Opinion | It’s OK to have a bad holiday season

By Storey Childs, Columnist

The most wonderful time of the year can feel like a flood of experiences. Christmas music is playing in Starbucks. Christmas-themed commercials dominate your streaming services. Christmas lights are hung up and snow starts to fall in flurries.

It can be a comforting feeling. For many, the monotony of life disappears and in comes the most-anticipated celebrations of the year. At least, that is what is advertised.

For some, the anticipatory feeling of the season does not result in a perfect celebration. Instead, it can culminate in a time of unfortunate stress, anxiety, depression or loss.

In addition to its qualities of being a time to cherish, the holiday season acts as an amplifier of emotions, whether they be good or bad.

Such perspectives can be lost in the whirlwind of the season, but everyone needs to remember that it is OK to have a bad holiday.

The idealized notion of a good holiday season can make people feel like they have failed if their own experience does not match it. This feeling of failure can be heightened by advertisements that illustrate a picture-perfect holiday season. Around the holidays, companies strategically harness nostalgia as a tool to gain access to the pathos of the general population.

Just recently, Amazon hired director Taika Waititi to direct their latest holiday ad titled “Joy is Made,” which highlights the connection between a father and his daughter. The father attempts to recreate the scene depicted in his daughter’s snow globe in their own home. Of course, a paper shredder ordered from Amazon is one of the key components.

The ad skillfully portrays the use of Amazon to help the father succeed in fulfilling his daughter’s holiday wish and notably pulls at the nostalgic heartstrings of the general population.

This advertisement is very effective, but it adds to the canon of movies, books, songs and advertisements that create an idealized version of the holiday season that not everyone is capable of achieving.

Each person’s experience around the holidays is unique and not matching a certain expectation isn’t synonymous with failure. It is important to acknowledge that life often gets in the way. Even in the seemingly picturesque time that is the holiday season, inevitable difficulties should not cause a feeling of disappointment, shame or failure.

The Mayo Clinic calls such obstacles “unwelcome guests.”

Stress, anxiety, depression, grief and trauma are never invited, but sometimes, they show up anyway. Imagine a family gathering during the holidays where anxiety shows up as an unwelcome guest.

You are sitting across from a number of family members that you have not seen since last Christmas.

Questions such as “How are you?” and “How is school?” are getting thrown at you in every conversation that you have. You become over-stimulated, and the anxiety that you have been attempting to control grows in strength. Panic increases, and you want to catch your breath. Soon after, feelings of doubt, fear and anger follow.

Family dinner ends up feeling like a full-time job. But, you still feel bad that the holiday season your family spends together was seemingly “wasted” because of the anxiety that you “should” have been able to control.

This difficulty does not make you any less of a person, and it should always be that way.

It is OK to not fit into the expectation of what something “should” be. It is OK not to want to set up a tree or have a family dinner. It is OK to feel your feelings even when those feelings are an overwhelming sense of loss, depression or a lack of motivation. It is not something that you have failed at. It just makes you human.

 

Storey is a junior in LAS.

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