Despite the anticipation leading up to the holiday season, this is a difficult time for many individuals. The portrayal of the holidays in movies, on TV, and in the media can make it seem like this time of year brings everyone together with fun traditions and family gatherings, but this is not always the reality.
Dealing with unhealthy relationships between family members, loss and grief, the stresses of gift-giving and the financial strain, are all part of the huge range of anxieties that people are experiencing right now. No matter what you are personally going through, your emotions are valid.
The COVID-19 pandemic makes this time even harder since the majority of people are confined to their homes with limited ability to travel. For those who have unhealthy or abusive home environments, the current restrictions are incredibly stifling.
You’re Not Alone
If you’re experiencing the holiday scaries, it is important to know that you’re not alone. Those cheery Instagram posts and Christmas cards you see are not always representative of what is actually going on in the lives of others. Social media creates a huge misrepresentation of reality, and it can be easy to feel like you are the only one struggling.
Family dynamics are a huge contributor to the stress people experience during these months. Family fights and disagreements, organizing family gatherings and even having to face questions and pressure from family members, can push people over the edge. Almost everyone experiences family-related stress on some level. Psychology Today cites a survey from the American Psychological Association, reporting that family gatherings are a top stressor for people during the holiday season.
According to a survey from Healthline, 47% of respondents claim that finances are the cause of their stress during the holidays. It is often overlooked how much of a financial toll this time of year takes on people. With gift-giving, travel and other expenses, it can be difficult to manage money, especially as a young adult.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one during a time that is often spent with friends and family is one of the biggest reasons that many people struggle over the holidays. In an article from Psychology Today, Amy Morin, a licensed psychotherapist, discusses the increased grief around the holidays. It is common for people to dread the traditions, such as opening gifts on Christmas morning, if someone they love is no longer there.
How to Cope
Emotions are running high this time of year, especially since it is a holiday season unlike any other. Everyone has different triggers, and there are various ways to deal with them. Knowing a few healthy coping mechanisms is essential to making the most out of the holidays and for managing your mental health.
Self-care is a term that is thrown around a lot, but it is truly essential to practice different forms of self-care during the holiday season. Whether this be going for a daily walk or run, treating yourself at your favorite coffee shop, or ending each day by having some alone time to watch your favorite show, there are so many ways you can prioritize yourself. Spending time on bettering your life and making yourself happy, will make it easier to push through the family gatherings and holiday anxieties.
Setting realistic expectations can also help if you’re feeling anxious about spending time with your family. Do not hype up Christmas to be exactly the way it is in your favorite Hallmark movie and accept that the holidays cannot always be “picture perfect.” It is also important to set expectations with gift-giving and receiving. Try to apply the saying, “It’s the thought that counts” to your mindset. Ultimately, the holidays are about the people you love, not the material items. The financial strain of this season can make it hard for many people to spend a lot of money on gifts.
To a certain extent, everyone struggles to deal with their families during the holidays, especially college students who are used to being away at school. Set boundaries with your family to ensure that you can take care of yourself this time of year. Family time often comes with pressure and plenty of triggers, so communicate with your family to create a more healthy environment.
No matter what your personal situation is this season, it is important to be supportive of those around you. Check-in on friends and family members, since you never know what other people are going through. After all, if you create a supportive environment, it will also help you get through this time of year.
Doing kind deeds for your loved ones, and letting them know they have your support, can make all the difference. By being part of someone’s support system, you are making this time of year better for them and it is gratifying for you as well.
Of course, it is important to realize that some people have very extreme stresses during this season, especially if they have an unhealthy or toxic home environment. These situations cannot always be solved by self-care or setting boundaries, and people experiencing these hardships need the support of trusted friends and family.
If you or someone you know is struggling or feeling unsafe at home this time of year, there are people that can help. Check out your local resources or if you’re in the State College area, contact Centre Safe.