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Mental Health

Why the Holidays Aren’t Always the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

With the holiday season coming to a close, the time has come to reflect on the festivities – parties, gift-giving, family traditions, time with loved ones… and the unexpected emotions. Although many may feel giddy and joyful this time of year, for some, the holidays bring about stress, sadness, and grief alongside the celebrations.

Undoubtedly, the holidays come with several expectations and pressures. While there are many familiar worries like buying the best gift for your girlfriend or baking the right amount of cookies for Santa, the holidays can also bring about deeper emotional stressors.

There is a certain expectation to feel happy and joyful during the holiday season. With the advertisements, movies, and talk all centering around the “wonderful” season, there is an inevitable pressure for people to enjoy the holidays. This forced “holiday spirit” tends to make people more upset and lonely than anything else, says Dr. Judith Orloff, a board-certified psychiatrist and author.

These unrealistic expectations of “holiday joy” can make the season stressful and unhappy; which leads to many feeling isolated in their sadness and grief. When feeling the particular pressures of the season, we may even feel ashamed or frustrated in our sadness.

With the continued presence of the COVID-19 pandemic, this holiday season is unique and grief appears in many different forms. From the loss of a loved one to the separation of friends to the ending of a holiday tradition, the holidays may not feel quite like they used to, and with these losses, comes inevitable grief.

The expectation of a happy holiday full of friends and family is often combated with an empty seat at the dinner table, an unaccepting family, or complete isolation. We are all grieving the loss of what our life once was, and the holidays only amplify these feelings of longing and grief.

For these reasons and others, many may be feeling down this holiday season, and it is important to know that these feelings are valid. The holidays may not feel like a time for celebration, and it is okay to skip out on any and all the festivities you feel needed. It is essential to ensure that we all take time to prioritize ourselves and our well-being during the overwhelming season.

Often, taking space from family, skipping out on a holiday celebration, talking with someone you trust, or simply getting some rest may be helpful in curing the stress and sadness of the season. Know that the holidays come and go, and the “most wonderful time of the year” can be whenever you decide it.

If your holiday sadness feels more than a seasonal difficulty (i.e. you’re having thoughts of suicide, feelings of depression, or are experiencing a mental health crisis) contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at +1 (800) 273-8255 or visit them at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

Kaitlyn Newport

American '24

Kaitlyn is a sophomore at American University majoring in journalism and political science. She enjoys creative writing, photography, and reading, and she is passionate about women's health, LGBTQ+ rights, and climate justice. Kaitlyn is a Contributing Writer for HCAU and currently living in D.C.
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