As a counselor, I see a similar trend roll around every year after Thanksgiving, the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season. Some clients come in and complain of unexplained feelings of depression. If you’re feeling down during the holidays, you’re not alone, and there are actual several things that can trigger these feelings.
Grief or Past Memories of Holidays
If you are grieving the loss of a family member or friend, you may be understandably sad this time of year. The adjustment of celebrating without someone who has passed can magnify feelings of grief and possibly leave you dreading any holiday. Likewise, some people who grew up in dysfunctional families may have very negative memories of holidays which can bring up painful emotions from their past. Many clients I have are unaware of the effect these past memories can have on their present experience. Finding a way to make space for grief during this time is important.
The Material Focus
A lot of people struggle with the importance placed upon material items specifically during the holidays. Seeing headlines about people being trampled in Black Friday sales, or seeing a child’s Christmas list that costs enough to warrant a second mortgage on your house feels disheartening. If this is something you struggle with, find a way to create more meaningful experiences during the holidays: volunteer at a soup kitchen, create a heartfelt gift for someone, seek out uplifting news stories that can balance out the commercial and superficial aspect of the holidays.
Expectations to Be Cheerful
There is an absurd amount of pressure from social media, music, movies, etc. to feel joyful and festive, delighting in all the fun the holidays bring. Then there’s also the expectation to become Martha Stewart for a month or so by creating “picture perfect” everything (ornaments, cookies, Pinterest crafts). It all becomes overwhelming. Trying to live up to this can be stressful and frustrating. Do what you can; what is realistic for you, and if you find yourself feeling drained or bitter, it’s probably a good indicator you’re overdoing it. Focus on finding and doing things that make you truly feel joyful and let the rest go.
The holidays can be a challenge for a number of reasons, but if you’re mindful of your feelings and make some thoughtful choices, you can find a way to make them easier.