There are a myriad of feelings that come with the holiday season: cheer and tidings of joy, yet also profound grief, stress and even anxiety. Christmas brings scents, music, foods, places and people that often trigger memories and feelings of intense nostalgia that are a little different than the other 364 days of the year. Here are three common factors that often amplify mental health concerns during the holidays.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a surge in loss of life. No one has been spared from experiencing loss, whether it’s family, a friend, neighbor or social media friend. Just the thought of having to let someone you love “go” can be paralyzing.
Loss of life is not something to get over, but an experience that you can incorporate into your life. While the person is no longer here in the physical sense, their impact, love, joy, memories are still present and accessible. You can carry them with you anywhere you like and still interact. This may look like keeping photos near you, writing letters and burning them (in a grill or fireplace), releasing balloons, speaking aloud to your loved one, or lighting a candle to commemorate special occasions.
If you find yourself unable to participate in daily functioning such as employment, personal hygiene, or are inconsolable, please seek professional support.
Past Trauma & Familial Conflict
Along with the social norm and expectation of gathering with family, there comes the need for boundaries. For some, this can mean the difference in their sanity and triggering depression. We no longer subscribe to the belief of “what happens in this house, stays in this house,” and as a result, we are making decisions to limit toxic interactions with relatives simply because they are blood. This is healthy and requires no explanation.
This could mean:
- Opting out of a gathering that may become hostile or harmful
- Refraining from conversations that hurt others, are negative or pry into your personal life
- Leaving early or ending a conversation/interaction
Remember, you can observe others without absorbing their issues or emotions. Your parents are vessels through which you came. But, you are your own individual self with the autonomy and power to make healthy choices.
Financial Strain & Stress
The Federal Reserve estimates that Christmas 2021 will be amongst the most expensive. Despite inflation and job loss, consumers continue to spend, thus increasing the stress associated with debt. Spending is often emotionally driven and while it may feel good in the moment, many fall into depression and buyer’s remorse afterwards. This is also a time where one’s lack or lower economic standing can bring feelings of shame or despair. Whatever your financial status, it’s important to budget and remain mindful of your financial limitations. Studies have shown that positive memories are made of experiences not things. Spending time, giving handmade mementos or a phone call, can be a low-cost way to show someone that you care.