Good afternoon! I'm Megan Barnes Zesati, an online therapist.

Though there are many positive emotions that go along with the holidays, it is also a time of increased stress for many people. Common holiday stressors are: lack of time, lack of money, pressure of giving/getting gifts, maintaining healthy diet and exercise, stressful family gatherings, and/or feelings of sadness about not being able to be with loved ones over the holidays (due to work circumstances, estrangement, travel, military service or recent death of loved one…)

I'm here to help! Ask me Anything and let's discuss how to deal with some of these stressors. I'll be checking this post every day or two and responding or feel free to reach out to me directly on my website: for free help on surviving holiday stress! My Proof: Additional proof - the first message here:

Comments: 53 • Responses: 19  • Date: 

Crazy_Wulf17 karma

What kind of rates do you offer? I am someone with severe social anxiety/phobia so in person therapy has never worked out for me. I can generally type alright online so online therapy seems like a good option for me. The only ones I have found only "talk" once or twice a day.

mbztherapy16 karma

I actually don't use messaging for online therapy--sessions are conducted in real time over a confidential video platform that is similar to Skype called VSee. You could look into services like Better Help and Talkspace, as I know they do offer messaging options. It's a bit different than video sessions, but perhaps it would be a good fit for you.

LargeCokeNoIce14 karma

Newly married. Just got laid off work on the 1st. Not sure what to get my wife for Christmas. Help? Or suggestions on how to deal with this stress?

mbztherapy14 karma

That's really rough--I can imagine the stress you must be under! I'd encourage you to speak openly with your wife about the stress you are feeling and let her in on your feelings. It's normal to feel stress over picking out gifts for the ones we love over Christmas, but your stress is probably worse if finances are tight. Stress also shuts down creative thinking, which will be your best tool when approaching Christmas gift giving this year! As a woman, wife, and therapist, I can tell you that the gifts that matter most are often the ones that communicate that you have put some thought into who the receiver is and what they would enjoy. A handwritten letter, something that you made, a special date planned exclusively by you--all great gifts and completely free!

Zootropic8 karma

How’s anxiety different from bipolar?

mbztherapy3 karma

While bipolar can include symptoms of anxiety, the main difference is that people with bipolar disorder always experience depression as one of the "poles" of bi-polar disorder. The other "pole" is mania. Symptoms of anxiety can be experienced at either pole, actually. No doubt, google has more complete answers than I am giving here, but I hope this helps.

zisforzyprexa7 karma

You say the holidays are a time of increased stress for a lot of people, which I would definitely agree with, but I work on a psych floor and frequently see census numbers at their lowest around holidays. So where do these people go? Are they avoiding coming in until after the holidays, especially if they have little ones?

mbztherapy3 karma

I wonder about this too. I can't speak for the psych floor, but in private practice my clients (and myself!) will be so busy during the holidays that they miss sessions more often due to travel, children home from school, visitors, and the overall hustle of the season. So my therapy practice is also "quieter" in December and then January is one of my busiest months!

derekcanmexit5 karma

Other than therapy - what else do you recommend to deal with stress and anxiety? For example - is there a recommended diet? How often should one exercise, etc?

mbztherapy9 karma

Therapy is just one of many ways to deal with stress and anxiety and it's not for everyone! Just about any type of exercise, outdoor time in nature, engagement in relaxing hobbies and creative pursuits, avoiding caffeine and alcohol/recreational drugs, and social time spent with friends are all ways of reducing stress and anxiety. Others find meditation or joining religious/spiritual communities to be a source of support. There is interesting emerging data correlating the increase in people's stress/anxiety with living "hyperconnected" online lives. Try taking a day to completely unplug from your devices and notice how or if this impacts your stress/anxiety level. Or if that is too much, download one of the apps--Forest or Moment--to help free up more hours in your day!

DaBi5cu1t4 karma

Is stress not something that we create for ourselves? If we can learn to literally "not get stressed" then would that just eliminate stress altogether?

mbztherapy14 karma

Not all stress is self-created and many of the stressors of the holidays are out of our control. What we do have control over is our reactions to stress. The first step is to acknowledge that holidays are not uniformly positive for everyone, although this is certainly the image of them that we receive. I believe stress is often higher during the holidays because we have a unrealistic expectations and hopes for the "happy holidays" as well as societal pressures to be generous, loving and happy--this pressure can create conflict between how we think we "should" feel during the holidays and our actual feelings.

FurryFeets3 karma

I'm going through a break up of a year long girlfriend now. I really loved her. And this is after a divorce. Yesterday after dinner I felt extremely depressed. I don't have my girlfriend, I don't have in-laws, I've even been across the country from family for years and years. I'm really having a hard time. Any help?

mbztherapy9 karma

I get it and I'm so sorry you're going through this. Holidays can exacerbate feels of grief and loss over relationships for a number of reasons. Often when people are struggling during the holidays they feel extra lonely and it can be difficult to reach out to the friends and communities that support you where you are during a time of year that is so family-oriented. Have patience and be gentle with yourself. Try to avoid behaviors and habits that exacerbate negative feelings and speak with friends that you can be real with. Remember, many people struggle during the holidays--often opening the door to a conversation with someone else about your struggle will give them permission to also be authentic and honest about their experiences.

Zom_Betty3 karma

How frequently do you see good natured bad advice from non-professionals on social media? I have reached out to random souls online a few times with kind words, and I always second guess myself, and worry that I've said the wrong thing.

mbztherapy5 karma

I've been a therapist for over 15 years and I still have this worry when I am trying to help someone; I worry that I've used words that don't resonate, that don't connect with their struggle and express "I understand where you are at." It's natural. What I have learned over the years is that listening and true understanding is my goal, not dispensing what I believe to be the perfect advice. Most people come up with better solutions to their problems than I could ever advise once they feel emotionally safe to express their feelings and trust that I will not judge or move to quickly to try to offer up solutions before I've truly understood where they are coming from and what their experience is. In the end, healing happens when we are no longer emotionally alone with our struggles and overwhelming feelings, when we are accompanied, heard and truly understood. This true understanding can take awhile, but I've learned that when I don't take the time to listen deeply, first and foremost, all of my good "professional advice" is worthless because I'm not truly seeing the person in front of me. It sounds simple enough, but it's actually quite difficult to practice.

plumbtree2 karma

What do you recommend for people with past abuse for whom the holidays turn into a deep, dark, angry depression?

mbztherapy4 karma

First, I would say that this topic is deserving of a different forum, one that is confidential and emotionally safe. Without knowing A LOT more about the past abuse, how one is affected, who the perpetrator of the abuse was and if they are present at holiday gatherings, would be unethical and unhelpful of me to even attempt recommendations. What I can write is that if you find yourself in this dark place during the holidays or any time of year, it is crucial that you reach out for help and reach out to someone who is trained in working with trauma. People with past abuse have every legitimate reason in the world not to trust people that should be helping them, and this feeling can stop survivors of past abuse from getting in-person therapy from helping professionals, but the mistrust is a natural and adaptive response abuse. Most early/childhood abuse happens at the hands of parents, mentors, and community members that should have been protecting them, but hurt them instead. A well-trained trauma therapist knows how to work with survivors to establish safety and trust before diving into the past.

tackyglue_2 karma

What kind of schooling did you go through to become an online therapist?

mbztherapy9 karma

I received my Masters in Clinical Social Work in 2001, became an LCSW a few years later and then began my private practice in an office in Austin in 2007, after working in schools and medical settings between 2001-2007. I now provide therapy both online and in person! There is no special certification to become an online therapist in the State of Texas at this point, but I have received advanced training in Online therapy through the Zur Institute.

tackyglue_3 karma

How many hours did you need to become an LCSW?

I have my BA in psych and have been applying for MSW programs. I’m still a little confused about the process.

mbztherapy6 karma

It depends (somewhat) on your state, but the general process in the US is this: usually 2 years (Full Time) of coursework to get your MSW, followed by usually several years of practice under the supervision of a licensed clinical social worker. Think of it like a post-graduate apprenticeship. Then you take a licensing exam (or two, depending on your State) and once you pass, you are officially a licensed clinical social worker and can begin private practice! It's a long process from start to finish--usually 4-6 years for most people, but all of those years of supervised clinical practice are important for becoming a great therapist! Best of luck to you on your path!

vagabond92 karma

That's funny, i thought holiday is supposed to cause the opposite. What do you tell them?

mbztherapy7 karma

It's true; we all like to believe that holidays are a time of relaxation, connection, abundance and joy, but this is not reality for most people. Even for people who are fortunate enough to be spending the holidays with a community or family of loved ones, they often struggle to maintain balance in their physical, emotional and financial health amidst increased pressure to be socialize more, spend more, eat/drink more, entertain more, and do all of this with the same number of hours in the day! What I tell people depends on what they struggle with and this is different for each person. For people struggling to maintain balance during the holidays, I help them figure out how to engage with what is most meaningful, release the pressure to say yes to everything and make healthy choices around spending, eating/drinking/exercise, and relationships during this time.

Ian159591 karma

What made you decide to become a LCSW as opposed to, say, a clinical psychologist?

mbztherapy2 karma

When I decided to go back to school, it was to do social work with kids in child welfare. So I never even considered pursuing a clinical psychology degree at the time!

solutionsfirst1 karma

what's the single most effective way to deal with 'stress'?

mbztherapy3 karma

There truly is no single most effective way to deal with stress, but there are a multitude of different ways and you just have to try different ones out and see what works for you! I find exercise to be my favorite stress-buster because it gets me out of unproductive cycles of thinking/rumination the fastest and afterwards I feel like I have "done something" with my anxiety. You can't ever turn off your thoughts, but shifting gears into moving your body "turns down the volume" on stressful thoughts. This is also effective for breaking through cycles of depressive thinking.

Mantisbog1 karma

Do you like the original Gold Dust Woman or Hole's cover?

mbztherapy2 karma

Can you help me connect your question to my AMA topic? The connection isn't clear to me.

Psa-lms1 karma

What can we do to alleviate stress during family gatherings we still wish to attend even though one or more attendees are verbally “unkind” to us? I can’t be the only on with a mother who says JUST the right thing to make you feel awful the entire next near.

mbztherapy3 karma

You are not the only one! Family gatherings are a major source of stress for many people that call for large doses of self-compassion and self-care before during and after a gathering. When you are emotionally under attack at a family gathering, you lose access to the part of your brain that can get you back to emotional safety, that can think clearly. Often holidays are an especially vulnerable time for mothers because they are front-loaded with so much pressure (e.g. for our kids to behave, to host, to cook the perfect meal and to generally live up to unrealistic images of the "happy holiday family") I help my clients come up with holiday survival plans for the holidays, with personalized tips and techniques for dealing with moments just like the one where your mother says JUST the right thing to make you feel awful and not carry it with you into the next year.

Hexvolt1 karma

What do you do in the summer?

mbztherapy2 karma

LOL! I don't only work during the holidays; I practice during the summer too, of course. I'm just trying to speak to what has seasonal relevance right now.

Br8de41 karma

what is the best way to reheat a piece of grilled pork loin without drying it out?

mbztherapy1 karma

Sorry, I’m no help with cooking questions!

[deleted]1 karma


mbztherapy4 karma