Regulate & Rewire: An Anxiety & Depression Podcast

Holiday Mental Health Support (Part 1)

December 12, 2023 Amanda Armstrong Episode 43
Regulate & Rewire: An Anxiety & Depression Podcast
Holiday Mental Health Support (Part 1)
Show Notes Transcript


The holidays can be a lot — a lot of joy and a lot of hard. I asked you all what you struggle with most in the winter or around the holidays so I could offer some more personalized support for my listeners. This and next week I’ll work through more candidly answering 10 of the submissions. I’ll list all 10 here, but not before I invite you to join me at the end of this month for my biggest community event of the year (& it’s totally free).

Join me for my annual NYE circle event on Dec. 28th @ 8p ET

Click here:

Holiday support questions:

  1. Loneliness around a small family, not having many friends, and not having kids at my age
  2. Grief for memories I will never make with my dad again
  3. Sadness/grieving over not having traditional family, single mama of kid who needs tons of coregulation
  4. The sadness of not being with your children for the holiday due to split custody agreement
  5. Even more tactical ways to incorporate nervous system regulation into busy lives this time of year
  6. Being activated (or shut down) at a holiday gathering, & anticipatory anxiety of events
  7. Expectations I have for me and expectations others have for me – “no” feel like failure
  8. Juggling real life with the “magic” of the season = exhausting
  9. Finances
  10. Pressure to make new goals

The first 5 questions are answered today, the final 5 next week. Thanks for being here friend. I’m sending you so much hope & healing.





Welcome to regulate, and rewire and anxiety and depression podcast where we discuss the things I wish someone would have taught me earlier in my healing journey. I'm your host, Amanda Armstrong. And I'll be sharing my steps, my missteps, client experiences and tangible research based tools to help you regulate your nervous system, rewire your mind and reclaim your life. Thanks for being here. Now let's dive in. 

Welcome back. Today, I'll continue to offer support for the things that you all said, you are struggling with most this time of year. Last week, I touched on seasonal depression. And today I want to get through as many more of the listener submissions as I can. So what I think I'll do for this conversation is a rapid fire of 10 of the submissions, and just offer more candid thoughts. Last week, I did a lot more research and got into the science. And today, I just want to offer some candid thoughts in response to what you all wrote in and hope that those of you listening, take away, or hear yourself, even if you weren't somebody who actually submitted something you're struggling with, I think that most of you listening are going to see an element of yourself in something that somebody else wrote in. And my hope is that everyone listening just takes away at least one thing that is helpful for you in navigating the season a little bit better. 

So jumping right in with number one, someone wrote in that they are struggling with loneliness around a small family not having many friends and not having kids at my age. 

And what I think I'm hearing between the lines here is a lot of should a story of my family should be bigger, I should have more friends, I should have kids at my age. And should is a word that is always lined with an element of shame. So, of course, that doesn't feel good. And when I noticed these kinds of stories coming up for me, the stories that often imply that here, wherever here is for me in that moment, that here is wrong, and somewhere else would be better or more, right? I try to do these couple things. Number one is to hold space for the emotion that I'm feeling. Because even if the story I'm telling about myself, and my life isn't necessarily true, or all the way through, the emotions that come up as a result of that story are real, the loneliness, the disappointment, maybe even sadness. And in validating and holding space for those feelings, I can often make a little bit more space for a more neutral or alternative narrative. And one of the other things that I tried to do when I noticed this come up for me is instead of a story of should, which to be fair, I don't actually know if the person who submitted this has this story of should. But if you do, if any of you have a story about how things in your life, or this season should look or be different, or how you should feel differently, here's the reality. Things are how they are, and you feel how you feel. And really what your mind is implying is that maybe you wouldn't have to feel lonely or sad. If you had a bigger family or more friends, or kids. And you don't actually know that to be true. There are a lot of people who have all of those things and still experience loneliness. So the question I usually turn towards myself to ask is, what does it look like to just get a little better at making space for loneliness? What does it look like to not make it so wrong to feel the way that I do? I try to hold space for where I am. 

And also acknowledge that if this isn't where I want to stay, if this isn't a pattern that I want to feel, maybe next year or in other situations, what can I do about it? And what support do I need to do something about it? If we want things to be different in our lives, we have to enter seasons where we embrace solutions. And so there's two things here there's one there's validation and this holding space for where you are and for where you are to not be wrong. It just is where you are and it's uncomfortable. And also if we want different things in our life. What does it look like to get to a season where you have the capacity to embrace solutions, filtering those solutions through a lens of your reality to the person who wrote this in you can't change your family size. You can't magically have kids that aren't there at your age. But there are likely things that you can do to build a stronger sense of community. And maybe you don't know know where to start. Or maybe you don't have the capacity to figure that out right now. That's okay. And I want you to know that there is community out there for you. There's a lot of pressure for the holidays to look a certain way for you to feel a certain cheeriness about them. And it's also okay, if we just wish it looked some way different than it does. So much of the feedback, I think that I'll offer on a lot of what you all shared with me is to find a way to hold space for exactly where you are. And whatever comes up in response to that, you do not need to mask your loneliness or disappointment and false cheeriness or gratitude for what you do or don't have. It makes sense that you feel lonely with a small family, it makes sense that you feel lonely without very many friends, it makes sense that you might feel whatever you're feeling about not having kids at your age. All of that sounds like it is heavy and hard for you. And all of that is a real. 

So I'll finish by offering you to consider reflecting on a few of these questions. Question number one, if there was one way I could do a better job of holding space for my feelings about everything? What might that look like? Question two, even though I'm not living my ideal situation right now, what something that might bring me some joy around the holidays. And question number three, if I want any of this to be different or feel different next year, what might the first steps to that be? And just offering that humaneness of I am sorry that you're in a tough place right now. And you are seen and supported in that. I hope you feel that. 

Now submission number two, someone wrote in saying I'm struggling with grief for memories I will never make with my dad again. Oh, sweet friend. I'm so sorry for your loss. Grief is twisted in so many ways. It's debilitating, really heavy some days, and then not too long later, you have a really good day, and then you feel guilty for having a really good day. And the remembering of this person, or those memories can knock the wind out of you but still somehow feel like what you want to happen. My family is still pretty tender. To grief to right now we lost my sister in law to colon cancer. About a year and a half ago, she's got three young kids. And we're hitting some of those milestones like the first family thanksgiving without her. And I'm also close to coming up on the two year anniversary of my late miscarriage where I lost I lost one of our sons. And I don't share these things to in any way detract from your loss. But instead to try to add the element of shared human experience. And the emotion that I feel coming up for me too, right now just illustrates how messy and raw grief makes you and I don't have, I don't have a perfect answer for you. Grief feels messy. For me, it's often laced with a little bit of anger at first, that softens into love and loss. 

And one thing that's really interesting about grief and the way that it is stored in our mind and body is that in an instant, it can come on and feel as intensely as it did at the moment of loss. And it was really helpful for me to know and to understand that because as I've gotten away from or further, you know, more time has just passed from our loss, I'll have these moments where it's like I'm in I'm in that moment again. And I had these thoughts around like, Well, does it just mean that like, my healing work isn't working? Is it always going to be this hard? What what does it mean? What does it mean that it still feels this big. And what it means is that that's oftentimes a normal way to experience grief. That because of the way that it's somatically held because of its intensity when it comes on and the way that our brain processes it, it oftentimes doesn't add that timestamp. And so when something triggers that, that grief or that loss, it really can be re experienced very, very intensely even years or decades down the road. And I don't share this to make you feel like you're going to be lost in this forever because you won't be in the same way and just know that it's totally normal for it to be ping in a really intense and painful way, no matter how far away we get from it. And what I'm learning personally is that the overwhelming grief softens over time, the memories become less painful to remember and easier to smile about. And there are these moments that gut punch you. And I found that it is easiest if I, if I just let it if I just let myself have those moments to fall to my knees to fall apart, then to settle, because it always settles to get back up. And each time I go through this process, I get more and more confident in my ability to hold the love and the longing without drowning in the pain and the grief. And that's been really important to me that I can hold the intensity and have confidence that it won't drown me. I'm sad, and I'm mad and angry to at the memories that I won't get to make with my people. As I can imagine you're feeling right now. And I also want to just tenderly hold on to the memories that I do have. 

So friend, I don't I don't have any way of fixing this for you. I just wish that I could wrap my arms around you because these firsts after loss are hard. They're hard. So be gentle, be tender. And know that this overwhelming grief you might be experiencing right now does soften over time. 

All right, I gave myself a few minutes to resettle my system after that one. So I could come back in with submission number three, which reads, I'm feeling sadness and grief over not having a traditional family. I'm a single mom of a kid who needs a ton of CO regulation. And here, I think a lot of what I said in response to the last two applies here as well. It's okay to be sad. It's okay to grieve. And I think sometimes it's just that validation that we need to give ourselves first. And here's the thought please take or leave, please take or leave anything that does or doesn't feel right for you in today's conversation. How does it feel to validate your sadness and your grief to remind yourself, it makes sense to feel this way, it makes sense to feel the way that you do and then maybe more intentionally add on a symbol. And it makes sense that you're sad. And you're resilient. It makes sense to grieve, how you thought your family might look different than it does. And you've got a great kid that you wouldn't trade for the world. And I think sometimes it's that and that for me personally, can really anchor me into, okay, and now what and to, to your point around a kid who needs a lot of CO regulation. The number one thing that you and any of us as parents can do for our kids is learn how to self regulate our capacity to self regulate is directly correlated with our ability to co regulate. 

And I recently spoke to a local group of Mother business owners and I asked them all to raise their hands if they ever thought they didn't have time for self care. And as you can imagine, almost everyone raised their hand. And here's where I invited them to start. And maybe this will resonate with you too, or at least give you something to think about. As parents, we understand that our kids need basic things to function well. They need enough sleep, they need a felt sense of belonging. They need enough food, they need structure. And yet those are the things that we so often deprive ourselves of. What can you do to get yourself a little bit more sleep? If you're not getting enough sleep and enough sleep is not Oh, I can get by on five or six hours? No enough sleep is a consistent seven to eight hours of quality sleep most nights of your life. And so if that's not your reality, what can you do to give yourself a little more sleep so you have more capacity to self regulate to co regulate and eat breakfast, for the love of all things holy. 

All of you need to start eating a more nourishing breakfast. Since I talked about this on the podcast a few weeks ago the things I have heard from some of you. Coffee doesn't count a piece of toast or cereal is going to send you on a blood sugar roller coaster for the rest of your day. That contributes to anxiety Find a way to eat a high protein breakfast. And it doesn't have to be complicated. Hard, boil yourself a dozen eggs at the beginning of the week, you can eat leftover chicken and vegetables from dinner for breakfast breakfast doesn't have to look like what traditional breakfast foods look like. In fact, I would encourage that your breakfast doesn't. 

And another one of my favorite things to offer, especially parents or something I called bathroom check ins. So your body is going to give you that break. And some of you're like Amanda, even the bathroom isn't a break, my kids come in, shut the door, lock the door, or even if they are there, let them cry, let them be there. Can you use needing to pee as a moment to check in with yourself to take a few reset breaths. And I know these suggestions are not anything groundbreaking or novel. But if you can't look me in the eye and tell me that you're getting good sleep, that you're eating quality breakfast, that you're taking at least a moment every day to take a deep breath and tune in and just say how am I doing? That's where you need to start. And I feel like a little bit of a hypocrite right now because my quantity and quality of sleep has tanked significantly in the last few weeks. And I want to blame my breastfeeding baby. And that's part of it. But also, I have just been pulling some long hours with work one to prepare for a long trip that we have coming up this month that I really want to check out for. Also, my husband has been on maternity leave, which has allowed me a lot more childcare support to work more hours. And he goes back to work in January, we don't have any childcare currently set up. And so I'm really wanting to get ahead on as many work projects as they can to give our family that buffer space in case we cannot find the right support as soon as we need it. So I have been burning the candle at both ends, definitely more so than normal. And I can get away. And I say this, I tread lightly and saying this because I don't want my actions to be an excuse for somebody else to not to work until you know 2am, which I don't do, but is I can get away with short seasons of sub optimal lifestyle habits, whether that is my movement, or my breakfast or my sleep because I have it so dialed in most of the time and you will never find a day. Or it would be a very, very, very rare exception for me to not get quality sleep and to skip breakfast. 

Because if I am going to dial down my support to my system in one area, you better believe I'm really intentional to dial up. And to make sure if I'm not nourishing myself with as much quality rest that I am nourishing myself with more quality nutrition and hydration and morning sunlight. And so just taking all of this and filtering it through the lens of reality, and you're not going to have the perfect habits all the time. So if you have a kid or kids that ask a lot of you in terms of CO regulation, especially this time of year, your number one job as a parent is to get better at self regulation. And this is something that we support people with inside my coaching all the time finding these micro moments of self care and regulation to sprinkle into your day. We help people identify ways that uniquely work for them to calm down in the moments that they need it most. And so many times inside my rise membership, we have community conversations on how to help our kids regulate better. So if this is something that might be helpful for you, I know your family doesn't look what you labeled to be traditional. We still need a village we still need community. So if that feels like it might be helpful for you, I'd love for you to join us there. 

Submission number four reads the sadness of not being with my children for the holidays due to a split custody agreement. And echoing a lot again of the above be sad. It makes sense that you're sad. And is there something you can do that might also be supportive for you? Do you need to lean into your community right now? Do you need to be at a friend's house? Do you need to put on a light hearted comedy and eat chocolate and take a long bath? Maybe it's helpful for you to get outside and go on a hike or something. Ask yourself this. How can I show up for myself in this hard? Because the reality is there's no getting around this being hard. How might you be able to show up for yourself in that hard a little more intentionally. 

Number five, can you share even more tactical ways to incorporate nervous system regulation into busy lives this time of year? Okay, I am going to quickly laundry lists some suggestions, and many of them I'm going to sound like a broken record. But the truth is, we don't need to overcomplicate it. So take the ones that you think serve you best, do some trial and error. Here we go. Here are some of my tactical suggestions on how to incorporate more nervous system regulation into this busy season. 

Number one, get outside first thing in the morning, even for just five minutes. I know it's probably cold where you live, put on a coat, get outside, get natural sunlight in your eyeballs, because it helps to anchor your internal clock, which is going to set a baseline of regulation for everything else that happens in your life. 

Eat breakfast, eat breakfast, eat breakfast, do we got it? I think we're good there. 

The third suggestion I'll make is own your nos to protect your yeses, you likely do not have to do most of the things you're telling yourself that you have to do. So if you're somebody who's feeling anxious, I want to invite you to say yes to less. If you're somebody who's feeling more down and depressed, I actually want to encourage you to consider saying yes to more. Because there's a chance you might be isolating, but own your nose to protect your yeses, you likely don't have to do all the things you're telling yourself that you have to do. 

Number four, every time you sit down to pee, and I'm talking all genders here, just sit down, there's less splashing, and it gives you a minute to check in. When you sit down to pee, take a deep breath and check in with yourself. Ask yourself, literally ask yourself how you doing. Because far too often, we go far too long without checking in on how we're doing. We check in on how everybody else is doing. But just the simple act of turning towards yourself and consideration is so healing. 

Suggestion five, move your body inside outside, I don't care. But moving your body is really important for regulation. 

Suggestion six here, if you're feeling stressed, shake it out. Literally, if you start to feel activated, if you start to feel your system stress, start by maybe shaking your hands like you're trying to flick water off of them, then maybe you shake your shoulders or your body. This practice of somatic shaking can help you to discharge some of that activated stress energy from your body. 

Next addition, because I've lost count of what number I'm on, consider eating a little less sugar than you want to. And I'm not giving this in any kind of weird like diet culture way, but from an understanding that sugar feeds illness. So especially if you feel a cold or something coming on, stay away from all the added sugars. If we think about dysregulation being this accumulation of stress load on the system. Sugar and sickness is also a stressor, internal stressors can be elevated by lots of sugar and being sick. 

next suggestion, have an hour of the day where you put your phone out of sight, out of sight out of mind, because having your phone on you all of the time creates this constant sense of multitasking. That's really exhausting for our brains. Next, get outside around sunset, that second dose of low horizon sunlight is also really regulating and helps to keep that internal clock balanced. 

next suggestion. And this one. This one's huge, especially, especially for me. I have found in many situations for me, especially when I'm feeling more stressed out I can assume insult or callousness or in consideration from somebody else's behavior. And what I have been really intentional to try to do more often than not, is to just assume positive or at least neutral intent from other people's comments or actions. And even if you can get a sense that somebody is trying to be intentionally rude or malicious, I honestly still sometimes just let it go. Because it feels too exhausting to try to fight every battle. And even if they did intend to be rude, you can find me like six out of 10 times just let it go. I'm gonna let that be on them. Maybe another two of the times I will address it depending on that person. And the other two times are when I'm also a pesky human and so dysregulated that at the moment of insult intended or not, I'm going to lose it on you warranted or not. So none of us are perfect but this around the holidays especially. And it's something I'm trying to live by as well is just to to assume positive or neutral intent. And if somebody is being rude or malicious, it doesn't excuse their behavior. But understanding that you're coming from a place of you're also suffering you're also struggling to just allows me to let it roll off my back and lets me move on with my day, I find a spent a lot of my life having big feelings and big opinions about everything, and it's exhausting. All right, just a couple more feeling impatient in line, or just impatient or irritated. 

So we already talked about if you're feeling anxious, you can shake it out. But let's say you are in a situation where shaking it out is weird. And you're not going to do that when you are in line at the grocery store or at the dinner table when you're hearing and whoever talks about something political that you don't agree with. So another somatic practice, you might want to consider doing here is just gently swaying side to side. So this again, honors that activation is rising in your system, it's allowing movement in some small way, while not actually engaging in a fight or flight behavior of avoidance or combativeness. So swaying side to side is something that helps me to just settle my system a little bit. 

Also, color spotting, looking around the room can be done in family settings without being noticed. This also can be an is for many, many of our clients a really helpful one, if they can feel panic coming on, is to just look around the room and pick a color. So right now, if I were to ask you to pick a color, any color, what would you choose? Cool, that's your color, my color happens to be orange. So anytime I'm feeling really activated, and I'm in a setting where I can't run, I can't escape, I don't want to collapse. Color spotting, I look around the room, and I count or identify all of the orange objects. And what this dies is this elicits distance viewing, which activates a little bit of a parasympathetic relaxation response. It's also sensory distraction, and you can usually do it without being noticed. So that could be another one gentle, swaying usually goes unnoticed or color spotting. 

And the last one I'll give you here is to train your lens of glimmers of gratitude. You Your brain has a built in negativity bias, you're naturally going to see the things that annoy you. My invitation here is as often as possible, can you identify something that you think is lovely or interesting or that you feel grateful for? Just to help balance things out? And there's a lot of research out there in favor of intentionally practicing this lens of positivity. 

All right, I know I said there were 10 submissions. And I always I always, always, always overestimate how much I can cram into these 30 minute episodes. So I did record in one go my responses to all 10 of them and realize that I was at like an hour and 15 minutes. So I am coming back to add this little note. That's it for today's conversation, we are going to go through the rest of those submissions. Next week. 

What I'm going to do is in the show notes, you are going to find a total list of all 10 of those questions. Number one, because if you're somebody who wrote in I want you to know that I got to your question, and we'll get to it next week if we didn't get to it today. And also just for all of you who want to know oh, what else was there is next week's episode going to be something I really want to tune into? Is that going to be helpful for me, you can view the whole list of all 10 questions down in the show notes. 

And what you'll hear about again, at the end of next week's episode, but I want to put it on your radar now to is a community event a virtual community event that I will be hosting on December 28. This is my biggest community event of the year, it's absolutely free. And this will be my fourth annual this event is called My New Year's Eve circle. And I want to hold you in all of this all of the things that you're struggling with all of the emotions that you're feeling, I also want to hold space for you to celebrate the ways that you've shown up for yourselves or the things that you've accomplished this year. And so so much more as we get closer to the end of this year. So I want to extend an invitation for you to join me in this community event. And it truly is one of my personal favorites to host every single year. And I know it's not technically a New Year's Eve, but I figured you'd have other plans and still really want to do to be able to prioritize this time for yourself and to be in community and just to be held in what I have been calling a regulated reflection. So whether this has been your best year worst year or something in between, I promise there's something for you in this event, and I want to share something that somebody sent me at the end of last year's event They wrote in and said, I look forward to this event every single year. It's the perfect balance of magic and science. And it's the most supportive I've ever felt in my healing. This event powerfully combines ritual and tradition with nervous system regulation and release. We are going to breathe, celebrate reflected journal release, burn our fears, and so so much more to just hold this year tenderly, with some regulated reflection and intention setting for what we want out of next year. 

So bringing today's conversation together, the three tangible takeaways, I'm going to keep them really simple here is number one, it makes sense to feel the way that you feel. And the first step to not spiraling out or adding insult to injury is just to do that. Validate and you can use this script. If you're like, I feel sad, I feel angry. I'm grieving. I feel frustrated. Yeah, it makes sense, you feel frustrated. And you can end there, it can end there validate the way that you feel, because you have a good reason for feeling the way that you feel. 

Number two, grief is messy. It's messy. And I promise it won't stay this overwhelming forever, you will be able to look back on those memories and feel softer, more gentle, they won't be such a gut punch forever. 

And number three, is just a reiteration of an invitation to join me for my new year's eve circle event this year and I will drop a link in the show notes where you can get more information about that event, and save your seat. Thank you for being here. We will have a similar type of conversation next week as I finish out those 10 submissions offering you support for the things you're struggling with most this time of year. 

Thanks for listening to another episode of The regulate and rewire podcast. If you enjoyed what you heard today, please subscribe and leave a five star review to help us get these powerful tools out to even more people who need them. And if you yourself are looking for more personalized support and applying what you've learned today, consider joining me inside rise my monthly mental health membership and nervous system healing space or apply for our one on one anxiety and depression coaching program restore. I've shared a link for more information to both in the show notes. Again, thanks so much for being here. And I'll see you next time.

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