It’s the most wonderful time of the year… well, not for everyone.
I am usually a social butterfly; I almost never bail out on a party or any sort of gathering. I am very much of an extrovert, and I get energized from being around people. However, during the holidays, I’d much rather snuggle in my bed rather than be at a social event.
I’m not alone in this feeling of gloominess during the holidays. Images of joy and love fill storefronts, TV screens, and the streets of the city. However, for many of us, the reality of the holidays isn’t jolly. Between end-of-the-year deadlines at work, family dysfunction, losses of loved ones, increased sugar and alcohol intake, and cold and dark winter days, it’s easy for the holiday season to seem more depressing and stressful than anything else.
People, in general, are more inclined to post pictures of happy seasons than to post about the realities of their lives. And, those picture-perfect posts can serve as a painful reminder that we lack the happiness and love that others seem to have. This, in turn, becomes a vicious cycle of feeling FOMO and having the pressure to feel joyful during this time of the year.
Whether or not you have clinical depression, the holiday blues are a genuine phenomenon. Neither you nor I am alone in it. For reassurance, here are 13 reasons why it’s completely okay to feel blue this holiday season.
1. The expectations of the holidays set us up for failure.
There’s this societal expectation for this to be the happiest time of the year. No one wants to admit that the holidays can suck, especially with the increased commercialization of it in recent decades. It is frowned upon to be like the Grinch or Scrooge, so we just put a fake smile on. However, no matter how hard we try, our holiday doesn’t feel it is the best it can be. There’s always going to be that one person who looks like they have their holiday game more put together than we do.
2. Family is REALLY hard.
If you can honestly say that you have the perfect family, then congratulations, you’re one in a million. But, for the majority of us, we have issues in our families, both big and small. From Thanksgiving to New Years, we see our families more than we had during any other time of the year. More time together means more time for fights and arguments.
3. We miss our lost loved ones.
For some of us, this will be our first year without one or more of our loved ones. Or, no matter how many years pass, the holidays are just not the same without them. For me, this will be my first set of holidays without my grandma, and it’s hitting me hard. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to miss our loved ones and that grieving is a long process. Carrying on the same traditions with them can present a potent reminder of their absence.
4. There is just too much to do.
It can feel like every aspect of life is demanding more of us during this time of the year. Our bosses are asking us to stay extra hours before leaving for the holidays, to make sure we can end the year with having everything completed. That gift list isn’t getting any shorter. Coordinating a trip with our family is impossible. There are countless holiday parties that we feel pressured to attend. We often wish there are more of us so we could get everything done.
5. Slacking on self-care is easy.
This reason goes hand in hand with the previous point. There are still only 24 hours in the day during this time, but it feels like we have 48 hours worth of stuff to do in a given day. It is understandable that our self-care routines go out the window. However, to properly function, we need to take care of ourselves and take periodic breaks, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
6. The weather isn’t getting any better.
Anything is worse when the weather outside is terrible. And, winter is just getting started. Your body reacts to lower levels of sunshine with fatigue, a need for more sleep, and a general “blah” feeling. It certainly doesn’t help that we are forced to be happy despite the external factors (the gloomy weather), not to mention the internal factors as well.
7. Being too busy makes us even more agitated.
At any time of the year, I am easily agitated when I’m overwhelmed with a long list of things to do. But, during this time of the year, it can feel like it’s too much to handle, and we just want to burst. We should check in with ourselves, and know our limits.
8. The holiday movies set the bar too high.
Just like children’s fairy tales, holiday movies set an unrealistic bar in our minds about life. Frankly, there is not always a happily ever after. But, we subconsciously believe that our holidays should mirror how they are in the movies. We should never compare our lives to those of others, let alone the lives of fictional characters.
9. We feel like we can’t say ‘no.’
Even though we are aware that some things are well beyond our means, we feel bad saying “no” to anything. But, we should all learn how to set clear limits about what we are able and willing to do. Setting these boundaries can allow us to focus more on meaningful experiences over expense.
10. The pressure and the act of gift-giving present a financial burden.
The sense of financial burden or obligation can be significant. We often get caught up in the commercial aspect of gift giving, wanting to find the perfect item for each person. We feel stretched thin trying to find the balance between making our special ones happy and keeping our bank accounts afloat.
11. This year might not have been what we had hoped it would be.
The holiday season also means that another year is coming to an end. We might’ve set out into this year with specific goals in mind. As we look back onto the year, we might realize that we didn’t achieve everything that we hope you would. However, sometimes we need a reminder of that we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. What’s the most important is that we are making progress in our goals and not taking on so much at once.
12. Sometimes, being around a bunch of people can make us feel the loneliest.
I’m the type of person who hates small-talk, and unfortunately, social events require a lot of small-talk. This can leave us feeling very isolated and lonely, even though a lot of people might surround us. It’s okay to decline a party invitation to stay home with a special someone instead.
13. We dread the aftermath of the holidays.
We spend a lot of time preparing for the holidays, but the actual events seem to happen in the blink of an eye. After New Years, we go back to work, often in the dead of winter, and the gap between then and the start of spring seems way too big. By then, there is really no joy or the holiday spirit to be found. So, it might be a good idea to plan a trip or a special event for the middle of the winter. This way, you have something to look forward to and to push you forward.