Why Are the Holidays So Hard For Me, and How Can I Cope?

Pretty young woman siting on the floor and looking upset

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… well, not for everyone. 

If you struggle during the holidays, please know first and foremost: You are not alone.

While images of love and joy fill storefronts, TV screens, and Instagram posts, for many people, the reality of the holidays isn’t so cheerful. Between stressful end-of-year deadlines, family dysfunction, loss, changes in eating and drinking habits, and increasingly cold and dark winter days, it’s easy for the holiday season to feel not-so-merry and bright.

Or maybe your family lives far away and you’re unable to be with them for the holidays, so December only reminds you of how much you miss your loved ones and how far you are from them.

Constant reminders of others seeming happier than ever this time of year can serve as a painful reminder of the happiness and love that’s lacking in our own lives — which can make us feel even worse if we’re already down.

The month of December can be a particularly difficult time of year for those dealing with family conflict, loss, breakups, divorce, loneliness, and mental health issues.

If you find yourself struggling this time of year, here are a few things that might help.

Coping tips for the holiday blues

Practice self-care

Self-care isn’t just bubble baths and affirmations. True self-care is the act of treating yourself with kindness, forgiveness, and consideration — like you would a loved one.

Here’s what we mean:

  • Acknowledge your feelings. Don’t try to shove emotions away and force yourself to try and be happy. Acknowledge difficult emotions without judgment. 
  • Rest. Yes, really rest. Actually pause, take a breather, and spend 15-20 minutes reading or watching a comforting show or doing anything else that recharges you.
  • Eat healthy foods. Full meals with protein, whole grains, and veggies will serve your well-being far better than just eating junk food and holiday candy.
  • Stay active. Exercise has been proven to help with anxiety and depression, and it will help you feel more in control.
  • Maintain a support network. Don’t isolate yourself — reach out to your loved ones. Even if you’re experiencing loss, there’s likely still someone else in your life who cares about you and will be here for you when you’re struggling.

Limit external sources of holiday pressure

Social media can give us a skewed perspective on the lives of others and, consequently, our own lives at any time of year. This is especially true during the holidays. 

Consider taking a break from social media if seeing other people’s holiday photos is causing you to engage in self-comparison. If you don’t want to cut out social media completely, at least remember that what you see on social media is a highlight reel of someone’s life, not what their lives are truly like all day, every day.

Collection of instant photo memories

Remember a loved one

Finding a way to acknowledge a lost loved one at your holiday get-together can be a positive experience. In fact, holidays can be more challenging when the loss isn’t talked about, because it can make that absence seem stronger. 

Sharing memories or a toast to the departed might be a bittersweet moment but one that can ultimately help make your holiday a richer experience.

Set healthy boundaries

Difficult relationships are tested during the holidays, especially when it comes to families, but there are ways you can prepare. 

Give yourself permission to decline an invitation or to leave an event early. (Just be upfront that it’s important to you to attend but that you’ll be leaving before the end.)

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If you regularly struggle with anxiety or depression, we can help.

With regular counseling sessions, our professional, licensed behavioral health providers are here to help you cope with trauma, manage anxiety and depression, and help you establish internal healing so that you can live the life you’ve always wanted to.

Stay up-to-date on when we launch behavioral health at starmed.care.