The holiday season is here again. People are running around for presents, racing against each other for the better deal, and there are Christmas ornaments and songs everywhere. It’s the holiday spirit, and everyone’s doing it, right? Kind of….

Whether you celebrate it or not, you can’t avoid it. Some people really enjoy this time of the year, and it can be fun and enjoyable. But there are also others who find it quite stressful and depressing. Even those who seem to enjoy it are often stressed deep down.

Here are the most common reasons people feel stressed or depressed during the holiday season.

1. Time pressure

People feel pressured to get everything done in time. Make sure that you buy and prepare all the food. Make sure that you plan and organize everything. Make sure that the things you want to buy on sale are still available. Make sure that you have all the presents. Make sure that you’re not late because the streets are packed with cars and people. Make sure that you are able to finish things at work on time. And so on….

That’s a lot of pressure. It creates stress, and the person feels more impatient, agitated, upset, desperate, angry, helpless, and dissatisfied.

2. Traditions and HAVE TOs

A lot of people don’t really care that much about traditions and social expectations. It’s just not something that they intrinsically value. However, they feel social pressure to comply and meet those expectations. So they go along and follow all the rituals, gatherings, activities, and other HAVE TOs.

Yet, since they don’t really want to do it, they feel an inner conflict that creates tension, anxiety, and other painful emotions. And since they are too afraid not to do it, they feel stuck and helpless, which only exasperates those unpleasant feelings and the person feels even more stressed and depressed. Sometimes the person is not even aware that that’s how they feel and that this is the source of their unhappiness.

3. Memories

For many people holidays carry a certain historical emotional meaning. Maybe they met their first love at a New Year’s party. Maybe when growing up they used to hate Christmas dinners with their toxic and abusive family. Maybe their partner broke up with them at this time of the year. Maybe years ago they did something regretful during the holiday season. Maybe it is associated with the death of someone they loved.

Being reminded of something emotionally significant creates an emotional reaction. If a person hasn’t fully dealt with the initial issue, they may experience various painful emotions. And if they don’t know what to do about it, it can become quite problematic, especially when mixed with other stressors.

4. Working during holidays

Some people don’t mind working during holidays because they can make more money or use it as an excuse to avoid social expectations (see #2). However, working during those days can be quite challenging, especially in such fields as retail or customer service because you have to deal with a lot of people. Most of whom are not the nicest people in the first place, but now they are also highly stressed because it’s the holiday season.

And then there are those people who have no choice but to work during the holidays, but would much rather spend time doing other, more enjoyable activities like making holiday treats, going outside to see the neighborhood decorations and lights, or spending quality time with loved ones.

5. Loneliness

Loneliness is generally one of the biggest problems people face, but it only becomes worse during the holidays. For a lonely person, it often seems that the people around them are all happy, running around, preparing for holidays, spending time with their families, buying gifts, and so on.

While this is true in some cases, again, a lot of people who seem happy are actually quite miserable. But to a lonely person it doesn’t even matter because they are constantly reminded of not having anyone to talk to, to exchange gifts with, to laugh together at the dinner table, to go to a party with. That’s why a lot of people during holidays sit in their lonely apartments drinking or doing something self-destructive, or even killing themselves.

Final words

Holidays can be anxiety-producing. There are many reasons for that. If you are stressed or depressed, know that you are not alone. Try to find more compassion for yourself, and don’t be unnecessarily mean to others. Remember that you don’t have to do things that others are doing if you don’t want to. And try to take a better care of yourself.

What are the most stressful things for you during holidays? Is there something that’s not on the list? Let us know in the comments below.

Related articles:

Holiday Depression and Stress

Holiday Hope

On Why Holiday Traditions Are Problematic—and A Different Perspective

Photo by: Daniel Silliman

For more on these and other topics, check out the author’s books: Human Development and Trauma: How Childhood Shapes Us into Who We Are as Adults and Self-Work Starter Kit.