Sometimes it can be a frustrating paradox: the holidays, a time of year when we are supposed to be happy, relaxed, and spending quality time with those we love, can be one of the more stressful and depressing times of the year.
Psychologically speaking, however, this makes a lot of sense. See the three below reasons for why this is:
- Holidays are spent with family. Not everybody has a family they look forward to seeing over the holidays. However, even if you do want to see your family—even if they are a source of support and guidance—chances are that you are not free from certain familial stresses and frustrations. Your mom may have the best of intentions in mind when she gives you advice on how to live your life, but—understandably—this grates on you. Your father may hold you dear in his heart and tell all his friends the same—but over the holidays, his silence feels alienating. Familial stresses and frustrations are often more difficult to endure because they have been in place for a long, long time. They may bring people back to a time, or remind people of certain dynamics, that they would rather forget.
- Holidays are SUPPOSED to be merry. Almost always, unhappiness partakes of what I will call “secondary effects,” by which I mean thoughts and feelings about our thoughts and feelings. In other words, if we had a difficult week in the middle of October, we might not think anything other than “this was a difficult week.” However, if we have a difficult week over winter holiday, we immediately begin thinking that something must be wrong with us, to feel so poorly during a time when everybody is supposed to be happy. This can lead to conclusions like: we have a terrible relationship with our family, or we must be severely depressed if even the holidays are difficult, or many others.
- Holidays are a break in the routine. For the most part, human beings benefit from routine. Imagine a world where we had no routine whatsoever—we could wake up, eat, go to work, and socialize at any hour of the day. We would not leave our toothbrush in the same spot, ever do the same gym routine twice, or make the same meal again. In short, it would be chaotic. Now, some routine can be stifling, which is why vacations are rewarding. But the holidays are a vacation you have little control over. This break in routine, doing something you would otherwise perhaps not choose to do, and coupled with the first two reasons, can make holidays a challenge.
Of course, for many people the holidays are everything they are cracked up to be. This post is to bring attention to why, for many others, they are not.