If you are reading this article on the first day back at work in the New Year you might want to consider yourself lucky for two reasons… you have a job and your holiday wasn’t a ‘workfest’ robbing you of valuable downtime. So many of my clients and patients have had the latter. One senior manager in particular has been in three countries during the holidays managing project implementation snafu’s throughout and wondered out loud why he wasn’t experiencing any holiday joy.
Here are a few reasons why ‘Ol Happy Holiday’ may be hiding the frankincense and myrrh.
- Too many people in closed confines breathing in your face on airplanes and other conveyances.
- Meals gulped into the gullet while rampaging through traffic fifteen minutes behind schedule.
- Ill-fitting undergarments.
- The annual computer virus that prevents the sending of a simple email while ruining files.
- Bumping into people who are happy and drunk…and wishing there was time to join them.
A holiday demon that does make its presence known is the ‘underwhelmed feeling’ of being alone in a world of community. In Northern Iraq, Turkey, and elsewhere in the East I was often impressed by people’s need to congregate, enjoy a tea or coffee, tell a story, and laugh. We used to see that in the United States before people crammed coffee shops with laptops and ipods. It is, though, a practiced art…being involved with other people on a purely social level.
And what we know about sociability, or lack thereof, is that from time to time it can create separation and a sense of being alone. Of all the symptoms I have seen in my clinical work since the beginning of the war on terror, being completely alone has been a virulent pest.
So…what is the answer to holiday blues screwing up a good 2011? First, recognize that busy and motivated people working in tough circumstances can be impacted by their work and suffer from it. Second, assess yourself and see if you are affected. And third, decide on a course of action. And here is a little scale to get the assessment rolling. See if you resemble any three of these common (yes, common!) work-related attributes.
Feeling sad, unhappy, and self-critical at times – (Y/N)
Feeling tired and have little energy – (Y/N)
Having trouble sleeping or eating (either too much or too little) – (Y/N)
Not enjoying activities that you used to – (Y/N)
Feeling uneasy, restless, irritable, or guilty – (Y/N)
Having trouble concentrating, remembering things, or making personal decisions – (Y/N)
Have nagging aches and pains (head,, joint and stomach pains/indigestion) that won’t go away (Y/N)
Friends and family think something is wrong with me and that my mood has changed – (Y/N)
My low mood is impacting my friends, family, and work – (Y/N)
You, of course, do not need the little set of questions above to tell yourself if something might be slightly out of adjustment. You know yourself very well. But, as an exercise, the questions can at least give some foundation to how to get back into fighting shape. Hence, step three. Figure out what resources you have available that can lick this malady in the bud. Here are my suggestions.
Log on to vettrauma.org and take the comprehensive confidential assessment that will be reviewed only my myself. If you have taken on in the past, we can that one as a baseline to track any changes. Also, make an appointment with your primary care provider. I am happy to provide a referral letter to guide you and your provider through some of the common – and often immediate – remedies. And finally, consider how you are working now and living now and see if there are any small tweaks that can be made to alter in the positive each day. One patient of mine committed to doing one small thing only for himself every day. A pause for a good cup of coffee, a cat nap, taking time to read a chapter of a book, or seeing a movie (in a theater with popcorn).
The key ingredient to add to frankincense and myrrh…a willingness to put yourself first so that everyone else who loves, likes, and support you doesn’t have to pick up the slack. Independence…now that is a Holiday gift worth having.
Have a convivial New Year…enjoy.