Thursday, October 29, 2015

Holidays: Are they a tough time for you?

It’s kinda unbelievable but it is already Halloween, almost the end of the year! How are you guys feeling about it? For me even, it’s feeling somewhat scary how quickly time flies. I still remember our fun New Year’s Eve Party, and now this year is almost over… Really!?!?

Well, around this time of year, there’s no way we ignore the fact that…"The Holidays” are right around the corner. Do you like the holiday season? If so, you are one of the lucky ones. As a psychologist, unfortunately, I am more concerned about people’s well-being around this time. Why is that? Because the holidays are quite a depressing time of the year for many, believe it or not. I want to talk about it today.

Many people actually feel worse around this time of the year. When you think about it, it is not so surprising. There are probably only a few lucky people who genuinely love this time, while many others have a tough time of it. Let’s see… If you are single with no family around, you may not have anything to do or anyone to be with on the holidays. Friends or coworkers may invite you to join their families for their holiday celebrations, but some may feel bad about that. You may feel pitied, or it’s just a reminder of your not having your own family, and then you may feel lonely after saying good night to them.  On top of it all, to spend the holidays with a nice enough family, you may end up spending a lot of time in a car or airport traveling at the busiest time of the year.

If you have your own family, you may have things to do, which is good, but then you may have to worry about some family drama, such as dealing with your mean auntie Mary or drunk uncle Joe who always makes your family feel uncomfortable. Perhaps you don’t even feel that close to your family, but succumb to the pressure of obligations. As the host, you may need to spend a lot of time and energy cooking and cleaning while your guests relax, on top of it all also spending a good amount of money. There always can be some family drama, but you are pretending everything is alright and everyone is having fun...

Even if you spend the time alone just with your partner or spouse with less demands, you may still feel too detached or isolated. You wonder why you are not with more family members and/or friends, feeling lonely and isolated from society/community.

Others are facing the first holiday season since a loved-one passed away, reminding them of their loss all over again, trying to cope with the empty seat at the dinner table.

Gosh, then who is really happy over the holidays!?!? Is it only some Pollyannaish kind of people or a lucky few? Well, actually almost everyone can be rather happy over the holiday season, but it requires a little shift in your mind.

One of the possible reasons why it is so tough is that we are in a way pressured to feel happy over the holidays and pressured to spend them in a certain way. “It’s a holiday, everyone MUST have somewhere to go and something to do, and be a happy family TOGETHER. That’s how it is SUPPOSED to be and it should be a happy time!” This almost mantra-like curse imposes a lot of pressure on people to meet unrealistic expectations! When we are pressured to feel and behave in a certain way, it becomes just that much harder to feel happy about it. So, this pressure makes it very difficult.

Another possible reason is that we tend to pay attention to what we lack, and ignore the privileges we have. If you are single and alone, you can actually enjoy the time off work having a nice relaxing time with no drama, which is not bad at all. You are free and you can enjoy NetFlix or barhopping or both! If you have a family, you can appreciate having someone to share some time together with, even if it includes some drama. It’s only a few times of the year anyway. If you have only your spouse or partner, it can be so nice to simply share your time off with your loved one with no distractions. It can be romantic, if you wish so. As long as we are alive, have a roof over our heads and food, and can take extra days-off work, that’s already a big “YAY!”

So first, just let go of the pressure to feel happy. You may feel it bothersome, annoying, time-consuming, and/or expensive, then just accept it as it is and bitch about it as needed. Once you are okay with not forcing yourself to feel happy or behave happily, you can appreciate what you really have, while not comparing yourself with others unnecessarily. Now you may feel calmer and more content. Then you can finally relax and enjoy your own special holidays in your own way!

*Have you thought about the people who have to work on holidays? Yes, it sucks (I have and still do as needed to take care of my patients, by the way), but you can always use the same principles. You can let go of the pressure about the holiday, and just appreciate that you have work and income. Also, hopefully you have some extra pay around this time, as well. That’s so nice and you can take some time off sooner or later, too. That’s enough, isn’t it? Why not!? Holidays are just one of the ordinary days which have just got some names!

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