Last year, my holiday season was quite somber. I was under such a pressure to feel merry. My family forced me to attend large family gatherings, which induced my social anxiety. When I went, I was under the impression that everyone in the room knew I was (at the time) struggling with self-harm, depression, and an eating disorder. I thought that numerous pairs of eyes gazed at me with pity. I drained the joy out of myself. The worst thing was probably that I began to hate conversing with my loved ones, whom I rarely got to see. It became increasingly difficult because I constantly tore myself apart before I even spoke with them. Prior to approaching a relative or family friend, I’d think, “They’re gonna ask me about school. And I won’t have anything good to say. I’ve missed weeks of school and am failing a few classes. On top of that, I don’t have plans for college. Please don’t ask.”
Then, January 2nd arrived and everything came to a crashing halt. Parties and social contact came to an end. It became a time to drown in my sorrows, where my sadness over powered my brain. My body was lethargic and I rarely left bed. Insomnia kicked in hard and I was unbelievably irritable. I was short-tempered, impatient, and tired every single day. At some point, I stopped finding things fun. Going out with my friends wasn’t the same because I lost interest. I had no motivation to work anymore, so I quit my job. I stopped showing up to classes at school because I couldn’t tolerate it. My family and friends noted that I seemed to be in a stage of isolation from the outside world. They were right, but I denied them anyways.
Reflecting back on this time in my life, I know exactly what I would have done differently! And I think that these changes are very applicable to this holiday season as well. So here they are:
MANAGE SOCIAL ANXIETY- Communicate! Tell your family members that going to a certain holiday party will stress you out too much. Maybe there will be a way to compromise. When I tell my parents that parties can be daunting, they work with me by letting me leave early.
MAKE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS AND GOALS- Don’t expect your holidays to be perfect. Families are dysfunctional and if you have it set in your mind that things will go over smoothly-- you’re wrong. Don’t set expectations and goals too high, otherwise you’ll inevitably be let down.
KNOW HOW MUCH YOU CAN HANDLE- This is crucial. Knowing your limits is important so that you can prevent a breakdown. Don’t put too much of your energy into one thing/event. This will weigh you down and make you feel less productive. Limit your commitments if you need to. Take things easy.
To wrap up this blog post, I want to stress that the holiday blues don’t last forever. This feeling goes away. Spend time with people who care about you and cherish the break from school and work. Enjoy the good food, cold weather, and gifts. Cloud your thoughts with positivity-- it won’t hurt! Stay strong and keep trying hard. Happy holidays :)
Written by C.S