There are so many reasons why the holiday season can be triggering for us. From unresolved childhood trauma to financial and social pressures, it can be a lot. For many people, the holidays are when we tend to gather with our families for the first time in the year, which can stir up a lot of feelings-some not so nice.
Common Holiday Difficulties
Holiday stress can be very overwhelming for many folks. Just what is it about the holidays that now stresses us out as adults, when it was nothing but joy and excitement for some of us as children? What has changed?
Why are the holidays difficult for us as adults? From the perspective of somebody who celebrates holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, where has the magic gone?
Perhaps it starts when we learn the truth about where our presents really come from. Going forward, our favorite holiday associations, including Santa, suddenly vanish and we’re left to find our own magic.
As we start to get older and our teenage years become a thing of the past, we are forced to readjust our expectations. Holding on to childhood expectations of the holiday season seems fruitless. Our imaginations will have dimmed since childhood as we meet the burdens of adulthood and the stress that comes with everyday adult life.
Unresolved childhood scars
Holidays can remind us of our childhoods, the good and bad. It is common for some families to see each other for the first time in the year during the holidays, which is why you may find yourself flooded with some painful memories.
When we don’t address the scars and trauma we face, they never really go away. At the very least, the feelings caused by the memory won’t go away unless you do some work.
Pressure to show off
It’s not uncommon for family members to show off during the holiday season. It’s a time when the whole family gathers together and criticism and judgment are likely to occur. People tend to compare themselves to others, whether it be their financial situation or relationship status. Most people do this without realizing it, through unhealthy gossip or excessive concern about what people think. I’m sure we are all victims of this.
It’s extremely common for family relationships to turn into surface-level relationships as we get older, especially when we are healing from trauma and realize we need a step back from the toxicity of some family members.
There are so many reasons why the holidays can cause depression. For starters, the cold weather can be a mood dropper for many. “The winter blues” we call them. Seasonal depression is super common.
All of the pressure and stress associated with the holiday season and/or family reunions can be enough to cause depression as it forces us to face certain issues or people we’d rather avoid.
It’s normal to fear being criticized and to overcompensate for this insecurity by showing off in other respects. Many of us know all about the pressure from family to be in a relationship and have children once we reach a certain age. This can be especially hard on people that do not desire that lifestyle or who are, conversely, struggling to conceive.
The effects of the pandemic on Holidays
The pandemic has seen many people spend the holidays alone. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that many people might have just stopped celebrating their favourite holidays all together. I’m here to tell you that it is time to revisit that holiday spirit. Rekindling that magic is within our power now that Covid restrictions have relaxed. While it is essential to be safe, it is also time to start socializing again even if you begin by taking baby steps.
The holidays can be a huge financial burden, especially for parents. It’s crazy how expensive holidays like Christmas can get. Parents want to make Christmas as special as possible, but the cost that goes into that can be enough to cause quite a lot of stress.
The cost of having to buy gifts for those around you can really add up. There can be additional pressure about how much you spend on each person, feeling awkward if your gift is cheaper than theirs.
The best thing you can do to avoid this stressor is to budget for Christmas is advance. Write down how much you will be spending on each person, or each activity, and plan for it well ahead of time. Then those holiday expenses become something you have prepared for and will feel less daunting once you arrive at the holiday season.
It often feels like Christmas will never be how it is portrayed in movies. Kids these days are seeing what their friends are getting for Christmas and comparing themselves to them. It can be hard to be grateful and learn gratitude when we are comparing ourselves to our peers from such a young age.
As adults, our imaginations surrounding the festivity of this time of year has been replaced with the stress of day-to-day life and the necessity of making ends meet and putting food on the table. However, there are ways to combat this jaded mindset.
Spread the joy to others
Many parents have learned to find joy in Christmas by focusing on making it about the children in their life. You don’t even have to have your own children to do this. You can bring the joy in Christmas to a child or the children of a family member or a friend. Seeing the positive effect that Christmas has on kids can be very contagious!
How Can You Get into the Christmas Spirit?
One way to turn your Christmas frown upside down is by making an effort to get into the Christmas spirit in the following ways.
Why not bake some Christmas cookies or other treats to share with family and friends. You can also enjoy the fruits of your labour by savouring some of those baked goodies yourself!
Decorate your space
I don’t know about you, but when my space is bare at Christmas, I find it extremely depressing. When I first moved out of my parents’ house, I forgot to decorate my new apartment and it was horrible. I felt like the Scrooge, quite frankly, for the entire season. Going forward I made sure to make time to hang some ornaments and spruce up my space at Christmas. Some tinsel and colourful lighting go a long way!
Don’t compare yourself to others
There is never any good in comparing ourselves to others. None of us are the same, or had the same head starts in life. We also don’t get to choose our family or how we grew up, so keep that in mind as you see how much fun others are having on social media, or the price of the present your friends have received. None of it matters. Social media is chalk full of contrived imagery. There’s no way of seeing the truth behind bragging posts. In fact, it’s highly likely that the people you envy are also people experiencing anxiety and depression. They just try to mask their feelings using the social media forum.
Buy yourself a present or focus on self-care. Have a nice bath with nice bath salts and candles. Do a face mask. Just spending time focusing on yourself will go a long way. Self-care can really help you cope better with your depression or loneliness.
Why not spend some of your time spreading joy to others who desperately need it. The holidays can be a difficult time for many. While we might be dealing with loneliness and having mental health struggles around this time, others will be too. It would go along way to spend some of your time volunteering at a food bank, for example. Homeless people struggle the most during these cold and dark months. Your time with them during the holidays would make a world of difference.
Cook yourself a delicious Christmas dinner
If you’re missing out on a traditional dinner, just make it for yourself! Who said we need to be surrounded by people in order to have a turkey dinner. The best thing about being an adult is being able to do whatever we want without adhering to so-called social norms or conventions.
Stay connected virtually
If you’re feeling lonely, don’t forget that you can still connect with people virtually. It may not be the same, but making time to video call with family or friends will help you feel a little more connected, especially if you’re missing loved ones around the holidays. We all need to talk sometimes and this need may be at its highest during the holiday season when a sense of community and being among loved ones seems most pronounced.
Being alone during the holidays
Notice how all of the tips above apply to somebody who may be on their own during the holidays? At the end of the day, you don’t need physical company really to enjoy yourself if your aim is to get into the Christmas spirit hell or high water. There are always ways to achieve a sense of festivity and holiday spirit even when flying solo. Just remember to think outside the box, don’t compare your situation to others and aim to reconnect with that childhood wonder that always made Christmas so special.