Many people find the holidays stressful and overwhelming. For some reason, holidays are a magnifier of problems. If people are doing well throughout the year, they will enjoy their Christmas holidays, but if they have problems, those will only get bigger. A very common challenge of the Christmas season is the holiday blues.
The holiday blues is a feeling of sadness, anxiety, irritation, physical sickness and loss of interest in fun and happy things. It happens during the holidays, mainly around Christmas. There are many factors that contribute to the anxiety over the holidays. Here are just some of them:
- Stress related to money
- Change in eating habits to look good (perform) during the holidays
- Not having enough sleep – trying to do many things over a short period of time
- Sadness over the inability to spend time with far away family members
- Lack of certainty because of so many changes in the daily routine
- Stressful and sad memories of previous Christmas holidays
- Too much exposure to commercials about diets, shopping, health, eating…
- High expectations from self and others
- Fear of family and other relationship conflicts
As you can see, there are many factors that contribute to feeling anxious and worrying about Christmas.
Relationships are one factor in the formula to a disastrous holiday. If you have good relationships with the people you will celebrate Christmas with, Christmas is likely to be a happy and wonderful event. If your relationships with those people are strained, however, Christmas may become unpleasant. The thing is it becomes unpleasant long before the actual day of Christmas.
This is a very good thing about Christmas. It brings to people’s consciousness one of the most important things in life – family matters. Most people put off taking care of themselves and their relationships until the holiday comes and running away from these things is just impossible.
Christmas, more than any other holiday, forces people to look at their relationships and examine them. Most of the time, if the relationships are not nice, the examining process is painful – no wonder people avoid it.
Here are examples of relationships that can create stress over family matters on the holidays.
- Not having enough money and not being able to tell the kids that you have to be tight a bit and that you cannot buy them all the gifts we want from you (or the gifts they have asked from Santa)
- Not having enough money and not being able to tell the kids that you cannot take time off for a good holiday and feeling guilty for having just a day here and there with the kids
- Not having enough money and wanting to impress the guests will create lots of tension around Christmas gifts. It will make people spend many hours of going from one place to another just to buy one single gift that will be affordable yet impressive enough
- Not having a close and open relationship with holiday guests will make people work very hard on “performing well on the holidays”. Performance anxiety will include starving to death to fit in a certain dress, buying the best food to impress the guests (even if there is not enough money for show off), killing yourself over cleaning the house, so people will not talk behind your back about the dust in your house, spending extra money to look good – hairdresser, face and body treatments, etc
- Distant or loose relationship with the host will make gift shopping stressful. What should I buy him/her? Will he be happy with what I got? Does he/she deserve it?
- A breakdown in relationship with the host will make it harder to stay for the Christmas night and Christmas Breakfast
- Challenges with another guest at the dinner table will make it very hard for people to enjoy the event and create anxiety and stress
- Challenges with partners or kids will make it hard to host others or be a guest at someone else’s house. “Will they notice?” “How well can we hide it?” “Will my partner/kids behave?”
- Fear of an old conflict coming up again
- Conflict between partners: celebrating Christmas with his or her family (I know I had this for years)?
As you can see from the list, having to produce gifts and smiles for the holidays, or even trying very hard to make it work, only magnifies challenges in relationships.
Join me on Friday for how to handle the holiday blues (no post tomorrow, sorry). Today is Christmas Eve, so go have fun with your family, because family really matters and if there are issues in your family, they will not be solved in one day anyway.