Do you find yourself dreading the holiday season, or just not excited about it? If so, I promise you’re not the only one. 🎄❌
One report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness suggests that 64% of people with mental health issues feel worse during the holidays.
Whether you have a diagnosed mental illness or not, you might just be sad, depressed, or anxious during this time. This is … normal.
To be clear, if you’re a person who loves the holidays, awesome! I don’t begrudge your celebration at all. Have fun, be merry.
What concerns me is the universal expectation that everyone MUST love the holiday season. As noted, for many people, this time of year produces more negative emotions than positive ones.
This can be true because of previous experiences—you have bad memories of earlier years—or due to anxiety about the future. If everyone around you is celebrating and joyful, you might feel the need to pretend.
Well, guess what! You don’t have to pretend! Being sad (or anxious, or just less cheerful) is not the same as being a grinch.
And we all know people (perhaps we’ve done it too) who overeat and drink too much alcohol this time of year. Maybe instead of doing this in celebration, it’s more of a coping mechanism?
Like I said, I don’t begrudge anyone else’s holiday joy. What I resent is the expectation that everyone just chooses to be happy about reindeer or religious symbols or some guy from Finland who breaks into people’s homes to eat their food.
Happiness, despite what you’re told, is not always a choice.
You can choose to be content, to accept, to move forward positively as best as you can—all those things are possible. Sometimes you can even choose to be joyful.
But happiness is not always available on demand, and that’s okay. From much experience, I assure you that if you accept this fact, eventually you will actually be happier. Weird how that works!
If the season fails to brighten your day, and even if it brings you down, just know that this is how it goes sometimes, and “this too shall pass.”
Eventually everything will come full circle, and we can all look forward to the decorations coming down.
How to Be Alone
A while back I wrote a post called How to Be Alone on a Holiday.
I’ve spent a lot of holidays by myself, sometimes by choice and other times by circumstance. At the time I wrote that post, though, I was still a year or two away from a Christmas and New Year’s season that was the roughest of all. I guess I was trying to prepare myself!
That year, I wasn’t actually alone for most of the more celebratory days, but I might as well have been. I remember trying to take care of other people, doing my best to pretend to be joyful, all while I wanted to go to my room and take a Xanax and sleep for the rest of the day.
Out of that experience, I wrote a very personal post, The Importance of Having a Breakdown. A month later, I had made some big changes and was in a much better place—but during those long days in December, I was inconsolable.
Thankfully, this year, I don’t need consoling and I’m very grateful for my life. The gratefulness doesn’t come from celebrating any particular day on the calendar, but from a truly new perspective that I’m exactly where I need to be.
So if this is a hard year or season for you, cheer up! It gets better. Or don’t cheer up, because that’s okay, too. Whatever you do, you don’t need to pretend.