In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past month, the holiday season is upon us.
Everywhere you look, the signs of good cheer are almost manic—lights, music, bows, festive displays and of course advertising for every imaginable product your loved ones might like as a gift.
Although the holiday season is a time when many look forward to family gatherings, work parties, concerts, spiritual activities and a bit of relaxation, we should remember that it is also a very difficult time for some.
This is a message I have given in the past, but it bears repeating and is a good reminder to have some empathy for those around us who might not be in a celebratory place.
The holiday season can be a particularly lonely, stressful and painful time for some.
In particular, people who are alone tend to experience their solitude more profoundly during this season. As they watch co-workers and acquaintances attend parties and talk of family gatherings, feelings of loneliness can be overwhelming.
The gulf between their isolation and the ideal of holiday fellowship becomes harder than ever to ignore. For others, the holidays are stressful because of financial strain.
When everything around us is telling us to spend money on gifts for friends and family, it can be particularly stressful for those who cannot afford such extras.
Parents often feel extreme pressure and guilt at this time of year and wish they were able to provide more for their children.
For those who are struggling just to make monthly payments, holiday gifts are an impossible dream. Strong traditions around this season make it particularly difficult for those who have recently lost a loved one.
Everything tends to be a reminder of the loss. Although it is very difficult, facing holidays is an important part of grieving and should not be avoided.
Still others have a hard time with the holidays because of strained or broken family relationships. Some of these families no longer get together because of previous experiences while others persist through tense gatherings. Despite wishing for things to be different, sometimes it is better to start new traditions.
In cases of separation or divorce, the holidays can get complicated.
In situations where there is hostility between parents, these details can become a battleground for control.
Of course mental illness can also make this season difficult.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) causes a decline in mood each winter, often reaching its lowest point as the days are at their shortest.
It may be a challenge to cope with feelings of despair that make it impossible to experience joy regardless of the season.
This is a treatable disorder, but most who have it do not receive effective treatment.
Even when life is going smoothly, the holidays can be a source of pressure and stress. We can all help by taking pressure off one another and ourselves. If we show empathy for those around us we are more likely to enjoy this time for reflection, relaxation, serenity and growth.