Why the Holidays Aren’t the Most Wonderful Time of the Year for Many
With Thanksgiving behind us, glittering red and green lights sprouting up around town, and Christmas music blaring through every mall and public place, the holiday season is officially upon us. This time of year is meant to be joyous! Where memories are made, traditions are kept or created, and our loved ones are near. But for many Americans, the holiday season is anything but joyous - especially for those struggling with a mental illness. The national alliance on mental illness states that 24% of people diagnosed with a mental illness report that their symptoms get “a lot” worse around the holidays and 40% reported feeling “somewhat” worse (NAMI, 2017). Why would so many people feel so down during the “happiest season of all?” I have a hunch or two.
Expectations are extremely high around the holidays. Every movie, song, and greeting card makes claims of a jubilant season of perfect snow-covered streets, well thought out gifts and harmonious family gatherings. Unfortunately, this just isn't the reality for many. November and December just so happen to be the busiest of work months for many companies (business insider, 2017), meaning that demands may be higher at work for some. This can add stress and take away from time thought to be for family and holiday excursions. Moreover, we’re told to SPEND! SPEND! SPEND! during the holiday season. Going into credit card debt or sacrificing on important bills just to satisfy the demands of a consumerist culture can be quite the daunting task, but we’re told that it’s the way to show our loved ones we care and lastly, spending time with family in close quarters with all of the added stress and expectations surrounding the season can be extremely tense, especially for the many of us with less-than-ideal family situations. This can leave people feeling let-down and dejected.
There are ways to beat the holiday blues, though. Sometimes it is important to get a little perspective on how the holidays might look for others. There is an abundance of opportunities to serve others around the holidays, from blanket and clothing drives to soup kitchens and meal delivery services. Activities like this can be a great way to get into the holiday spirit of giving and remember what is important. Also, gift giving and receiving doesn’t have to be so stressful. If you can’t think of a gift to give someone that will add value to their life, trying donating to charity in their name or giving them an “experience” gift like a concert or dinner out they’ll love. Enjoy the simple treasures of this season - twinkling lights around the neighborhood, a warm house to come home to, and loved ones around. If you or anyone you know is suffering from seasonal or clinical depression or anxiety, encourage them to reach out for help if needed. As always, be kind to yourself and others.