Navigating Differing beliefs, social pressures, & The Holiday Blues
The holidays are not always the joyous time we’re told they should be. For many of us, the holiday season is fun and festive while also being stressful and chaotic. In this article, we explore the ways in which the holiday season affects our well-being, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. If you’re looking for solutions, skip to the end!
The “Holiday Blues”: Emotional & Spiritual Well-Being
Even if we enjoy participating in holiday traditions (or at least maybe enjoy a good pumpkin spice latte), that doesn’t mean we don’t also feel the holiday blues.
Whether you’re grieving a loved one, stressed about seeing family, or feeling especially isolated, the holiday season presents some unique challenges to our emotional and spiritual well-being. It’s normal to feel more stressed, lonely, and sad at this time of year.
Weather changes can also contribute to feeling down — darker days and colder temperatures result in changes to our body’s neurotransmitter production. High melatonin levels combined with lower serotonin can result in low energy, fatigue, and even depression.
Many of us also have expectations of what this time of year “should” look like, based on what we see in the media. When everyone around you seems to be enjoying happy times with family and friends, we can become more aware of our own isolation and loneliness.
Managing Social Pressure & Family Expectations
At this time of year, we’re often also reminded of the different beliefs and expectations we have of our family, friends, and significant others. Whether it’s religious beliefs, expectations of how often & when we see each other, or how we spend our time together, these nuances can quickly swing the pendulum from a great time to needing a “time out” from socializing.
You may be feeling pressure on multiple fronts: pressure from your family, your friends, your children (if you have them), and your partner. The holidays mean something different to each of us and if we try to meet all of the social expectations placed on us, it can feel like we’re spreading ourselves thin. With added stress, conflict and tension can arise. And if conflict and tension are already a part of your family get-togethers, this time of year can sometimes heighten emotions and highlight difficult dynamics.
So, what do we do?
Approaching this season with an open mind is one way to combat the holiday blues. Often, expectations of ourselves and others set us up for disappointment, anxiety, and frustration. Being aware of the many challenges presented during the holiday season can also help us practice grace and patience with ourselves as we all maneuver this emotionally wrought time of year.
In addition, here are some actionable tips to help you stay grounded:
- Set boundaries when needed. No matter what expectations are placed on you by others, you are allowed to say “no.” Know your limits and speak up for yourself.
- Make time for yourself. In a season all about giving, we forget to give to ourselves. In times of stress, it’s especially important to take time for the things that keep you grounded. Take yourself on a coffee date, go on a long walk, make time to journal or listen to your favorite music — whatever keeps you grounded.
- Keep up healthy habits as much as possible. Those Christmas cookies and holiday cocktails are great, but sweet treats and extra glasses of wine can take their toll. We’re not asking you to deprive yourself of the things you most enjoy about this season, but you’ll feel better about indulging if you keep up your normal exercise, diet, and sleep regimens as best you can.
- Give yourself permission to to create new traditions. This one speaks for itself! Starting new traditions can bring a sense of purpose and fun to your holiday, and allow you to let go of old traditions that no longer serve you.
- Ask for help if needed. Lastly, there are times when managing anxiety, stress, grief, and other emotional difficulties becomes too much to handle alone. Professional help is always as an option.
The holidays can be both magical and lonely. They can be festive, joyful, and warm while also presenting many challenges. No matter how you feel about this time of year, we wish you a happy and healthy season.