Return to Transcripts main page

Sanjay Gupta MD

Holiday Stress And Depression; Stress-Free Gifts; Type 2 Diabetes In Young People; Rockettes Get Good Exercise

Aired December 03, 2005 - 08:30   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, now you know.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Pakistan says a senior al Qaeda commander has been killed in northern tribal area there. Now Pakistan's information minister tells CNN that Abu Hamza Rabia was in charge of al Qaeda's international operations. He says Rabia died in an explosion at his house apparently while working with some explosives.

Now to China. Rescuers are scrambling to reach 42 workers trapped in a flooded coal mine. The state run news agency says a total of 48 miners were working underground when the mine flooded yesterday. Six miners did escape.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta helps you plan for the stress. And we mean stress for the season of giving. It seems there's never enough time, never enough money, but Dr. Gupta has some mutual tips to pull you through the season with a smile. You want to stay with CNN for a stress busting morning. HOUSE CALL begins right now.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning and welcome to HOUSE CALL. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Well, if you're thankful that Thanksgiving is behind us, you may not want to be reminded that Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and New Year's all still lie ahead. It's supposed to be a season of peace and goodwill, joy to the world and all that. So why do so many of us spend it run down, fed up, even depressed?


GUPTA (voice-over): Shopping, traveling, cooking, entertaining. So much to do and so little time. And these are just a few things on a typical holiday to-do list. Who called it the most wonderful time of year?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like to take things taken care of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At the last minute, it gets very stressful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I usually start a week before, but I've learned my lesson.

GUPTA: For many, it's the most stressful time of the year. But you can minimize the level of stress by planning ahead. And now is not too late. LESLIE BRENNER, PSYCHOLOGIST: Plan what you're going do in all respects so that you don't get overwhelmed.

GUPTA: Dr. Leslie Brenner, a psychologist in Atlanta, sees many patients who get over anxious about the holidays.

Her advice...

BRENNER: Rather than just going with the flow, rather than giving control to everybody else who say you need to be here at this time, you need to be here at this time, have them make a plan as to what they want to do, what is feasible for them to do.

GUPTA: Brenner suggests setting a limit for yourself, starting from the spending budget.

While it may be tempting to buy gifts you can't afford, keep in mind you may be paying for them while in the next year. And don't underestimate the value of homemade gifts. They are unique and personal and they won't empty your wallet.

If time is your main concern, head online. Your entire gift purchase can be just a click away. Preparing holiday meals could be just as simple. Many restaurants and supermarkets now sell pasty heat and serve meals at a fixed price. It may cost a bit more than cooking at home, but could save your sanity.

For those who choose to serve home-cooked meals, make it a joint effort that includes your guests. Cooking gets a lot more fun when you have company.

And then there's the calories. Studies show the average American gains a little more than a pound each holiday season, which may not seem like a lot, but the same studies show we never lose it.

Self-control is the best weapon against over indulgence.

BRENNER: Nobody can stick on a diet, especially during the holidays. And so I suggest if people are going to a holiday event, a party or something, that they eat their regular meal before they go and think about what they're going to allow themselves to have before they go.

GUPTA: After all, holidays are never going to be perfect. Keep expectations realistic and your chances might be better for a stress- free holiday season.


GUPTA: No dieting in the holiday season. I think that's pretty good advice. And experts say the biggest factors leading to stress at this time of year are relationships, finances, and just overall fatigue. Apparently all that partying, shopping, decorating, and cooking can add up.

Helping us reduce the stress and enjoy the season is Darlene Mininni. She's a clinical psychologist. She's also author of the book called "The Emotional Toolkit."

Welcome back.


GUPTA: You know, we're just three weeks away from Christmas. And my sense is that people are feeling pretty good right now. You know, in your opinion, what's the one thing that's stressing most people out?

MININNI: Well, you know, I think it's a collective thing. I don't think there's just one stressor. I think there is a lot of stressors all happening at one time, the things you just alluded to. Your money, family relationships, things like that all happening together collectively causes people to feel overwhelmed by all of it.

And I think some of the things you need to do, one of them is really to look at your expectations of what is realistic? When -- say for example, you're looking at will my relatives all be able to get along? If they haven't gotten along for the 11 months of the year, why should we think that December's any different? So you want to really...

GUPTA: A Christmas tree's not going to solve everything?

MININNI: No, it's not. It's not. So you really want to look and say is what I'm expecting for this holiday really realistic? And can I do that?

GUPTA: All right. Let's get - let's slowly drill down on this because people have some specific questions.


GUPTA: We got one from Erin in New York who is feeling somewhat overwhelmed. "I feel so stressed out," she writes. "Between my finals and holiday shopping, I'm so stressed I want to cry. How I can relax?"

And Darlene, what about specific relaxation techniques?


GUPTA: There's not a lot of time for it obviously, but what do you recommend?

MININNI: Well, first of all, this is a question I've heard many, many times when I was teaching at UCLA. I've had many students who were dealing with finals, and shopping, and lots of things. And this -- they felt if they took time away from that to relax, that they were goofing off, that they were being lazy.

And we need to understand that being able to relax ourselves and replenish ourselves is actually going to give us more energy and make it more possible for us to get things done. So as far as relaxation, there's two tools, emotional tools that I recommend to people. One of them is actually exercise. And by exercise, it's not necessarily going out and running a marathon. It can be walking your dog. It can be dancing in your living room, but studies have shown that if you do 20 or 30 minutes of movement of some sort, it can affect you in a similar way to an antidepressant or minor tranquilizer. So that's a good thing.

The other thing is something we've heard so much about lately. And that's meditation and just taking 20 minutes to sit down and calm your mind and take some deep breaths and relax can be very, very healing, and you know, renew our energy so that we can tackle all those things on our to do list.

GUPTA: That's a good point. And it's not a waste of time...


GUPTA: ...because it's going to make you so much more productive after the fact.

Another question now coming in from our inbox. Barbara from Washington wants to know this. "How much of the holiday blues is due to the stress of the holidays and how much is SAD?" And I think Barbara's referring to Seasonal Affective Disorder.


GUPTA: How do you know that you're just feeling somewhat stressed, which is normal, versus having a more serious problem?

MININNI: Well, Seasonal Affective Disorder is sometimes called the winter blues. And it's a form of depression that you get as the weather gets colder, because there's less light.

So the holidays blues is usually limited to the time, you know, of late November, December. But Seasonal Affective Disorder normally starts in the fall and can last all of the way through the spring.

So if you're dealing with it as a SAD condition, which makes you feel sad, that's something that you want to talk to your clinician about, your doctor, because there are a lot of things -- light therapies, things that they can do to help you deal with that.

GUPTA: As I was just interfering with your way of life as well, I guess that might be a time to see a doctor.

MININNI: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

GUPTA: All right. We're talking with Darlene Mininni. We've got to take a quick break. We're talking about staying happy and healthy this holiday season. Important stuff. Stay tuned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shopping and gift-giving madness. Strategies to help you enjoy the season and not go broke.

And later, giving the gift of time.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's not enough time in the day to do everything that we really need to get done.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll show you some great stress-relieving gifts.

First, answer this. What is the biggest cause of stress for most people? Don't stress out. We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before the break we asked, what is the biggest cause of stress for most people? The answer? Money. 73 percent of Americans say it's their number one stressor.

GUPTA: That's not too surprising considering the National Retail Federation is estimating Americans will spend $439.5 billion, with a B, dollars this holiday season. That amounts to $700 per person. I think that could stress just about anyone out.

Helping us to de-stress in these weeks before Christmas is psychologist Darlene Mininni. She's the author of "The Emotional Toolkit."

And we've been talking about this this morning, Darlene. Let's get back to some viewer questions.


GUPTA: David from New York writes this. "It seems that this time of year when some companies reduce their workforce. What advice can you give to help people and their families cope with job loss at this otherwise festive time of year?"

You know, and job loss is a hard one...


GUPTA: ...especially at this time of year.

MININNI: Absolutely.

GUPTA: Do you run into that? What's your advice?

MININNI: You know, it's a hard thing at any time of the year to lose your job. But this time, it's kind of a loaded issue.

I think there's two things that you really need to deal with. One is the feelings of anger and loss that come along with losing your job. And the other is the financial aspect, because as you just said, finance is the number one stressor for people. So let's start with the first part, the feeling part. This is going to sound kind of silly, but a tool that has been proven to work is to write about your feelings. Get out a journal and just write for three or four days in a row for 15 minutes about your feelings about losing your job.

And let me tell you why we know this works. There was -- a while ago, there was a computer company in Texas that had laid off a whole bunch of engineers that had worked with the company for over 30 years. And they treated them in a very poor way. They kind of told them they were going fire them and escorted them to the door and that was the end of it.

So they took half these engineers and they asked them for five days in a row write about your feelings about the experience for 20 minutes. The other group, just do whatever it is you're going do.

And what they found is that at the end of eight months, a large percentage, 53 percent of the engineers who had written had gotten jobs, whereas 14 percent of the ones who hadn't written, hadn't gotten jobs.

Now they were both equally qualified. So that wasn't the issue. The issue was that in writing, they were able to make sense of their feelings and move on. And a lot of times people tell us, you know, if you're feeling down, let go of it, just move on, get past it. But they never tell us how to do that. And writing can be one of the ways to do it.

GUPTA: Great advice. Yes.

And the financial stuff?

MININNI: Yes, the financial stuff, I think you kind of alluded to it a little bit earlier, but that is to kind of rethink what gift giving really means.


MININNI: You can give somebody a gift certificate to spend time after the holidays together or exchange a holiday letter. This is something my husband and I do. We write out letters telling each other what it is that we love about each other. And those kinds of things people remember a lot more than a sweater.

GUPTA: I hope my wife is listening to this, by the way.

MININNI: So - yes.

GUPTA: But listen, you know, beyond job loss and money woes, some people find the holidays difficult because of the loss of loved ones.


GUPTA: And that can be very difficult. Darlene, does that ever get better for someone who may have lost someone during a holiday season?

MININNI: It's a hard thing, because the holiday, anniversary, a birthday they're all reminders that you kind of look back on. So it can be a hard thing. Especially with this time of the year, holiday functions are so much a part of -- family functions and so much a part of what we think of at the holiday.

And I think that what we need to do is first understand that sadness is really just a message to ourselves that we really value this relationship and acknowledge that. And it's OK to say I miss my grandma, I miss my husband. But don't also forget to focus on the relationships that we do have that are here.

GUPTA: Let's keep going here. We got another e-mail now from Donna in Wisconsin. "Every holiday, someone in my family creates problems. It's like clockwork. Instead of attending get-togethers and appreciating one another, they choose to stay at home. What can I do?"

And I guess, Darlene, you already sort of mentioned this, but family...


GUPTA: ...just family alone can be a big stressor.

MININNI: I think this question speaks to a lot of people. A lot of people come to the holiday time and they deal with family issues.

Again, it's not that these issues probably didn't exist the rest of the year, but we have a certain expectation that now that it's Christmas, now that it's Hanukkah, we should all get together. And I don't know that that's really realistic, that suddenly our relationships are magically going change because it's the holiday.

GUPTA: Right, right.

MININNI: So again, we need to kind of just go back and assess what's realistic and realize that we can't control anybody else. I think a lot of us try to do that, try to make people get along and be happy...

GUPTA: Right.

MININNI: ...but you really can't control anybody but yourself. So focus on what makes you happy. And if your family does get together to alleviate tensions, try to not bring up issues that you know are touchy in your family. Or if people really don't get along, instead of having everybody sitting around talking, get out a board game.

GUPTA: Right.

MININNI: Get out something that can, you know, divert...

GUPTA: Something to bring - yes, the people together. MININNI: Yes, so that you're not talking about things that you talk about every year that upsets everybody.

GUPTA: Really good advice.


GUPTA: And important advice for the holiday season. Unfortunately, we've got to say good-bye to you. Thank you so much today for your time.

MININNI: Thank you. Thank you, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Destressing strategies, nothing can be more important than that. Don't go away at home. We've got more tips for easy and healthy gifts as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From tasty meals, to comfy clothes, we're taking you shopping for stress-free gifts guaranteed to please.

And the secrets of the Rockettes, what these high-kick women can tell you about staying in shape.

But first, this week's medical headline in "The Pulse".


CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The American Heart Association released new CPR guidelines this week because more than 90 percent of people who need CPR outside a hospital died.

The new resuscitation guidelines call for twice as many chest compressions as before, 30 compressions followed by two breaths. The old standard of 15 compressions is too often failing to get enough blood circulating throughout the body.

And disturbing news surrounding this year's World AIDS Day. The World Health Organization predicts that some 10 million people in China will have HIV by the year 2010. In recent years, Communist Chinese societies have become more open. And experts say rampant IV drug use is the cause for the increase in most cases.

Christy Feig, CNN.



GUPTA: Well, if the thought of three weeks of holiday shopping is leaving you feeling a little bit like a Scrooge, CNN's Robin Meade attempts to get us in the mood by bringing us some gifts that leave the giver and the receiver stress-free.


ROBIN MEADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Do your holidays resemble this? Or are they a little bit more like this?

We have some gift ideas that are easy to give and great to receive. And we chose a few co-workers to test them out. For producer Mariana Hoysa, we decided the perfect gift would be a personal errand runner.

MARIANA HOYSA, TURNER PRODUCER: It's just that there's not enough time in the day to do everything that we really need to get done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you take credit cards?

MEADE: Personal errand runners can do everything from grocery shopping, to just being at your home to let the plumber in. Now the cost varies, but usually it's anywhere from $20 to $30 an hour.

HOYSA: I thought it was wonderful. She actually went and picked everything up for me.

GAIL BLANDING, TURNER ACCOUNTANT: The gift of time. That's what people don't have these days.

MEADE: That's exactly what this mother of three needs. More time. So we thought the perfect gift for our accountant Gail would be dinner delivered right to her door.

BLANDING: Danielle is 8, Jeremy is 3, Russel's 6. Very active kids, very sweet kids. And I love them to death.

MEADE: We ordered six prepared meals for her family.

BLANDING: How is it, Danielle?

MEADE: Now again, the price will vary, but the cost was about $130. All she has to do is heat and enjoy.

BLANDING: That 30 to 45 minutes makes a lot of difference when you don't have to worry about cooking it. Because if you do the next -- it's another extra thing, extra time that you don't have.

MEADE: These ideas obviously went over big with our gift testers. But if you want something on a smaller scale, here are a few creative ideas that can range from $20 to about $80.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something over here that is kind of thinking outside the box. A little bit of the journals. People are into writing. And it helps destress to get your thoughts out. And at end of a long day, it's actually something I personally enjoy to do.

Believe it or not, knitting is a really big trend right now that people are taking advantage of, to help destress. And we have a book that is about holiday knitting. It gives great gift ideas about making sweaters and stockings.

And over here, finally, my favorites are these fun, oversized pajamas. These are great for men or women just to lounge around at the end of a long day and just hang around in the house.

And this oversized robe is made of a really soft, luxurious cotton. And it's perfect at the end of a long day to destress and makes a great holiday gift.

MEADE: The bottom line, make it easy on yourself and your friends by taking the stress out of the holidays and maybe, even maybe a little bit longer.

Robin Meade, CNN, Atlanta.


GUPTA: All right, Robin, thanks so much. More HOUSE CALL coming up, including staying fit and trim this holiday season. It might just save your life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From children to young adults, a preventable disease is on the rise.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you doing alive? You should be dead.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Find out what you can do after the break.


GUPTA: All right, we're back with HOUSE CALL. As we celebrate the season, it's good to keep in mind that what we eat and how we feed our kids can have a lasting impact. Our Christy Feig is here with a look at a largely preventable disease showing up in children with life long consequences.


FEIG (voice-over): When Susana James began feeling tired, she knew something was wrong, but it didn't occur to her that it was anything serious until she lost her vision temporarily.

SUSANNA JAMES, DIABETIC: I realized oh, my God, I'm completely blind.

FEIG: Her doctor said her blood sugar was very high. She had type 2 diabetes.

JAMES: And immediately he was, like, what are you doing alive? You should be dead or in a coma.

FEIG: James was in her mid-20s when she was diagnosed. Doctors said she probably had it for years and never knew it. Although she was never heavy, her family has a history of the disease. Type 1 diabetes is a purely genetic condition that shows up early in life. Type 2 is triggered by lifestyle. Obesity is a major factor. Doctors say being overweight doubles a child's chances of contracting type 2 diabetes.

ASHA THOMAS, DR., MEDSTAR RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Once you get diabetes, the earlier you get it, the longer you have it, the more time you're given in your life to have complications.

FEIG: Physicians say the best way to keep your child from developing diabetes is to start early. Insist on exercise. And watch those diets. Fight fat by eliminating junk foods and getting your child to eat a good breakfast.

THOMAS: Children and adults who eat a nutritious breakfast weigh less than people who don't.

FEIG: James deals with her life long condition, but her main concern is her 21-month-old son. She says she'll make sure he grows up healthy and free from diabetes.

I'm Christy Feig reporting from Washington.


GUPTA: Thanks, Christy.

Looking to stay in shape and keep the weight off this season? Take a lesson from the Rockettes. We're going to check in on their fitness routine. That's coming up after the break.



HOLLY FIRFER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Rockettes are American icons. These high stepping dancers have been performing tap, jazz, and ballet combinations at Radio City Music Hall in New York since 1932. With over 300 precision kicks per show and some six shows a day, they work hard to stay in shape.

KANDICE PELLETIER, ROCKETTE: We do Pilates. We do yoga. We do dance classes throughout the year to get prepared and to maintain, so we can perform those high kicks that we're famous for.

FIRFER: Just like any other athletic activity, these Rockettes say stretching and warming up is essential to avoid injuries on stage.

AUTUMN SMITH, ROCKETTE: She is going to be extending her right leg.

FIRFER: Autumn Smith says each Rockette personalizes her workout according to her specific body needs.

SMITH: I personally like to stay with the dance classes. I feel I can get the whole aerobic and the body tone all in one class. FIRFER: Whether you're a Rockette or not, health professionals say you can get a leg up on your fitness routine by diversifying your workouts.

Holly Firfer, CNN, Atlanta.


GUPTA: Holly, thank you. Unfortunately, we're out of time for today, but make sure to tune in next weekend. I'm going to take you to ground zero for the bird flu, from visiting survivors of this deadly virus to getting exclusive access to hospitals and research teams in Bangkok and Indonesia, we're going to take you behind the headlines of the avian flu. Is this hype, or is this a brewing pandemic? E-mail us your questions. We're going to help answer them. We're going to talk with the experts next weekend, 8:30 Eastern.

Thanks so much for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.