Happy *!!%&ing Holidays!

5 reasons the holidays are awful that people aren’t willing to talk about.

We like to think of the holidays as a time to indulge in joy and laughter with family and friends. The truth for many, however, is the holiday season can be the most stressful time of the year.

Many situational factors can add to the stress, such as:

• Someone who you always celebrated your holidays with isn’t here this year.
• You ran up your credit cards trying to make the time special for everyone.
• Mom and Uncle Joe won’t stop verbally abusing one another and you simply can’t listen another minute.
• Dad is furious that you are inviting the stepchildren to dinner.
• Grandpa has forgotten who you are and where he is.
• Aunt Shelley feels the need to give you unsolicited advice on how to raise your children.
• Grandma has had her 5th martini before the turkey is on the table.
• Your siblings refuse to help with the endless tasks.
• No one is contributing financially with holiday expenses because they “don’t have it”.
• You have no time for anything, let alone time to attend function.

And somewhere amidst the chaos, you experience a big, giant slap in the face of how unappreciative everyone is and your naiveté in believing that somehow this year was going to be different.
Here are some of the major causes of holiday stress.

1. Death/Loss/Divorce

Are you dealing with the death of someone close to you or your family, relatives who you no longer speak to, being single, divorced, widowed, or recently separated? If so, then it’s not uncommon to feel unhappy or depressed during the holiday season.

The holidays can be a very difficult time when trying to cope with the absence of a loved one. Their absence is similar to rubbing salt in the wound. We no longer participate in customary routines with this person. Even though we once enjoyed certain customs and traditions, these rituals no longer feel the same. They now feel meaningless, empty, sad and insignificant.

In addition, if you try too hard to make holidays exactly like they were before your loss, you’re likely setting yourself up for a rough time, emotionally. Things aren’t like they were before, and no amount of effort will change that.

So it is not uncommon to feel that you would like to bypass the entire holiday period and not participate in it at all. For many of us, the holidays are a time for unrealistic expectations, social pressures, and painful memories that we would simple just like to avoid.

2. Financial

While some of us may be feeling financial stress due to economic realities, such as losing a job, medical expenses, a loss in business or a failed financial venture, there are many of us who suffer self-imposed financial stress during the holidays.

There are a number of reasons that might contribute to your voluntary financial stressors.

Firstly, we self-inflict stress is by placing too much emphasis on material things as a means of happiness. We get carried away with making the holidays “better” for everyone and we overspend. We go overboard with gift giving. We let other people’s opinion’s influence us, so we try to impress people or we worry what others will think if we buy a less expensive gift.

Secondly, we feel that our friends and family expect us to entertain them, dine with them, attend events, etc. In order to do this “properly”, we overrun our budget. Even worse, we might feel we are in a competition with someone else to provide a “better” holiday experience.

Thirdly, many of us spent a great deal of money on travel. Travel to and from our destinations, airfare, gas, cars, hotels, meals, time off from work, pet sitting, etc. A lot of travel tends to be bought on credit, which can lead to major debt and financial problems for months or years to come.

Many of us end up ringing in the New Year with an unpleasant financial hangover. Is anyone still paying for last year’s holiday season? You are not alone. Chances are, if you don’t have cash to pay for everything, or you have to go into debt to make your holidays great, it is only adding to the stress you already feel with regard to your finances.

3. Family Conflict

Every family experiences conflict in its own way. Disagreements are a normal part of being a family. Family discord is often a result of different personalities, communication problems, poor boundaries, misunderstandings and stressful family issues. Some families may have more serious problems such as alcoholism, addiction, trauma or abuse.

But why do holidays that seem to prompt epic screaming matches by our relatives? Is there something about our kin or something about the holidays that’s especially irritating?

Family conflict can be particularly difficult to navigate over the holidays. Many times there are leftover, unresolved problems between its members. In addition, people are stressed due to travel and financial issues. There are high expectations to be close and have a good time with each other. Also, as well unsolicited advice from others can also cause pressure and tension.

Families are systems and we are each a part of the machine—if one member is not in a good place, the whole family dynamic can be thrown off.

4. Time mismanagement and over commitment.

We make the holidays a time of over-commitment by saying yes when we really should say no. What will they think of me if I say no? Your church needs people to volunteer at the holiday fair. You take three shifts. Your work is having a potluck so you agree to make 2 dishes because your co-workers keep raving about your cooking. You just got the new house with all that room, so you volunteer for the holiday party. All are worthy activities. But you don’t have to do them all or do them all in a big way to be a good enough person.

Also, we try to get to too many places in too short a time. We try to do too many things. We over commit. We assume that family members or other people will help out with added responsibilities. We don’t get months off for the holidays, but we act as if we do.

The company party, dinner at your mothers, breakfast at your home, dinner with your partner’s family, and driving 300 miles to grandma’s leave us cranky. Grocery shopping, gift shopping, gatherings, preparation, and wrapping gifts leave us tired. Everyone is exhausted and no one seems to appreciate your effort, which leaves you wondering why you committed to all these things to begin with.

Scheduling too many parties, too many extra activities, and too many family obligations can put a big strain not just on you, but on your family as well.

5. Realization of missed opportunities from the previous year.

I didn’t mend ties with my family. I didn’t lose the 10 pounds I vowed to lose. My financial situation is far worse than when I started this year. I should have taken that job. I really should have asked her out. I should have spent more time with him. Why didn’t I tell them I love them? I should have gotten help sooner. I didn’t finish what I started.

The end of the year seems to bring about a time of reflection. We tend to look at who we are now and how our experience in the last 365 days has shaped our lives. This reflection typically takes an emotional, professional, personal, and financial spin. For many of us, this can be a time of regret.

We regret choices we make, because we worry that we should have made other choices. We fear failure. We think we should have done something better, but didn’t. We should have chosen a better mate, but didn’t. We should have taken that more exciting but risky job, but didn’t. We should have been more disciplined, but weren’t.

This year, make the holidays more enjoyable for yourself and those you love by remembering to first and foremost take care of yourself. If you don’t, you are prone to burnout, stress, fatigue, reduced mental effectiveness, health problems, anxiety, frustration and insomnia.

Take the next step.


(817) 946-1620 | carrie@carrienet.com | Licensed Online Therapy and Counseling

One Response to “Happy *!!%&ing Holidays!”

  1. Katharine Di Cerbo, Reply

    Hi Carrie,

    I loved this, thanks for posting. What a comprehensive list!

    Family in particular is the item that resonates with me the most. Holidays can be a time when my expectations get (too) high! I have an image about what they should be like, and that can be dangerous.

    Thanks again. I’ve shared this as it feels really spot on.

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