Although Andy Williams might call the holiday season “the most wonderful time of the year,” others relate more with Elvis Presley and have a “blue Christmas.” Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Boxing Day, the holidays are associated with joy, family, relaxation, gifts, and laughter. You see it in movies and commercials and hear about it in songs on the radio, but the reality is the holidays are a lonely and stressful time for some. Approximately 40% of adults are riddled with social anxiety around the holidays.1 This is likely due to shopping, party preparations, the expectations and stigma surrounding the season, and more that we will get into later. Check out this infographic for more mental health statistics around this time of year.
While some take on the charisma of Buddy the Elf around the holidays, others are more like Ebenezer Scrooge. They may not be irritable or depressed; the holidays can bring anxiety and isolation. Below we identified common feelings or problems people have this time of year and offer suggestions on how to overcome them.
“Getting Nuttin’ for Christmas”
You may remember diving into a pile of presents on Christmas morning when you were a kid and how happy you were opening the sole reason you behaved all year. Now that you are older with your own children, perhaps your financial situation does not allow you to give them the same experience. That can be daunting on a parent, especially when you hear what their friends’ parents got them.
Our advice: It will be tough for them to hear, but you must be honest with your children. Explain the money situation in the simplest terms and try not to get their hopes up without completely ruining the season for them. When you start to shop, set a strict budget that you cannot exceed. Presents are great, but you still have to pay the rent/mortgage and put food on the table.
Even if you can afford nice gifts, some people are notorious bad gift-givers. To be fair, finding the perfect item that symbolizes your appreciation for someone can be very challenging. Sometimes, the goal is to find something they will use and not just throw it in the attic to collect dust. Aside from the physical gift, the whole shopping experience can be stressful with crowds, lines, traffic, shipping delays, and out-of-stock or overpriced items.
Our advice: Start brainstorming and shopping early. If you hear someone mention that they want a particular item in February, write it down and save it for December. That way, you can start shopping before Thanksgiving to avoid the rush. If your whole family/friend group does not like shopping or feels stressed about it, consider a Secret Santa or White Elephant gift exchange.
The holidays are a great time to reconnect with loved ones that you may not have spoken to since this time last year; however, some people do not get along with their extended family or may not have one at all. It can be a very lonely and depressing time of year for those who live alone or far away from relatives. Even though you have off from work, if your family is away and your friends are busy with their own families, where does that leave you?
Our advice: If you do not like isolation, make an extra effort to visit loved ones and only loved ones. You should not feel obligated to see anyone you do not want to see—no need for the extra stress. Take time off from work. Even if you have to dip into the sick time you have been saving, your mental health is worth it. If that is not a feasible option, consider other ways of communication: video calls, holiday cards, social media, etc.
Aside from the reasons above, many other factors can eradicate one’s “holiday spirit.” Do you feel as if no amount of Christmas songs or movies can get you feeling merry and bright? Maybe you cannot meet the television specials set expectations, you feel pressured to go out and see people when you would rather be home, or daylight savings and the early darkness ruin your mood. Whatever the reason is, you should try and get that grinchy heart of yours to grow three sizes before the holidays are fade away (metaphorically, of course—medically, that is extremely dangerous).
- Do not try to force it; let the joy of the season come to you
- Prioritize mental health and do not put so much stress on yourself
- Surround yourself with other people also searching for the holiday spirit, not those who are too overjoyed or hate the holidays
- While you are searching for it, try not to put others down
- You will not find it at the bottom of a bottle or in a cigarette
Arguably, marketing ruined the holidays, making it all about decorations, gifts, and greed. It may be difficult to ignore, but do not let the commercialization get the best of you—stick to the true meaning of the holidays: relaxation, bliss, family, and togetherness.
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- “Raising Mental Health Awareness during the Holiday Season.” Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program, 31 July 2019, https://discoverymood.com/blog/raising-mental-health-awareness-holiday-season/.
- Keas, Richele. “Mental Health and the Holiday Blues.” NAMI, 19 Nov. 2014, https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/Press-Releases/2014/Mental-health-and-the-holiday-blues.