I’ll have a Blue Christmas

It’s the Holiday Season- oh whoop de doo”

-Irving Berlin

Winter’s in sight. Redolent with cinnamon and seasonal depression. A world adorned by blue. Painting every surface the sky sees. A shorter time in the daylight creates a biochemical imbalance in the brain linking to depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder evokes withdrawal and with social distancing, isolation is an even easier task. As the holiday season approaches, anxiety creeps up for many. Whether it be conscious or not, many feel this obligation to be happy or “full of cheer.” Many of us put on our holiday mask and create a version of ourselves that is deemed presentable to the world.

In a recent online survey conducted by HealthDay News, those aged 18 to 35 reported a 60 percent increase in depression and anxiety caused by stressors related to the pandemic. Bottling up their emotions, many have turned to drugs and alcohol to cope, leading to a 44 percent increase in drug use and a 48 percent increase in alcohol use in 2020. With social distancing preventing meetings and opportunities to seek help with closures, it has been more difficult to attend therapy and access the resources needed. Becoming accustomed to the “new normal” is difficult with the future in limbo.

A holiday in a pandemic brings another layer of trouble. I can’t help but think of those who’ve lost their job this holiday season or a loved one. Then there are those who can’t even begin to think about presents under the tree as their focus is the food on the table. Food banks have grown in demand, as the rate of hunger has spiked severely with the pandemic due to mass unemployment. The US Census Bureau reports food insecurity in 2020 has doubled with about 5.6 million households going hungry. The Census also reports communities of color to have been impacted especially hard with about 23 to 27 percent reporting food insecurity. 4 out of 10 people at food banks are first-timers. With much of the country grappling with this new set of struggles, it can be hard to focus attention on anything but the necessities. 

With social distancing, homeless shelters have had to lower their occupancies, leaving many left exposed and vulnerable. In an article published by Tyla, Nell Hardy, a woman who has

experienced homelessness and who has struggled with mental health, speaks about her experience around the holidays.

 “Waiting for benefits and housing support to be refused repeatedly on incorrect grounds, or hearing that this or that application has ‘disappeared,’ really makes you feel like the world is just waiting for you to die. That’s not a feeling you can shake off. I was lucky always to have people who were willing to share their family’s togetherness with me but nothing makes you feel your loneliness like being so close to and yet so far from a season that is all about togetherness,” said Nell Hardy.  

With Seasonal Affective Disorder already being common during the holidays and this year being especially difficult, coping mechanisms can help prep for this colder winter and the aftermath of the year in general. Many tend to set unrealistic expectations for holidays. The holidays can reflect milestones where people may view the past year and the goals that weren’t met. To bring some peace of mind, treat the holiday as though it’s merely a day like any other. You can make a list of coping skills and plan through every possible scenario that may happen, preparing reactions and viewing the possibilities of the good and bad. Mental preparation can dampen some of the pressure of the unexpected and combat against high expectations. 

Remember to treat yourself with the same compassion and attentiveness as you would a best friend. Stray away from degradation and critiquing yourself if things didn’t go as planned. You are doing the best you can in that moment given the circumstances. It is not shameful to seek professional help and there is no set point for when you are “sick enough” to start. No matter what end of the spectrum you are on, having someone to talk to is beneficial. 

As people mask their feelings for the courtesy of others, it can be dangerous as those emotions left undealt with will begin to snowball. Speaking or writing them out is an option.

l goods. 

Regardless of whether or not you decide to give back this holiday season, make sure to at least take care of yourself and check in on those around you. Send a text or call people, no matter how close you are. Ask questions that go deeper than surface level and be open to putting in the effort on your side of the relationship to develop a strong bond and support system.

 

Volunteering Resources

https://www.volunteermatch.org/ 

 

Mental Health Hotlines

https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources