The holidays! Bright lights. Colorful decorations. Joyful music. Special songs. Sales and more sales. Shopping and more shopping. Family and friends gathering. Celebrate and be cheerful!
But there’s a flip side. Mental health professionals and hospitals across the country report that the highest levels of depression occur the last month of the year, during the holidays. Suicides and attempts spike at the end of the year. More people are secretly sad or anxious at this time of year than any other month.
How can the happiest time lead to the most people experiencing sadness?
Three words: expectations, pressure, stress.
So much is expected of us during the holidays! Be with family, be part of a couple. Buy presents for everyone in your life, good/thoughtful/creative presents. Go to and host gatherings at home and work. Be friendly and cheerful and clever. Always cheerful, joyful, full of energy and life!
But what if you are not feeling cheerful? What if you don’t have the money to buy all those presents everyone expects? What if you don’t want to make small talk with folks you barely know and don’t have much in common with (and maybe don’t really like all that much)? You have to anyway! You have an obligation! Otherwise you’re a Scrooge, a Grinch, a party pooper, a downer. So, you try.
Burying your real feelings, hiding them deep inside, takes a lot of energy and wears you out. Trying to live up to the holidays can stress you out — emotionally, financially and physically. And all that can depress you. Makes you wonder what’s wrong with you — everyone else loves the season but you. Everyone else is with someone but you. Everyone else loves their family but you. Everyone else does wonderful presents and parties but you. What’s wrong with you?
And when we don’t live up to that image the media generates, we either feel like failures or think we are not quite enough. Old doubts rise up inside us. Old insecurities become larger. Old guilts gnaw at us again. We can get swallowed up by the depression, the low self-esteem, the self-blame. And who do you tell when the whole world is celebrating and joyful, and you’re pretending you are?
There is help available.
- There are some helpful articles for that:
- Strategies for Dealing With Holiday Depression: 12 Tips
- 10 Tips From the Mayo Clinic: 10 Strategies
- How To Cope With Holiday Depression: How To Cope
- An Overview of Holiday Depression: Overview
- For students, your friendly Dallas College counselors will help you deal with the season.
- For employees, the Employee Assistance Program can help.
So, make the most of this holiday season — with who you really are and what you really have, because that is pretty wonderful! Happy holidays!