It’s the most wonderful time of the year, except for many people it’s not. Many people are experiencing holiday blues, the feelings of loneliness, isolation or loss. It can be caused by illness, grief, end of a relationship, all this mixed with pressure and stress of the holidays.
“Holidays are a great example of expectations exceeding reality for most people. I encourage people to reduce their media dose if they’re sensitive to this idea of mismatch between reality and fantasy,” said Ken Duckworth, medical director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The idealized images sold to people about what the holidays look like and how everyone should feel, do no align with the circumstances of people’s lives, family dynamics and other stresses. Many families don’t have all the people they love on their Christmas table and not everyone can afford presents.
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Do not overvalue the holidays
When we overvalue the happiness during holidays, we set standards that are impossible to achieve. One study even showed that valuing happiness can be self-defeating because the more people value it, the more likely they’ll feel disappointed.
Overvaluing anything can be dangerous, especially around the holidays.
Have a plan for dealing with grief
Holidays are extremely difficult for people that lost someone.
“This is almost a universal human heartache – your first Thanksgiving, your first Christmas, your first whatever your holiday is without your family member can be the hardest day. Whether you have a psychiatric vulnerability or not, the question is, ‘who do you surround yourself with to help you cope with that?” says Duckworth.
The holiday suicide myth
Although “holiday blues” is real, it doesn’t lead to increased suicide. Suicide rates have always been low in December, and highest during summer. Experts don’t know why the suicide rates are lowest around the holidays, but some studies suggest it’s because the meteorological conditions. Suicides tend to rise with the warmer weather.
Deborah Serani, a psychologist from New York, explains that many people experience depressive calmness during winter, so there’s no suicide urge. The suicide rated around the holidays also drop because people with depression are more supported and surrounded by family and friends.
Do not break up with your therapist during the holidays
If you’re seeing a therapist, do not stop seeing them during the holidays. Don’ t miss a session, don’t forget to take your medication, eat healthy, keep a healthy sleeping schedule and practice good self-care. Get more sunlight and more exercise.
If you feel overwhelmed and sad, isolation is not the answer. Try your best to stay connected to people who support you.
Have realistic expectations
Remember that what you see on ads and social media is polished, photoshoped and not real life. Feelings about the holidays will inevitably vary from person to person, so don’t put pressure on yourself.