Why Are Holidays So Doggone Hard?!
It’s that time of year again. You know, that time when everyone is talking about what to do and where we’ll go…and who’s hosting and what’s on the menu. It’s the holiday season. A time when all is right with the world, and everyone is happy, healed, safe and at peace. Right? Wrong!!! Let’s be real. Not everyone is waking up playing holiday music and counting down the days until they come. For some, this isn’t the happiest time of the year. In fact, those people are desperately trying to figure out what the heck everyone is so cheery about. And, “it’s the holidays!” is not an acceptable answer. Why? Because “the holidays” don’t mean the same thing to every body. If you’re feeling a little (or a lot) down in the dumps, it’s OK. You’re in good company (and not in the “misery loves company” kind of way). I just mean it in the sense of letting you know you’re not alone. This time is hard for millions of people across the world and I’ve come up with 6 reasons why. Let’s talk about it…
I heard someone say once that disappointment is the distance between the truth of what we have vs. the truth of what we want. When you really stop to think about that concept, and apply it to the holiday woes, of course it makes sense that people are down during this season. This is the most emotionally taxing time of the year. EVERYONE WANTS SOMETHING!! Everyone has an expectation that you are responsible for fulfilling. And it starts early. For some, it may start even before that.
If you’re a parent, the kids start hinting early about what gifts they may want. If you have smaller ones that still believe in Santa, you’ll start finding letters written with apologies for bad behavior and a wishlist – because they understand that Santa is gracious. Gifts! Whether it’s money, sneakers, jewelry, a proposal…everyone has their hand out. So, this time is not only financially taxing, but emotionally too! Right? I mean, no one wants to disappoint the people they love. So, we break our backs (and banks) in an attempt to make the people that we love smile.
Maybe gifts are the heavy lift for you. Perhaps the expectation of spending time is what has you feeling spent. I get it. And that’s a real thing. Your family/loved ones may not want anything from you but your time. However, your time is sometimes the only thing that is 100% yours. And it’s precious. So, with the high demand for it during this season, it’s no wonder you’re feeling depleted. It’s never “all you have to do is just come over.” With every exchange, desired or not, there is a withdrawal on your time balance. That is not to be overlooked.
Aaannnddd…while we’re on the topic of family disappointment, what about being single and not having the “family” that you want…(insert deep sigh)…The holidays can be a lonely time. You want to have your own people to create traditions with – string popcorn, go caroling, or whatever that thing is that you’ve been building in your mind. Not having that…that distance between the reality of what you have vs. what you want – that’s disappointment. I get it.
#2 Seasonal Depression
Everyone has heard the term “seasonal depression.” You may have heard it on commercials for depression medication, or in a holiday Hallmark movie. But, most people are familiar with it. Sometimes the things and words that we hear and become familiar with can lose a little bit of their power over time. But, for the people who experience seasonal depression, it’s as powerful and foreboding as it ever was.
According to Google, seasonal depression has an actual medical diagnosis. It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). And, though we hear about it most during the holidays, it is not necessarily linked. SAD is a mood disorder characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year. By that definition, it’s no wonder this type of depression is linked to this season. If you have the same triggers (memories, people, relationship status, etc.), of course you are going to have the same experience year after year. SAD is real. Your experience is real. I get it.
Losing someone you love is never easy. And the holidays put a particular emphasis on paying attention to the ones we love. So, what do we do about all of this love that we have for a person that is no longer with us. That’s hard. Grieving is one of the things that makes this season so hard. Of course we miss our person all year long. There are milestones and memories that come up that we have to deal with at that moment. But, the holidays are even tougher. There are more people around to remind us of the loss. The time itself is filled with memories that used to involve them, and the recurring nature of this season that no longer does – that is sometimes a hard reality to keep coming back to. Plain and simple, you miss them. That’s normal, too. I get it.
#4: Family Dynamics
Family is tough! That’s the short and skinny of it. No family is without its fair share of drama. Lots of families have all of these things that have gone unsaid for years. They have secrets or just a bunch of things that may not exactly be secrets, but they fall under the category of “things we don’t talk about.” Hurt feelings. Disappointments. Micro-betrayals. Misunderstandings. These are the kinds of things that, outside of the holidays, we spend time perfecting our “sweep that under the rug” tactics. BUT! Then the holidays roll around and there’s this invisible weight that everyone feels. It takes all of the oxygen out of rooms. It threatens to break up family dinners and blow up entire houses. Today I’ll call it the weight of pretending. It’s heavier than all of the pounds that we, as a collective, will put on over the holiday season.
Whether it’s self-imposed or not, the expectation that one will continue to engage in family time with challenging family dynamics is hard. Stressors are heightened because of the high holiday feelings, and all of it just makes for an even tougher holiday season. I get it. You’re not alone in that.
#5: Retriggering of Trauma
Only in the movies does it happen that the bad guys do a bad thing and get taken out of community, never to be able to harm again. It’s what we, the traumatized, want – right? Of course. But, it doesn’t happen that way most times. For many of us, the person(s) that have traumatized us are in our families. They are close. And when they hurt us, there is no one there to take them out of our life community. The expectation is that they are allowed to still be amongst us and we are to grin and bear it. But, my God! When you really stop to think about what’s happening in that situation, it’s the equivalent of someone maliciously cutting you on the leg with a razor blade. You rush to the hospital and get stitches. You stay home and let it heal. Then, at the holiday dinner, you get all dressed up and go back to that person’s house so that they can cut you again. Oh! And don’t forget to make sure your teeth are clear of food for the pictures to memorialize the charade. Sounds ridiculous, right? But that’s what’s happening in homes across the world. People are being forced to eat and socialize and take pictures and do life with the people that have abused or offended them- sometimes for years. That’s trauma. And it’s a familiar story for millions during this season. We get it.
#6: Where’s the Self-Care?
The holiday season is the busiest time of year for most. With hosting, travel plans, shopping (yes! Even with Amazon prime), cleaning, wrapping, thinking, over-thinking…THIS.IS.THE.BUSIEST.TIME.OF.THE.YEAR!! And, if you’re anything like me, when you are doing all of this thinking, planning, shopping, cleaning, etc, it’s for other people. It is never about you. This is, as the cardmakers have designed it, a time for celebrating and extending ourselves for others. And that’s fine. But what happens most times is that in all of the doing for others, we neglect ourselves. It definitely happens during the other 11 months of the year, but there’s a socially accepted responsibility to overextend at the holidays. In fact, the more you put yourself out, the more you are celebrated. It’s a silent competition in a game you were never equipped to win. And really, what does winning look like anyway? You. Broke and emotionally overextended. That’s what.
When we are doing more (for others), we have less space/time to take care of ourselves.
This holiday season let’s try something new – together. Let’s be kind to ourselves. Let’s set boundaries that we don’t allow others to cross. If we’re buying gifts, let’s create a list and a budget and stick to it. Let’s not force ourselves to be in the company of those that have hurt us. You are responsible for health in all of the ways – mentally, physically and emotionally. Lets create boundaries for ourselves that we don’t cross. Let’s figure out how to have some of those hard but necessary conversations that allow for real healing to take place within our families. And lastly, let’s be intentional about being better to ourselves. Plan an intentional day where we do ONLY what makes us happy.
Now, I realize that all of these things are easier said than done. But, if you find that you need help, we’re here. I ended all of the points of my top 6 reasons that the holidays are hard with the phrase “I get it.” That wasn’t some cute, anecdotal thing that I just said. I meant it. I do get it. As do the other practitioners here. This isn’t an advertisement, but if you need a little support during the holiday season (or beyond), we are here.
Wishing you courage, health and joy (the real kind) this season!