“It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace
Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on” – Rachael Yamagata, River
This time of year is not joyous for everyone. In fact, it can be an extremely challenging time for a lot of people. Unlike what is widely discussed, suicide rates do not actually increase over the holidays. However, I do find my therapy practice gets busier this time of year.
Why are the holidays hard for some people? It is impossible for me to capture all of the reasons this time of year can be challenging, but let me present some common themes.
- Some people do not have a family to spend time with. Or, they don’t have a good relationship with their family and it is healthier for them not to share time.
- Some people have experienced a significant loss and the holidays are a painful reminder of who is missing at the table.
- Some people have experienced a significant loss/tragedy around the holidays. This means that the holidays may always be coupled with feelings of tremendous sadness.
- Some people do not have the resources to provide for their children or family over the holidays. They may feel shame or embarrassment for not being able to “do the holidays right.”
- Some people do not like the pressure that the holidays bring. For a lot of people, the holidays mean a lot of travel, high cost, and time away from home. This can be very taxing.
- Some people don’t have a faith system and do not feel like they need to be forced to have “the holidays” pushed on them.
- Some people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder. This means that they experience symptoms associated with depression during the winter (and sometimes summer) months. For them, it may be hard to feel happy during this time of year.
- Some people have anxiety around groups of people and hate small talk. The holidays are a time of year when people are put in positions to interact with people they do not otherwise share time with. This may result in pressured conversations about nothing. Or, it may result in conflict related to politics and religion.
What to do if you get the Holiday Blues or just don’t like the holidays?
- Give yourself permission to not do everything that everyone asks of you. It is okay and healthy to set limits.
- Try to personalize the holiday season in a way that feels special and safe to you (my grandma taught me this and it changed my life). What does this mean? You can do what you love around the holidays not just what others expect of you. It may have nothing to do with any holiday at all.
- Take care of yourself. Manage your stress in healthy ways. It’s okay not to love this time of year. You are not a Scrooge, it just isn’t your thing.
- Ask people to respect your thoughts and feelings related to the holidays. I know this is hard, but if people love you, they need to respect your needs.
- Don’t shove the holidays down your own throat in an effort to make it better. This is cruel. If it hurts, stop doing it. Again, you have permission to not like, not love, or even to hate this time of year. You are not a bad person for not liking the holidays.
- If people don’t respect your feelings related to the holidays, set appropriate limits. And if you love the holidays, be respectful that others may not feel the same. We all have a Bag of Rocks and not everyone gets to know why you don’t like the holidays.
- Love, love, love yourself through this time of year. Please do not beat yourself up, don’t expose yourself to things that hurt, don’t force yourself to do things that make you feel bad, and don’t suffer through conversations that go against your values. You don’t have to do any of that.
January is coming and the noise will quiet once more.