Holiday Struggles

The day after Thanksgiving is normally when the holiday songs start to blare through my car radio and I start queuing up my favorite holiday movies. I start to conjure up old memories of family gatherings and the emotional warmth of the season. For many of us, the excitement of sharing old memories and creating new ones can make the season bright. But for others, the holiday season can bring on different emotions.

There are cultural references all around us, movies like The Grinch, or songs like Blue Christmas, that depict individuals who struggle through the holidays. Whether it is the stress of meeting expectations or the painful memory of a lost loved one, there is a spectrum of emotional experiences during this time of year that can present us with challenges.

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An article in Psychology Today explains survey data that depicts an onset of sad feelings that typically increase during the holiday season. The article breaks down a survey done by the American Psychological association that demonstrated that along with increased feelings of love and happiness, this time of year was also reported to bring on feelings of anxiety and sadness.

Some may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition, according to the MAYO Clinic, that is a type of depression brought on by a seasonal change.

Some are suffering with loneliness. A national survey done by Cigna (a health insurer) showed that almost half of Americans felt they lacked companionship.

Others are dealing with substance misuse disorder. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports a spike in accidents involving drivers under the influence during the holiday month.

There are so many of us struggling through the holidays in different ways. So, I scoured for hours reading tips for coping with tragedy, hardship, or stress, and I found an interesting study that I wasn’t expecting.

A study produced by Elizabeth Dunn, Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia and Professor of Business Administration at Harvard, demonstrated a significant correlation between the happiness of a participant in the study and charitable spending as compared to other kinds spending.

For those of us who find this a joyful time of year, let’s not forget that we can spread joy to those who are dealing with hardships. And for those who struggle with the season, giving can be a reminder that we are not alone. Sometimes there are limitations that prevent us from being able to give money, but we can also give of our time or our talent. We can give to the less fortunate or we can give our love to family and friends. Giving may not change our hardships, but there is a chance that it can lift our spirits. Have a happy and giving holiday season!

For ideas regarding charitable giving this season, contact your local charitable organizations or use the link below.

The Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017, September 16). Stress, Depression, and The Holidays: Tips for Coping.

American Addiction Centers Resource writers. Holiday Highs and Lows.

Dunn, E. W., Aknin, L. B., & Norton, M.I. (2008). Spending money on others promotes happiness. Science, 319(5870), 1687-1688.

Finding Happiness This Holiday Season.

Chatterjee, Rhitu. (2018, May 1).Americans Are a Lonely Lot, And Young People Bear The Heaviest Burden.