The holiday season will soon be upon us. Few of us are lucky enough to experience nothing but the joy this season can bring. More often than not, this time comes with a lot of stress, anxiety, and depression. But why would a time that is meant to be celebrated be plagued with mental health difficulties?
Some degree of stress is unavoidable and comes from the urgency of preparing for the holidays and making sure nothing is forgotten or missed. However, this type of stress is often quite small compared to the additional mental and emotional stress caused by relationships - both past and present. It's like Scrooge, from Mickey's Christmas Carol, who is unable to celebrate the holidays until he deals with his ghosts from past, present, and future (image below). How can joy be found when these kinds of ghosts occupy our minds?
Relationship ghosts of the past can visit to remind you of how alone you are, the opportunities you have missed, and the mistakes you have made. As you look at the joy of families gathering to celebrate, a deep ache overcomes you and sinks you into depression. Or perhaps your relational ghosts remind you of times when you've been rejected and criticized by others so you work to get everything just right this season to make sure you won't suffer any additional rejection or criticism. You frantically run around trying to find the perfect gifts for others and are filled with anxiety of trying to get it just right. Someone else may find that ghosts show up during family get togethers as a result of pains from the past that have been ignored or collectively covered over in hopes that they'll be forgotten. Family relationships feel more superficial and gatherings are tolerated with the help of alcohol and binge eating. All of these experiences are examples which highlight failed attempts at connecting with an ever-elusive sense of holiday peace and joy. None of these experiences is what anyone should be struggling with over the holidays.
If you find the holidays especially difficult, now is the time to reach out for support. We can work together to understand your ghosts and put them to rest so that you can move through the season with more ease. This season, give yourself the gift of inner peace so you can experience the joy that the holidays can bring!