The holidays are supposed to be a joyful time. Yet the holidays can also be an especially stressful and traumatic time for many people. On the surface, it can seem like everyone is feeling bright and cheerful. But on the inside, plenty of people are actually dealing with intense emotional trauma.
There are so many factors that can make the holidays traumatic. The pressure to seem happy on the outside can leave people feeling even worse. If everyone else is having such a good time, why can’t they? In reality, it’s unfortunately fairly common for the holidays to stir up emotional trauma. Here are a few reasons why.
Dealing With Unhealthy Family Dynamics
During the holidays, you might have more family gatherings on your calendar than at any other time of the year. Even if you struggle with unhealthy family dynamics, and you try to avoid spending time in the same room with certain family members, you may feel like you can’t skip a holiday get-together. You may have been mistreated by certain relatives in the past, or you might have deep, ongoing disagreements with them. Perhaps you’re worried that a conflict will boil over at the gathering, or that one of your relatives will say something hurtful to you that opens an old wound.
Bringing Up Memories Of Past Holidays
Maybe your past holidays with family haven’t gone well. Now, whenever this time of year rolls around, you can’t help but reflect on holidays gone wrong over the years, or even decades. You might have tried to forgive your relatives for some of their indiscretions, yet try as you might, the holidays always dredge up these painful memories. Part of you wishes that you could somehow block out these reflections, but time doesn’t heal all wounds.
Pressure To Have The “Perfect” Holiday
Everywhere you look, it seems like other people are filled with holiday cheer. You know that you can’t be the only one who feels the way you do, but you still feel intensely alone with your feelings. When you go shopping, watch a holiday movie, or go to a local event, you’re surrounded by people who seem to be enjoying the holiday spirit. Feeling like you’ve “failed” at having the ideal holiday only exacerbates your disappointment and emotional trauma.
Feeling Isolated From Friends And Family
Perhaps you’re not going to be attending gatherings with family members who you have a rough history with. Instead, you might be estranged from family and spending the holidays alone. Maybe you’ve turned an invite from a friend, simply because you feel embarrassed about your circumstances. You may have even tried to make the best of spending your holidays alone by booking a trip to a new destination, yet you still feel frustrated. Feeling isolated during the holidays can contribute to emotional trauma.
Depression And Anxiety Worsen
Finally, the stress around the holidays can worsen existing mental health conditions. If you’re struggling with anxiety, you might be nervous about socializing at big family gatherings or work parties. People who are having trouble with their finances may be under an immense amount of strain to put up a “front” for the holidays and spend lots of money, even though their budget is very tight. Individuals who are dealing with depression may experience severe symptoms as the days get longer and colder, yet they’re expected to put on happy faces. The holidays can push existing emotional trauma even further.
Are you worried about coping with emotional trauma around the holidays? Working with a therapist can help. Reach out to us to discuss your options for scheduling your first session for trauma therapy.