Holiday season difficult for some

Although the holiday season is a time of celebration and family gatherings, it 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 the holiday 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 some, the holiday period is stressful as a result 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 extras such as gifts. Parents often feel extreme pressure and guilt at this time of year and wish they were able to provide more for their children. However, for those who are struggling just to make ends meet each month, holiday gifts are an impossible dream.

Because of the strong traditions around this season, those who have lost a loved one may have a particularly difficult time for the first few years without them. Everything they do will remind them of the loss. As difficult as this is, it is an important part of grieving and should not be avoided.

There are many people for whom the holidays are not enjoyable because of strained or broken family relationships. Some of these families no longer get together to celebrate because of previous disastrous attempts and others persist through tense gatherings.Families may continue to try to make it work because they wish things were different, but without much likelihood of success. Sometimes it is better to start new traditions that are less fraught with conflict.Families dealing with separation or divorce often face complicated situations during the holidays as well. Scheduling what days children will spend with each parent can be stressful for both parents and children. When parents aren't speaking to one another it can become a battleground for control. Arranging these details can lead to hurt feelings and more tension between all parties. In the case of blended families, the holidays can magnify tensions and conflicts that are already present.

Even when families are getting along, simply the pressure to entertain can be overwhelming for some. Many people feel obligated to host or attend parties and entertain friends and family during this busy time even if they don't feel up to it. Anxiety and stress threaten again to outweigh the joy experienced at these gatherings.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is another thing that can dampen holiday spirits for some. People with this disorder experience a decline in mood each year, often over the holiday season. Every year may be a challenge to cope with feelings of despair that are biological in origin, but that make it impossible to experience joy. Regardless of circumstances in their lives, these people experience seasonal blues. This is a treatable disorder but most people who have it do not receive effective treatment.

Many of these problems can be solved, but some cannot. If you are experiencing any of these, or know someone who is, it may be time to re-evaluate your priorities or do some problem solving to make this season a time for reflection, serenity and growth rather than trying to try to live up to impossible expectations or trying to please others.


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