When Holidays Aren’t Happy

Do you find the holidays stressful? While many people look forward to this time of year, others find it very challenging. Many people don’t fit into the mainstream culture that becomes a huge and dominant focus. We are bombarded by ideas of who we “should” be, images of societal norms and materialistic versions of happiness and success. Most of these don’t reflect the great diversity in our real world, and people from differing religions, cultures, family situations, economic realities, etc. may feel invisible and even abnormal or ashamed. Rather than happy, the holidays can be a time of alienation and isolation.

Our deep yearning to belong and connect gets stirred up at the holidays, and it is painful to experience the ways this may be lacking in our lives. For others, the holidays may bring back memories of a troubled childhood, loss, hurt and disappointment. We encounter all too frequent reminders of being different, and may remember past holidays where the pressure cooker of expectations resulted in heightened family conflict and too much drinking.

Most people experience a heightened sense of stress at the holidays, feeling pressured to meet other’s expectations and cultural images and messages. Relentless reminders of the holidays may cause us to compare ourselves to others, resulting in self-judgment and feelings of inadequacy. The message to do more, buy more, eat more, go to more events, and create “special” occasions can feel like living in a pressure cooker where we can never be enough, have enough or do enough. And in our attempts to fit in, we may feel too embarrassed to reveal our true feelings.

Know that you are not alone and there is nothing wrong with you if you struggle at this time of year. Maybe we can make this a time to bring understanding, appreciation and kindness to our unique expressions of life, and connect with our deeper values and the goodness and wholeness that is within.