not just during the holidays but really any time of year? What are some important things that we should be doing on a daily basis to keep those stress levels down?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: I know I'm probably going to get some eye rolls for this one, but the number one is exercise. It does not have to be I'm hauling to a gym and exercising my body. It can be I'm doing some slow stretches. I'm taking a quick walk for that 15-minute break. I am doing something that's not work-related for my body.
Our body feel stress very physically, stress and anxiety and even components of our mood that exist in our brain and exist in our body which are really exact the same thing. But I might have a lot of worry going on in my thoughts and the body is going to feel it, too. So, if I'm able to actually give my body a good time to move some of that energy through, it feels way better.
This applies to children, too. A quick dance video, we need to be learning a TikTok video. We can be like doing something fun. GoNoodle has so many great recommendations for fun little dances. It doesn't have to be like a punitive task. It's something that gives your body a chance to release that extra energy, too.
There's this interesting part in mindfulness-based stress reduction program that says that when we are feeling this high levels of stress that are really good healthy habit is too lean in to the unenjoyable experience.
So obviously, very hard to do and only possible in safe non-escalated situations. But I can give a great example of this, washing dishes.
If we are like "Oh my gosh, I have to do this whole thing of dishes after Thanksgiving." If we can actually lean into that and be mindful of it, enjoy the process at maybe being alone to do the dishes, taking a minute to pop in a podcast or add jam to our music, then we're going to enjoy that experience a little bit more and it's going to go by faster.
So that doesn't work for arguments. That doesn't work for situations that might needed different approach but that works for a daily task that we're just kind of dreading. I have a few others that I can throw in there too if that would help.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. For me, by the way, that task is scooping the litter box, right? I need to put my AirPods in and listen to music or podcast while I'm scooping the litter box, and then it's going to be a better chore.
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Totally right. I am big fan of podcast and so I do almost all of my chores with headphones in. I feel like it's a great way to get things done.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Absolutely. Okay, so exercise, lean into the task that we aren't really all that excited about doing. And then what are some other healthy habits that can help us manage stress?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Does anyone else feel like extremely fatigue after the holidays? Because I know I do. I would imagine many people do. We actually have to rest when we feel that fatigue.
We need to still be getting our sleep and our children's sleep are going to be more disrupted, too. If we can keep them on a moderately okay sleep schedule, then we can stay on one, then we're going to wake up feeling refreshed.
And realizing I'm telling you to lean into these enjoyable experiences, you can lean into them tomorrow, too.
So, if you're noticing the pain in your body, you're noticing the stress or I can't make myself do this dishes right now or can't make myself do the shopping right now, or I can't make myself prepared to take off for a holiday, tomorrow is always going to be waiting there. So, rest, rest, and more rest is very important.
We also need to have self-compassion. That's very hard. We are especially if we are shooting for perfectionist to call a day. Recognizing that we're always doing the best we can.
And avoiding comparing, even as parents, adults, and caregivers, when we look at maybe that social media posts or we look at what another family is doing. Or our children compare, or their teens compare to maybe what they're seeing of their friends do, who they're seeing their friends connect with, how much more even gifts.
And keeping in mind that, I've been talking about these American holidays, we have a lot of children and families that we serve here at Nationwide that practice other holidays and often can feel that Christmas is the predominant holiday. And then, we have children like comparing across too, that it can feel like if this is the predominant holiday, their holiday is getting a little bit passed over, too.
So, normalizing that that's very very stressful, especially even in getting time off for a holiday that are moveable. Like it doesn't always fall in the same time of the year or in the same period. So, PTO and time-off and school is geared for our American holiday and our Christian holidays. And having families be able to have that support as well to celebrate their holidays.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, very important. If I could just add a couple more habits that I find helpful over the last couple of years. One, and I have to give a nod to a colleague of mine who really set me in this course, and that is to turn off my notifications.
So, my email notifications, my social media notifications, those are all turned off. I don't even get a little badge of how many notifications I have. And so, I go to social media. I go to my email. I don't let my email and my social media come to me. And that has made a huge difference in my stress levels and my daily life.
Dr. Jessica Bailey: I cut back on my social media as well and I don't receive notifications. So, I actually have the very same approach. I will use it whenever I feel like, you're right, I see myself now as a different role.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, that made a big difference. And then, the other thing is, as you mentioned, just being aware of how our information culture can add to our stress and really being intentional with how much time that I spend engaging with news and social media. Because if I'm feeling a stress of four or five and I stat scrolling through my newsfeed and seeing all the terrible things that are happening in the world, which is they don't report a lot of the good things, and so the next thing you know, you're stress level is in eight.
Now, you're having to take a breather and do some breathing exercises to calm yourself down. So just being intentional with how much time that we spent looking at things that upset us.
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Yes. And there is this part of your brain, that's right in the middle of your brain that's always scanning for threat. It's a little button in the middle, it's your amygdala. It's always looking for threats and ways to keep you safe. And you're right, so when it sees, "Oh, you know, I'm having some stress right now," and there's a lot of stress in the world, it amps our overall anxiety levels.
And I was a very very guilty of enjoying my True Crime podcast and have most recently cut those back and have noticed that delightful feeling of reduced stress. So even being mindful that if we're feeling very stressed, it might not be a great time be listening to things that remind us about dangers in the world.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. What are then some signs that parents or kids may need professional help? So, we've talked a lot about self-help kind of stuff. When do we need really to reach out to healthcare professionals to help us when we're feeling sad, anxious, lonely, those kind of things?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Yeah. I do really love this question because I feel like there is always good support in having a professional help on board. So, anyone that is already maybe been diagnosed with the mental health condition or is already linked to a provider, that is going to be to a great resource. But for those who may not have that already established or new to the mental health field or just like, "Wow, where is that limit?" I always look for when it starts to alter the daily life.
So, knowing that we are going to have, by just nature of the holiday, a decent level of stress. We have to sort of discern that when it becomes too much for ourselves and for our children and teenagers, too.
So, whenever you notice that there is a big change from base line. If a few months ago, a child or parent, or just human in general, was functioning at a pretty good level, and then now they are starting to withdraw from friends or starting to maybe be a little more irritable. Maybe there's some performance at school at work that's changing, it's when it starts to interfere with life.
And that can happen. We can just have a day or two or feel really exhausted and needed to rest. This would be something that hangs on for a little bit longer.
Some warning signs too could be changes in just daily talks and hints that maybe things are going wrong, some very negative self-statements or just the complaints about self or others that aren't of the normal.
Well, gossip is not what I'm talking about because we all know our teens gossip that we're like, "Oh, I haven't heard you say things like that before." I think that's a big warning sign, too.
Any change in behaviors for our littles. So, at this time, it's not uncommon for under five, oh, I would actually say under 11, to notice the stress in the parent or the caregiver and increase their behaviors. They don't mean to do it, but we all know when we're stressed, our kids are falling apart. We're sort of falling apart, and they're just like, "What?"
So, recognizing that those behavior might be a normal part of it. But are there new behaviors that are concerning, or things getting broken, or outburst becoming more? Does it take longer for tantrums to resolve? I think all of those are great signs.
We also have an amazing primary care department here at Nationwide with a lot of them are great psychologists. And this could be a really really great thing to bring up to them because they can actually say like, "Oh, I know all of these things about you and can see you as a whole person, and I do think it could be helpful."
Not every one of our clinics has a psychologist yet but we're working on that. There are also some amazing social workers in there, too. So, it's a great place to start.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. So, when our feelings are starting to really impact our daily life and our relationships, and our work, and school, then it really is time to reach out and get some help from outside of ourselves. And especially with someone who has knowledge of mental health issues and can help us, teach us some coping skills and some tools that we can have in our toolbox to help us through when we have those feelings. Or to explore if medications may be necessary and all of those things.
And as you say, starting with your regular doctor because they're going to know what resources are available in your community. Just starting there would be a great place to begin, right?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Yeah. And I'll add on too, another thing that some of this is we all have up and down in our emotions. So, we're looking sometimes for things that are lasting longer than a couple of days, things that aren't really going away. If things or if behaviors, mood, and these changes are happening in ourselves and our children, but they kind of remit, as they would say in the medical world, if they go away pretty quickly, then it could have been a normal reaction. But anything that's lasting over a week or even longer can definitely warrant getting involved with your pediatrician or doctor.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. And if you don't have a healthcare professional or they're not available or they don't have suggestion for you or the waiting list is going to be way too long to get in, and we have, of course, listeners all across the country, Psychology Today does have a nice link called Find A Mental Health Professional.
And you can put in your ZIP code and it will let you know where there are psychologists and psychiatrists and counselors, and social workers that are available to help you in your area.
And then one other thing I think it's important to mention is especially when we're talking about feelings of depression and then we start to think about hurting ourselves or suicides, those are things that are real and it's okay to ask and talk about that. If you have that, if that comes into your mind like, "Gosh, I think that my kid could be thinking of this," asking them about it is not going to increase the risk of them hurting themselves. It's better to ask them about it and to get the conversation out there.
And of course, that would be a medical emergency if your child has had thoughts of hurting themselves. And so, you want to get them help right then and there whether that's through a psychiatric crisis department or an emergency department in your area, you really do want to get help right away.
And we'll also put a link in the show notes to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or the phone number for them so that you can find that easily. Because, certainly, anxiety and depression can lead to thoughts of harming oneself and so you want to think about that, too.
Dr. Jessica Bailey: And at Nationwide too, we're always here to help. We stay busy and we have a 24/7 hospital, our Behavioral Health Pavilion. It is for those type sub-crisis and calling in before, even having a screening, they can tell you what criteria might you need to come in for. We can provide those numbers, too.
Dr. Mike Patrick: So, we'll put a link in the show notes to the Big Lots Behavioral Health Services at Nationwide Children's. Tell us a little bit about what you do because you offer a lot of services throughout Central Ohio, right?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: So, I am actually one of the pediatric psychologists on Main Campus. And I just get to stare at the beautiful BHP, as I drive by. But I do have so many colleagues that work there.
The Behavioral Health is really involved in every level of care. And Psychology is involved in every level of care here at Children's, from outpatient to assessment, to in-patient for safety concerns to I see kids who are admitted on medical force who are chronic conditions. So, there is services at almost every level even in primary care and then neuromedical clinics, there are social work, too.
So, we try to be a very accessible and we stay very busy busy, too. We're hoping to continue to expand and grow and be able to keep meeting the needs of our community. But the bottom line is we're here for you.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. And then, we have On Our Sleeves Movement. Tell us a little bit about what that's all about, On Our Sleeves?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: So, what we know just by looking at data is that I often think that data is a little bit lower than… But it might actually be dealing with data that says clearly there's one in five children experience mental illness. And as Nationwide is really got an amazing behavioral health program, On Our Sleeves sort of developed after that and now has become its own entity. But it is actually a movement that designed to have these conversations more, to think about this modern mental health model and see how we can get more out quicker.
I said so many times what I do in an hour, I could probably write it down and share it, it could help so many more people. And I know my colleagues probably feels the same way and On Our Sleeves is moving toward that. It is a bliss going to the website, onoursleeves.org. There are so many tips and tricks.
A lot of the things that I talked about today are going to be on there. There are some nice tips for managing anxiety. There are blogs and just resources that you can access. It's very easily accessible and I think most people really enjoy it and connect with it.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. And I'll put a link in the show notes to onoursleeves.org. Really lots of terrific resources there. Here's just a sample of them and we'll put links to each of these in the show notes as well.
There's an article on tips to prevent holiday stress for children and parents, which is exactly what we've been talking about. Also, one that deals with COVID-19 specifically and how that relates to holiday stress, How to Navigate Mental Health in the Holidays, and then another one called Rethinking the Holidays. And again, we'll put links to all of those things in the show notes.
But really, I would recommend that folks just go to onoursleeves.org and just explore. I mean there's really a lot there. Just trying to raise awareness and normalizing this conversations, breaking stigmas, it's all-important things to do.
Because really, the best way to help kids and adults with mental health conditions is to talk about it squarely and get folks the help that they need, rather than sticking it in the closet and trying to keep that beach ball underwater, right? It's hard to do. We need to let it pop out and deal with it.
Dr. Jessica Bailey: You're totally right. I just want to add a caveat to tip to consider curiosity, even as we're learning about how other groups and cultures and religions celebrate the holidays. It is great to approach that with curiosity because the more that you learn, the more that you understand. And it is such a great time to be learning. And I think that a lot of people are willing to talk about it.
I have conversations about how I celebrate the holidays and how I changed celebrating the holidays. So, curiosity and willingness to learn goes a really long way and it's very very important in this time, too.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Absolutely. It's a great opportunity to get to know our neighbors and get to know our coworkers and people who may have come from different cultural backgrounds from ourselves really to spark conversations and get to know one another a little bit better. And that goes a long way to helping all of us in terms of understanding each other and living and working together, right?
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Yeah. I have one more great tip for managing stress.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Let's hear it, yeah.
Dr. Jessica Bailey: So, my favorite tip for managing stress is the technique that I call come up for air. So, let's imagine we're feeling a very stressful holiday. We're in a lot of pressure. We're not done with our food shopping list, all of that stuff.
And at the end of the day or the middle of the day, we just cannot go to sleep. We can't rest, we can't relax. We just feel that we all know that feeling overwhelmed. Come up for air. What brings you the tinniest bit of joy? Tell a joke, make yourself laugh, laugh at the silliness of the situation.
I personally go watch the movie if I have time. So, if that your chance, that's great. Share a funny TikTok that will just break that up for you. Is there something funny you can tell yourself? Can you joke around with somewhere nearby?
Come up for air because what happens is our brain will go all the stress in it almost works like a very great like turning machine. And it will remind you, have a thought that's going to worry, and then it will be okay, it's going away. And here it is again. And then you hear another worry.
And suddenly our brains are going faster, and our bodies are tenser. A 15-minute break, a 5-minute break, whatever you can manage in your day to come up for air and have a moment of lightness. It helps me out so much.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Really, really important. Great tip to end on. So, Dr. Jessica Bailey, pediatric psychologist with the Nationwide Children's Hospital, I hope that you have a terrific holiday season that is a low stress. And thank you so much for sharing all of these tips and tricks with us.
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Well expectations, too. I went down from having three Christmas trees to one.
Dr. Jessica Bailey: Much more manageable.
Dr. Mike Patrick: We are back with just enough time to say thanks once again to all of you for taking time out of your day and making PediaCast a part of it. Really do appreciate that. Also, thanks to our guest this week, Dr. Jessica Bailey, pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
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