Got the holiday blues? We have some ideas…

Musicians' Assistance Program

Volume 112, No. 12December, 2012

Cindy Green, LCSW

The office of the Musicians’ Assistance Program is your
one-stop shop for musicians’ health. We offer counseling – both one-on-one
and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services,
including health insurance, housing, food stamps and more. All services are free
to Local 802 members. Contact us at
or (212) 397-4802

The holidays are coming! For many, it’s their favorite time of
year, gathering with family and friends, exchanging gifts and celebrating joy
and peace. Decorations adorn the city, filling us all with the wonder of the
holiday spirit. However, the truth is that the holidays don’t fill everyone
with joy. It can be an incredibly stressful time and the overwhelming demands
confronting our professional and personal lives can be anxiety provoking,
depressing and difficult to manage. When stress peaks, coping can be difficult.
If you know that this is a possible scenario for you, it’s best to prepare and
minimize the holiday tension.

The first step in managing any problem is to acknowledge that it’s
there. It’s not unusual to feel sadness or grief at this time of year. There
are a lot of extra responsibilities to manage and juggling all of them can have
a significant impact. Your feelings are valid, and simply recognizing you’re
overwhelmed can be helpful.

Once you’ve acknowledged your less- than-joyful holiday feelings,
you can make a plan to manage them.

  • Start by reaching out to friends and family. Being lonely or
    isolated with your feelings is not an effective option. Make sure your
    support system knows that this time of year is a struggle for you. Sometimes
    family and friends might not be the people to share your troubles with as
    they may actually be the cause of your anxiety. If this is the case, call my
    office at (212) 397-4802. We offer confidential services, so any holiday
    stress or depression you bring to us will be kept entirely private. Services
    are free to members of Local 802.

  • Financial resources are often tested at this time of year and
    people frequently spend more than they should. A rash of bounced checks is a
    great way to spike your anxiety. To avoid this stress, sit down – as soon
    as possible – and create a holiday budget. Consider all of the extra
    holiday spending you’ll do on gifts, parties and annual tips to the super.
    Creating awareness of your finances and keeping track of your spending will
    not only be useful but you might surprise yourself when you see where your
    money goes.

  • Similar to budgeting money, budgeting time will help manage
    feeling overwhelmed by extra holiday tasks. Take out your calendar and plan
    ahead the time you’ll need to spend shopping, cooking and writing holiday
    cards. Making lists – for gifts, groceries as well as any guests – will
    keep you organized and cut down on extraneous trips to the stores, leaving
    you with more time on your hands. Planning ahead will bring a new level of
    organization and minimize stress.

  • Learn to say "No." While it’s wonderful to give of
    yourself, saying "yes" when you should really say "no"
    can leave you feeling stressed and resentful. This situation can lead to
    conflicts with friends and family and you can end up performing poorly in
    all areas of your life. Make sure that your own needs are being met before
    concentrating your energy on the needs of others. As flight attendants say,
    make sure your oxygen mask is secured before assisting others. You can
    suffocate under the demands of others if you don’t set the boundaries you
    need to care for yourself.

  • Always remember to practice healthy habits. Don’t give
    yourself license to go overboard with alcohol, drugs and unhealthy food
    simply because it’s holiday time. Poor nutrition habits and chronic
    hangovers will only add to stress, depression and guilt, not to mention the
    physical toll this takes on your body. Remember to practice good sleep
    habits (7 to 8 hours per night is recommended), and rest when your body is
    telling you that is what it needs. Taking short breaks from stimulation can
    sometimes be enough of a refresher to allow you to come back and handle
    everything efficiently and effectively.

  • Finally, seek professional help if you need it. The MAP office
    is the best place to start. We will evaluate your situation and recommend
    steps to take to manage the stress and anxiety that the holidays can so
    easily trigger. Feel free to contact us at (212) 397-4802 or
    We wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season.

P.S. If you were impacted by Hurricane Sandy and still need
assistance, please contact the MAP office at (212) 397-4802 or
A variety of public and private programs are available and we can help you find
the resources you need.