The Dark Side of The Holidays

Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

The holiday season is meant to be a period of festivities, warmth, and happiness. For some, it is anything but. Each year, there are people who don’t look forward to the holiday season due to strained family relationships, loneliness, feeling financially strapped, or any other reason.

We address some of the down sides of the holiday season – and how you can combat these situations to keep your spirits high. 

Suffering from SAD

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons, and affects more than ten million adults every year with females being more at risk to suffer from it. 

SAD begins and ends at about the same time each year, and are more common during the colder seasons (fall/winter). Many patients with SAD are not even aware that they’re suffering from it as they don’t necessarily feel depressed with regards to their moods. However, some of the physical symptoms include heaviness in arms and legs, frequent oversleeping (hibernation), and cravings for carbohydrates/weight gain.

What You Can Do: With any mental health concerns, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to treatments. However, professional help might include medication, psychotherapy, and light therapy. In addition to seeking help from your doctor, adopting healthier lifestyle habits such as getting plenty of sunlight, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and practicing relaxation exercises.

The Ties That Bind

Firstly, take comfort in knowing that there are no perfect relationships – at any given period of the year. Alas, the holiday season might magnify strained family relationships when it’s time to get together. Perhaps it’s harboured resentment or you’re going through a time of grief, it’s never easy navigating through complicated relationships. 

What You Can Do: Begin with yourself. If you’re only clinging on to negativity and bitterness, so will your actions. Think of just one good thing about the person (they could be kind to animals, or have a great fashion sense, or a really good cook) and hold on to that. From there, approach the person with a plan – avoid loaded conversations if you think it’ll end with a fight. Start with small talk, try to find common interests and stick to that for as long as it’s comfortable for you. 

Isolating Loneliness

Older people have been claimed to feel the loneliest during the holiday season. Growing older affects one not only physically but emotionally and mentally. As they go through physical changes, they also experience a shift in their role, purpose, and perspective as children leave or due to friends passing – possibly highlighting their isolation further. 

On the other hand, those who are far away from family and friends might feel even more isolated as their local connections retreat to their own families. 

What You Can Do: If you know someone who might feel extra lonely this year, try to spend just 5 mins of your day checking in on them. 

Alternatively, if you have elders in the family who may feel burdensome as they feel like they cannot contribute to or fully participate in the festivities like they used to, encourage them to do what they are capable of – even if it means them retelling their favourite stories of you as a kid. 

On the other hand, if you’re feeling the loneliness creeping up on you – join a community. Perhaps doing some good might reignite the true spirit of the giving season. 

Well That Was Costly

Decorations, parties, presents – the holidays might cause you to spend a little more. In fact, Deloitte’s 2019 Holiday Retail Survey revealed that the average household is planning to spend nearly $1,500 this holiday. As it might be impossible to not spend a cent (share with us your secret if you can!), the next best thing is to minimise or plan your budget. 

What You Can Do: Other than sticking to a budget and shopping list, start shopping early! Think mid-year sales, off-season promotions, and even celebrated ‘shopping’ peaks such as Singles’ Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday! 

Do It For The Gram...Not

We already know how social media can create an illusion of how perfect someone’s life can be. This season, whether it’s a holiday proposal, fancy holiday, or luxurious presents, social media might paint the most illustrated images ever!

What You Can Do: Start with yourself; try not to press others about their holiday plans unless you are aware they are freely sharing them. You might not know what they are going through, and you don’t want to come off as privy or pressurising. 

On the other hand, focus on real activities. Instead of scrolling through your news feed, scroll through old photo albums with your family.  Instead of ‘liking’ images, do activities that you like. Take this season to disconnect, and truly reconnect – with others and yourself. 

Written by

Cheryl Toh

Last updated on

December 6th 2019, 10:07 am

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