Making It Through the Holiday Blues
The holiday season isn’t easy for everyone. For a lot of us it can be a reminder of something painful. Maybe you’ve suffered a recent loss, or maybe your family is struggling with financial hardship, or with a divorce, or a serious illness. Whatever the case, we just want to remind you that it’s ok not to feel ok all the time. Give yourself permission to celebrate whatever and however you feel like celebrating.
If this holiday is a difficult time for you, the first thing to know is that you are not alone. Even if it seems like most of your classmates return from holiday break with cheery stories about family traditions and presents, there are also many kids and teens who struggle during the holiday season, and just as many adults; it’s just difficult to know how to share those stories, so they aren’t talked about as much. We know how it can feel sometimes—a teacher, a friend, a neighbor asks, “How were your holidays?” and it’s like they’re digging for a happy story that we just don’t have.
It’s ok to be honest. When you share with others, you’ll find you’re not the only one struggling. Almost half of all American children see their parents divorce, which can make the holidays feel lonely, or uncomfortable, or painful. More than three million families in the country are food insecure, which makes the holiday break especially difficult to manage since subsidized school lunches aren’t provided for. And as for suffering a recent loss—sooner or later we are all touched by the loss of someone close to us. It’s not easy to carry on old family traditions when someone you love is missing from the holiday celebration.
We know that just knowing you’re not alone doesn’t make the problem disappear, but the problem is already difficult enough. Feeling alone on top of it all—feeling like you have to hide it—makes things so much harder. There’s nothing wrong about feeling sad or lonely during the holidays. So this season, try to be honest when someone asks how you’re doing. Ask for help when you need help. Share when you need to share.
Here are a few things to keep in mind this season:
If you already know this season will be a difficult one, identify potential stressors ahead of time. Think of it like a rehearsal. Identify the things that will be hard to face, and identify the things you can look forward to. If you know a tense family situation is going to trigger your anxiety, or
if you know a particular tradition is going to make you miss someone who’s not around, talk it over with someone you trust first. Keep realistic expectations, and keep the good things in mind.
Sometimes dealing with the anticipation of the holidays can be even harder than the holiday itself; planning ahead, talking it over, and coming up with coping strategies can help you work through it.
Choose your own traditions
Traditions get to evolve with us. We aren’t stuck with them. If something traumatic has happened recently, and old traditions just don’t feel right anymore—if it’s too sad now, if it makes you anxious—talk to your family about starting new traditions. Here’s a thought: indoor community pools are usually pretty empty on Christmas Eve, if you feel like a holiday dip.
Look for support
Instead of isolating yourself, try to keep busy in good company. Spending time with the important people in your life will help you cope in these tough times. Look for planned activities to keep you moving. Volunteering is a great way to keep yourself engaged with others, and at the same time, to do something special for another person’s holiday.
We know it’s difficult to keep in touch with friends over holiday break, since you’re not at school together every day. So give a friend a call, catch a movie or take a walk together.
Your celebration is your own
It’s a natural instinct to compare your holiday to someone else’s, but that can leave you feeling like you don’t have as much to celebrate as the next person. Let your holiday be just exactly what it is. There are no standard units of measurement for gratitude. If it doesn’t look just like your friend’s holiday, who cares? Celebrate the goodness that is in your life. You don’t have to have the same traditions. Your family doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s family. You get to be grateful for what you are grateful for.
This holiday season let yourself feel whatever you feel, and know: it’s okay, how you feel is normal, and you’re not alone. If you feel like sharing, join the conversation online using the hashtags #BeWell or #BeHeard. Tell us how you’re holding up, or tell us how you choose to express gratitude this holiday season.
If you’re having a difficult time, and would like to talk to someone about it, there are other teens at Teen Line who want to listen. Reach them at 310-855-4673, or text TEEN to 839863.