Ah, the holiday season. Festive lights, smiling people, glowing firesides in homes along your street, and all the images that a Bing Crosby album conjures up. However cozy and quaint, this picture-perfect version of “the most wonderful time of the year” isn’t an accurate depiction of what many of us are experiencing at the end of December. For a variety of reasons, many people find the holidays to be the most difficult time of the year. A highly commercialized event when demands on our time, good-nature, and wallet are at an all-time high, most of us have reported some form of holiday stress. Those frequently impacted are introverts, those who have suffered a loss, people who have had difficult holiday experiences in the past, and those who have experienced trauma, particularly within a relationship, but this list is far from exclusive.
Our society has become heavily invested in the glittering idea of the very merry holiday season as evidenced by the billions of dollars we spend as a nation on gifts, decorating, food and entertaining each December. Holiday advertising typically shows a smiling, happy family setting, where everyone is enjoying themselves and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. This hasn’t left a lot of room within the collective awareness for the more realistic holiday experience, which is one of struggle with this time of year. A common complaint is, “I feel like the weird one” or “No one understands why I feel the way I do about the holidays”. Well-meaning friends make jokes like, “Bah humbug… hahaha!” but they’re neither helpful nor all that funny. So, many for whom the holidays aren’t a much-anticipated time end up isolating themselves or surviving by faking it, forcing their way through the demands of holiday parties, shopping and family gatherings, stumbling into January exhausted and spent. This often presents as a sort of post-holiday depression, with people reporting a desire to further withdraw from their lives, a sense of sadness they can’t identify the source of, feelings of irritability or frustration. If this is the real cost of the holidays to a growing group, what can we do differently?
Blog Author -- Jodie Voth, MMFT
Jodie is a full-time therapist and owner of Voth Family Therapy. She enjoys working with teens and motivated adults who are working through transitions and relationship challenges.