Around this time every year, I get sad. Not sad in an aesthetically pleasing way, or in a cinematic way. Not even in a way that’s particularly unique or interesting. But as much as I love the holiday season, it still happens. I don’t stay sad the entire time, and some years are better than others, but it’s something I’ve come to accept about this time of year. I like to keep my holiday posts full of advice because I think we could use it if we’re struggling around the holidays, but I also thought I’d take some time to give a little reassurance as well – that even during the holiday season (sometimes especially during the holiday season), it’s okay not to be okay.
The it’s okay not to be okay message is a good one, and honestly it’s one that you can never hear enough. Throughout the calendar year, there are plenty of times it’s understandable to struggle with mental health or to not feel like ourselves. The holiday season isn’t any different in that it brings challenges, but the challenges that come this time of year are more disguised. They’re hidden in holiday decorations, in your go-to holiday movies and TV shows, in seeing your family (whatever that word means to you) at the same time in the same place every single year. But even if you’re holiday seems predictable, mental health is a variable you can’t always account for.
The mental health stigma continues to persist in many ways, and one of the times this pops up is during the holidays. There are many reasons for this (seeing old family/friends and reflecting on your past year are two big reasons), but the end result is that sometimes, the challenges of navigating the holidays prove to be too much. They can trigger current mental health conditions, past traumas or just create stress that can be difficult to manage. And I’m not just referring to those who are spending the holidays with family – it’s a challenge for everyone. We also can’t discount the toll of social isolation, especially this year!
Depression and grieving are also more common around the holidays. Seeing other people spend time with others or have more opportunities for socialization during the holidays is difficult, and that isolation can be difficult for anyone. And while grieving occurs year-round, those feelings can certainly be heightened during this memory-filled time of year.
For what it’s worth, I didn’t write all this to justify how we might be feeling this time of year. Because the truth is, we don’t need to justify it. We shouldn’t have to convince others (or even ourselves) that it’s okay to feel how we’re feeling right now – especially after the year we’ve had.
Many of us are feeling sad. We’re feeling pain, we’re feeling loss, we’re feeling uncertainty and we’re struggling. And those feelings are valid. Instead of encouraging you to ‘get over it’ (since that sadly appears to still be a form of advice some people give), I encourage you to acknowledge that those feelings are okay and try to seek help in whatever way you need. A quick fix or a holiday injection won’t take away our struggles – but being in a place where you can truly feel like yourself might be a good start. I continue to wish you all the best this holiday season and into the new year.