Does it feel like the whole world looks forward to the end of the year festivities except you? If so, you’re actually not alone. Many people struggle at this time of year for different reasons. In this article we will explore the holiday blues, why it can be so hard to face the festive season and what you can do to make it a little easier.
Why do I feel like this?
For those who celebrate Christmas, this time of year can be filled with traditions, gifts, family and feasts. For others, its year-end, potentially time off from work and getting a chance to spend a while with friends and family. While these may sound appealing to many, for some its an incredibly stressful and sometimes painful time of year. But why?
There are many reasons why this time of year may be difficult. For some it is a reminder of those who cannot be with us. If you have lost a loved one, any special occasion or family focused time may be a stark reminder of their absence. With recent restrictions many have not been able to travel home to be with their families leaving some to be incredibly isolated at this time of year. It can be a very painful and lonely time for some.
For some, this time of year becomes more stressful than any other. Perhaps all of the planning, organizing and set-up falls to you. After a long year, you are now faced with the enormous task of making this period special and memorable for others. Its common for parents with young children to feel this pressure.
Another common reason is that you may simply find this time of year to be the perfect storm for your depression. The weather is harsher, colder and darker which impacts many people’s mood. Being alone or perhaps surrounded by family that you find unpleasant or challenging can be immensely draining. This time of year is also high in expectations and pressure. Financially, emotionally and physically – you may feel spread too thin and leave feeling even more exhausted by the end of it.
What Can I Do About It?
Firstly, remember you are not alone. Many people feel the same way about this time of year. There is no shame in admitting and acknowledging that you find it difficult. Part of the stress and pain comes from feeling like you have to pretend, but if you can be honest with yourself and find even one person to confide in, it can be a huge relief.
Secondly, take time to explore the source. What in particular do you find the most triggering at this time of year? The more you understand it the easier it is to find ways to cope. Sometimes we blindly suffer through events and periods but when you feel up to it, try identify what is the most challenging part to you. Is it the pressure to be with certain family members? Is the financial burden? Do you find yourself alone each year? It may be difficult and there may be multiple reasons, but this will be a big step in coping.
Lastly, plan ahead. Now that you have a rough idea of what you find the most challenging, we can find ways to adapt. For example, if you know being alone is the hardest part, aim to plan meet ups with friends or colleagues ahead of time – a quick coffee break for each of you won’t interfere with major plans but can make a big difference. Plan outings/activities for yourself that you actually enjoy – whether its booking a massage, planning a trip away or going to the movies on your own – plan ahead to do things that refill your cup.
Make a coping plan for the activities that you are dreading too, perhaps a friend joining you while you shop, asking your partner for help or limiting time in difficult situations. The more you plan ahead, the better chance you have to make this period more manageable, even possibly enjoyable.
Maybe this time of year is normally something you dread but it’s possible to make small changes that can make a big difference overall. Focus on one day at a time and remember it will soon pass.
*Please note the DMC Clinic is closing Friday 17th December and will re-open on Tuesday 4th January. In the meantime, if you feel you are in crisis, feel at risk of suicide or need urgent support, please remember there are also 24/7 free resources available including Pieta House 1-800-247-247*. Also reach out to your G.P, Care Doc or local Emergency Department, family members or friends for support.
The article is written by Lauren, Trainee Counsellor at The DMC Clinic. If you would like to discuss how any of the topics mentioned above are impacting your mental health, please contact The DMC Clinic to arrange an appointment.