As the holiday season approaches, many envision a tableau of perfect family gatherings, comforting aromas of homemade feasts, harmonious laughter among friends and family, and expressions of gratitude flowing freely. However, for some, this time of the year stands starkly opposite to this idealized image. It is a period of stress, emotional turmoil, or intense loneliness that bears no resemblance to the traditional celebration of unity. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 66% of people report feeling lonely during the holidays, while 64% of those with mental illnesses find their condition worsening during this time.
Loneliness: A Ubiquitous Companion
Why are loneliness and emotional stress so prevalent during this time of the year? Some people may live far from their families or may not be able to travel to see them. Others may be grieving the loss of loved ones or navigating tense relationships, and the holidays can serve as a harsh reminder of these losses. For some, the holiday season brings together families that would rather be apart. You are clearly not alone if you have felt lonely during this time. The first step is to acknowledge this feeling and name it.
Strategies for a Fuller Christmas
To help us navigate this period in the best possible way, IKEA and psychologist Ana Belén Medialdea have synthesized ten keys to living a fuller Christmas. These include planning a realistic budget for holiday shopping, reducing spending on gifts, stopping the pursuit of perfection in holiday meals, declining unwanted events, balancing festive meals, setting respectful boundaries, maintaining long-distance links, establishing rituals and focusing on the present, investing time in self-care, recognizing and honoring the memory of absent loved ones, and expressing love, gratitude, and appreciation towards those who are important.
Managing Holiday Stress and Depression
The holiday days in December are a time of joy and celebration, but they can also cause stress, loneliness, and feelings of depression. Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, indicates that loneliness can be as detrimental to health as daily smoking. To manage these feelings, psychiatrist Neha Chaudhary suggests acknowledging loneliness, identifying the source of the feeling, and practicing self-compassion. She also recommends seeking connections with others and avoiding social comparisons that can lead to a sense of inadequacy.
Addressing Holiday Anger
Anger during the holidays can also arise due to familial tensions or unmet expectations. Constructive anger management, such as through honest conversations or writing letters that will never be sent, is advised. Lastly, the importance of accepting imperfections and creating new holiday rituals that alleviate the pressure to meet unrealistic standards and allow for genuine enjoyment of the season is emphasized.