From Thanksgiving to New Years, people are expected to constantly engage in the holiday season.
This season is filled with endless buffets of food, exorbitant amounts of alcohol and countless festivities. Real life seems to take the backseat for the holidays, which should be a tremendous relief for exhausted students.
However, the holidays can evoke feelings of anxiety and depression. This may seem strange. Why would a time seemingly full of cheer beget such negative emotions?
It has a lot to do with expectations. Modern-day consumerism tells us the last five weeks of every year ought to be the best of times. We are expected to be jolly and merry as we greet every relative with a too-tight hug—regardless of whatever else is going on in our lives.
The idea is nice; forgetting the perils of reality for a few weeks in order to celebrate with loved ones. The truth is, reality does not stop when Christmas carols come on the radio, and trying to pretend it does only exacerbates the holiday stress.
Rather than faking a smile through the holidays, it is better to acknowledge feelings of sadness or stress and to remember the season of festivities is just another season.
The staff at the Mayo Clinic reminds us, “The holidays don’t have to be perfect.”
There is an overwhelming societal desire for the holidays to be drastically better than the rest of the year, and it is these looming expectations of perfection that sabotage the true meaning of the season.
We become so preoccupied with trying to make each event impeccable that we lose sight of the bigger picture. This is the pathway to anxiety and holiday blues.
Rather than trying to create the perfect party or be on good terms with every relative, we ought to accept the imperfections, revel in the familial awkwardness and laugh through the holiday blunders.
The holidays can be an excellent microcosm for life itself—imperfect, and yet an opportunity for celebration. Rather than stressing out over the expectations of the season, we should simply breathe, release all of the built up pressure we put on ourselves and enjoy every moment of the holidays for what they are—moments.
Capitalism will tell us we must buy countless things and have a certain ambiance during the holidays in order to have a “true” holiday season, but we must look past these materialistic misconstructions. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate and there is no need to pretend that real life is on pause because it is December.
For the next four weeks, take a breath, say a prayer and remember the holidays ought to be a time of peace. This does not mean problems will disappear or that worries will vanish. However, it does mean we have an opportunity to smile for the bits and pieces we do have.
– Bridgett Reneau is a psychology junior