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Upper Valley Counselor FAQ: Why Are the Holidays Stressful?

It’s the Holidays, So Why am I Stressed?

So many of us look forward to the holidays– time off from work, parties with friends, get-togethers with family. It is a time to share food, sometimes gifts, and fun, right? As the actual holiday approaches, we may find that we feel tense, stressed, or even depressed. We may wonder, “Where is the excitement, the joy and the entertainment I see on TV and remember from childhood?” Let’s take a step back and look at why stress or depression may come along with the holiday season.

Holidays carry a lot of expectations. Perhaps your parents observed the holiday in a particular way, with their own rituals and traditions. You may feel as though you are expected to carry on these traditions whether or not they are meaningful for you. You may feel as though you can’t live up to the ways the older generation carried them out. Fears of disappointing family members may cloud your holiday. Will the gift be just the right thing? What if you have trouble with the traditional family recipe? Perhaps a large family gathering will include people you would rather not see.

Holidays can also be a reminder of people who are no longer here. Perhaps you have lost a family member to illness, divorce, or simply a move to a distant location that makes it difficult to be together. These situations can be one cause for sadness during the holidays.

If there has been a death in the family, the first few holidays without the loved one can be extremely difficult for those who remain. Holiday traditions are a reminder that the person is not there to participate. Grief can be intensified during the holidays.

Holidays also bring to mind all of the times in childhood when we either looked forward to the holiday, or were disappointed during that holiday. Perhaps a loved one could not join the family because they were serving in the military, for example. Or a parent was ill and in the hospital. Even if these situations no longer exist for us as adults, the holidays can resurrect those old feelings.

The expectation that we are supposed to be happy during the holidays can arouse guilt and feelings of regret. That can make it more difficult to find and understand the roots of our sadness, disappointment, or stress. If you find the holidays confusing, stressful, or tense, talking with an Upper Valley counselor may help. You don’t have to be alone with difficult feelings. At Vermont Talk Therapy, we are ready to listen. Give us a call.

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