The Sunday Scaries, Grief, and Holiday Depression: A Licensed Mental Health Counselor Answers Your Questions

January 19, 2019

Everyday life can be a challenge, so sometimes you need to call in an expert. Justin Baksh, LMHC, LPC, MCAP and Chief Clinical Officer at Foundations Wellness Center answers your mental health questions. 

Q: Every Sunday I wake up with dread. Why? Because the next day is Monday and I have to return to work. How can I get relief from the “Sunday Scaries?”

A: If you are having angst or anxiety over returning to work, it could be all or a component of what you do. Even if you have your dream job, the ebb and flow of life may cause you to not be as connected to your work as you may like. Work is work. It is not fun or they would call it fun instead of work. However, is it really the work? Maybe not. It may be other areas of life that you are not aware of that are affecting the drive and motivation to go to work. Maybe it is existing family stress or tension or maybe it is financial pressures. There are numerous things that get projected onto the mandated routine of Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm, and contribute to the Sunday Scaries. What you need is introspective reflection and mindfulness. First, really look at your life — and not just the superficial level that most human beings operate on. Try taking a bigger snapshot. For example, ask yourself: What is happening with my family? How about my friends? Am I in a bind financially? Stop and observe what’s going on to find out what’s really causing the angst. Then you can focus on a solution to the problem. For example, if it is a co-worker, a task, or an assignment, consider how you can improve the situation. It could also be that you need to take a look at how you are caring for yourself. What are you doing on the weekends? Are you taking time for yourself? Some of us stay just as busy on the weekends with chores, kid’s commitments, and parties that, although we are not working, we are still performing at a work pace and never get to de-stress and decompress. This can be solved by taking more time for yourself; whether it is time off from work or adjusting your weekend schedule.

Q: My mother-in-law lives with us. When she moved in, she came with a lot of stuff — most of which is in storage. However, our living room furniture was replaced by her (now-deceased) mother’s. Now, we are expecting a child and need to turn that room into a nursery. However, my mother-in-law will not hear of it. We offered to pay for an air-conditioned storage unit (the one she has is full to the brim), which we really cannot afford, but she still refuses. Instead, she suggests that her grandchild (our baby) take the one and only guest room we have. Help! We do not feel that this is a long-term solution.  

A: In the loss process, we tend to think material things represent the person. Letting go of those things means letting go of the permanence of having that person in our life. Whether it is a chair, a sweater, a dish, or a living room sofa, human beings tend to attach material things to a person. In order to move through these situations, we need to challenge that faulty way of thinking. Talk to your mother-in-law and let her know that letting go of material items does not equal letting go of memories or emotions or her mother. This is where the grieving process comes in. The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then acceptance. Not every individual will pass through all these stages in order, one at a time, or even at all — grieving is highly individual and not a linear process. Your mother-in-law is stuck in denial. So how do you deal with it? Take small steps. Seek counseling for your mother-in-law, as well as a support group (grief support groups are offered for free through hospice). Then, your mother-in-law could start with purging the things that she is the least attached to and work her way up to clearing the room. If the process needs to be sped up (depending on where you are in your pregnancy), come up with a short-term compromise. You will use the guest room for the first three months after the baby is born, but after that, if she has not purged, everything will go into storage. Make it clear, too, that her actions are causing consequences in the lives of those she loves, for example, other family members that may want to make use of the guest room by visiting. Sometimes this can provide the proper motivation for someone to become “unstuck.” 

 Q: I just broke up with my significant other and am too far from family to visit them for the holidays. It looks like I will be on my own. The thought of it makes me feel depressed. What should I do? 

A: A lot of people struggle with the holidays for various reasons. Whether your situation is similar to the one listed above or altogether different, try changing how you think about the holiday in question. Let us take Christmas Day as an example: At the end of the day, it is just another day of the week. It is the meaning we attach to it that gives it significance in our minds and thereby causes depression. However, if it is just another Tuesday, the reality is that it does not mean anything more than the Tuesday before it or the Tuesday after it. All the meaning we attach to it is what distorts our perception causing unwanted and difficult emotions. If we strip the meaning away, then there is no stress or loneliness. Think of it as just another day — a day off at that! What do Jewish people do on Christmas Day? They enjoy the day off. They may get Chinese food, go to the movies, do something fun, or just take time off to enjoy their lives. It could be the same thing for you. Really, if we want to make every day count, it does not have to just be Christmas when we spend quality time with others or express love and forgiveness toward our family and friends. You can wait for a day when you are reunited or have something scheduled to simply celebrate that you are together. 

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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