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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year–Or Is It?

Holiday Stress

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year

There’ll be much mistletoeing

And hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

This upbeat holiday song, first performed by Andy Williams in 1963, conjures up images of happy couples and families gathered together to celebrate. But for some people and for many reasons, the holidays can be a very difficult time. If you find yourself feeling depressed or anxious during the holidays, you aren’t alone.

The Trappings of the Holidays

The holidays are filled with activity. We shop for presents, we wrap them, and we ship them, hoping that we have found the perfect gift for everyone on our list. We send cards and letters to friends and family near and far.  We decorate our homes, we bake, we go to parties and concerts, and we travel to be with our families. We cook elaborate holiday meals. All of this activity can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of work. This activity gets dropped on top of our normal lives and can cause stress and anxiety. All of this activity costs money as well. If you have already been struggling with money issues, the added costs associated with the holidays can add to your stress level. The prospect of the holidays may fill you with anxiety as you try to stretch your budget to include gifts for loved ones. If you have children you may feel guilty and sad at the prospect of not being able to get your children everything on their list to Santa.

Changes this Year Because of COVID-19

COVID-19 will bring changes to the holidays this year. Most of the usual holiday performances have been canceled or reconfigured to be presented virtually. Due to health considerations, you may not be able to travel to be with family this holiday season, or it might not be safe to see your grandparents. Your family may decide to hold a smaller event this year, perhaps limited to people in the local area, and connect with other family and friends virtually. Whatever your family decides, it is important to realize that the holiday may look and feel different this year and to acknowledge and process the emotions that you may have surrounding the changes to holiday traditions.

Relationships and Family Issues

During the holidays, we are encouraged to spend time with loved ones–friends, partners, and family. If you are not in a relationship, the holidays can feel especially lonely as the media bombards us with images of happy couples at festive gatherings. If you are divorced with children, holidays can be logistically complicated as children are shuttled from gathering to gathering. Any issues you may have with your family can bubble up to the surface. If you are not able to be with your family, you may feel a sense of loss and loneliness. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, you may feel the loss acutely during the holidays. “Firsts” are difficult–the first Christmas, New Year’s, birthday–after the death of a loved one. Even if the death occurred a number of years ago, you may find that you remember the loss more at a time when there is so much emphasis on family and relationships.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Issues

If you struggle with depression or other mental health issues or have issues with substance abuse, the holidays can be a particularly difficult time. The additional demands placed on our time and resources lead to stress, which in turn can cause feelings of anxiety and sadness which can exacerbate mental health issues. Also, if you are a person who tends to use drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions, you may find yourself drinking or using more. If you have chosen a sober lifestyle, the stress of the holidays, and the prevalence of alcohol at holiday events may make it more challenging to remain sober.

Tips to Cope With the Holidays

Although the holidays can be difficult, here are some tips and techniques that can make the holidays more manageable.

  • Say no to some invitations. You don’t have to go to every event you are invited to.
  • Make time for self-care.
  • Make sure that you are eating well and exercising regularly.
  • Set a budget. If you are part of a large extended family, suggest that gift-giving be limited to children or draw names for a gift exchange. Or follow the example of the British royal family and exchange gag gifts!
  • Do something for someone else. Volunteer with an organization, help a neighbor or do something kind for a stranger. You will feel better.
  • Most importantly, acknowledge your feelings. Talk to someone who will listen without judgment or write in a journal. Find a safe outlet for your emotions, rather than bottling them up inside.

If at any time during the holiday season your feelings seem unmanageable, remember that it’s okay to ask for help. 

At Enlightened Solutions, we understand that the holidays can be a difficult time for people who struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues. We have programs that can help those who are struggling with mental health challenges and addiction to drugs or alcohol. We are a licensed co-occurring treatment center, which means that we offer treatment for the mental health issues that very often are at the root of addictive behaviors. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore, rooted in the 12-Step philosophy, and offer many alternative therapies to complement the more traditional talk therapy. Alternative therapies we offer include sound healing, yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, reiki, art, and music therapy, horticultural therapy, and equine therapy. We offer each client a customized treatment plan based on their needs, drawing from these therapeutic treatment modalities. If you are struggling with an addiction and are ready to begin your recovery journey, call us at (833) 801-5483.