What If It’s Not A Happy Holiday? – Renata Leo

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The holiday season is quickly approaching, which means plenty of parties, family gatherings, holiday specials, and most importantly, pressure to feel happy and have a great time. When you suffer from depression and are constantly at war with your brain, it can be difficult to separate your emotions from how you believe that you’re “supposed” to feel. Every day is a struggle to understand how you really feel and to fight the impulse to force yourself into certain emotions. I can’t tell you how many vacations have been ruined for me because my brain was continually telling me that I should be happy even though I wasn’t, which made me even more miserable.  And there’s no time when societal pressure to feel a certain way is more present than the holidays.

Between all of the tv shows and movies with messages of love and good tidings, cheerful songs extolling all the virtues of humanity and family members talking about how wonderful it is when the family gets together, we are bombarded with the message that we’re supposed to be happy during the holidays. Gifts, love, and free vacation days, who can be upset with that?

The pressure comes from every direction! If you’re hosting a party, it needs to be perfect. If you’re attending a party, you need to be thrilled every minute. And due to this ever-present pressure, tensions at holiday parties can run high. With the hosts and party goers all feeling that everything needs to go perfectly, the smallest mishap can make tensions boil over. Family gatherings are constantly on the edge of contentious catastrophe. For an empathetic person, this atmosphere is really a minefield. Unable to escape this tense vibe, empaths can feel anxious and smothered by the forced merriment. All of this frivolity can be damaging for introverts as well. While interacting with so many new people and attending several parties can already drain an introvert, the added energy used by plastering on a fake smile and pretending to have a great time can be even more exhausting.

Then, there’s the pressure to take care of everyone else. The holidays are supposed to be a time when we think of everyone else instead of ourselves. Escaping from the festivities becomes a selfish and heartless move instead of necessary self-care. You don’t want to be a Grinch, right?  Self-care is an important part of everyday life, though, and it is especially important during the holidays when you are expected to attend to everyone else. You can’t take care of others if you’re too burnt out from neglecting yourself! Self-care is important, especially when dealing with depression, but when everyone around you is proclaiming that you need to be as selfless as possible, self-care seems selfish.

Make sure that you take care of yourself throughout the holidays, without worrying about everyone else. If you need to take a moment away from the festivities, confide in some people who would understand and make your exit. Don’t pressure yourself to feel a certain kind of way. This internal pressure only compounds on a heavy societal pressure to feel jolly and merry. Just let yourself feel. It’s okay if you’re not enjoying the festivities. It’s okay if you still feel sad and empty during the holidays. It’s okay.

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Author Bio: Renata is just an open-minded, overly-sensitive, optimistically cynical feminist millennial whose passions are people and words. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @renataoleo, or at her blog here.

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