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The most (un)wonderful time of the year: Dealing with holiday depression

The pressure to be happy can be a source of anxiety for a lot of people. When the holidays come rolling around, that dial turns up several notches above–leaving you scrambling to reach the level of joy you deem appropriate for the season. It’s no longer enough to feel an average amount of happiness with lingering undertones of discontent, a state of mind you already strive to feel daily at the bare minimum. No, it’s supposed to be next level happiness on steroids, “All I Want for Christmas is You” and peppermint. Feeling anything less, or the complete opposite, can trigger sirens in your brain going, “Oh god, what’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t it feel like Christmas?”

Christmas is a late night flick and you’re a schmuck watching it alone during midnight screening. All the wonderful feelings and liveliness projected meters away, just out of reach.

Aside from the personal stress magnifying your negative emotions, there’s also a feeling of alienation. You look at people who seem to have it all together, feeling the way they’re supposed to, living in normalcy, enjoying the dream-like sights and the sounds of Christmas. It all just seems so simple. A feeling of inadequacy washes over you like cold water chilled by the frosty December air. Cue brain sirens: What’s wrong with me?

Read more: Paulo Avelino reminds us that depression chooses no one

The worst that comes with it is a feeling of dissociation, like you’re watching everyone from behind a screen. Christmas is a late night flick and you’re a schmuck watching it alone during midnight screening. All the wonderful feelings and liveliness projected meters away, just out of reach. As gifts are given and laughs over the dinner table are had, your body moves on autopilot like Adam Sandler from “Click.”

If something really shitty were to happen on Christmas Eve (what’s good X-mas 2k9), yeah, it would suck, but in the way any other shitty day would suck; not especially so because of an arbitrary label I slapped on that day. 

These are feelings I know all too well. Not just over the Christmas season, but across the span of multiple occasions throughout the year that I took the liberty to categorize as my ‘extra special days.’ The bubbling excitement and crushing disappointment were polarizing. I felt nervous on the days leading up to these ‘special days’ because instead of just enjoying the perks of each one, I put a lot of pressure on myself to maintain a high standard of joy. 

don’t feed the impossible mindset of making each occasion ‘special.’

Accepting that these were just normal days with extra steps took a load off my back. Instead of beating myself up for not feeling the ‘holiday spirit,’ I started to ignore the social conventions I was parroting to myself. If something really shitty were to happen on Christmas Eve (what’s good X-mas 2k9), yeah, it would suck, but in the way any other shitty day would suck; not especially so because of an arbitrary label I slapped on that day. 

I used my neutrality over the holidays to make it a season of contentment versus a marathon of meeting unrealistic expectations. So don’t feed the impossible mindset of making each occasion ‘special,’ but instead focus on how each holiday can give you some interesting things to do on another completely normal day. That being said, I still hope you have a good one (no pressure intended).

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