Keeping the kindness through the holiday blues

Ashley Pelletier, Arts & Life Editor

Illustration by (Amanda Riha)

With Thanksgiving out of the way, the winter holiday season is in full swing. The mall is playing Christmas songs and storefronts are decorated to entice shoppers. For many, this time is one of nostalgia and warmth, but for others, the holiday season is a time of stress or a reminder of the bad parts of their lives.

The holidays are a time to spend with family. Although Kevin McCallister was home alone, it wasn’t on purpose. Some may not be able to be with their family for other reasons, including the COVID-19 pandemic, work and long distances.

Growing up, my family would gather at cousins’ houses to open presents and stuff our faces with Mimi’s cream cheese brownies, but some people aren’t lucky enough to have close relationships with their family.

All you hear people say when you get back from Thanksgiving and winter break is “What did you do while you are home?” Many people either don’t have the family traditions that we take for granted or can’t take part in them anymore. For example, my Christmas traditions changed when my parents got divorced. No longer could I throw wrapping paper at my dad while my mom handed out gifts.

This feeling can be exacerbated by social media. People post pictures of them and their families in matching pajamas with heaps of great food and presents to show off to their friends when some people may not be able to relate. While the aesthetic of the holidays is great for my feed, I don’t always enjoy seeing people flex their stable home lives and expensive presents. There’s nothing wrong with posting what makes you happy, but the wave of Christmas tree selfies is overwhelming.

People also use the holidays as a time to flaunt their wealth. They may be lucky to afford Gucci or Louis Vuitton, but not everyone can, and it stinks when you’re on the envious end of things.

Another reason some may not find joy in the holidays is mental health. A 2015 survey done by the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that 64% of people are affected by the “holiday blues,” anxiety and depression that can be caused by the extra stress of the holiday season.

It’s no secret why the holidays can often lead to more stress. Families scramble to clean houses, set tables and cook the perfect meal without succumbing to the pressure put on them by nosy relatives. One too many dry turkeys or unruly family members could be enough to send anyone over the edge. I know if my brother bothered me about the layout of my charcuterie board, he’d earn himself a cheeseboard to the face.

Some also struggle with seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression that is based on the seasons. Fall and winter are the most frequent times to experience the disorder, especially as the sun goes down earlier and you have to work a winter coat into your daily fashion statements.

Be kind to the people in your life this holiday season. Everyone is stressed about finding the best gifts and having to find where they put their ice scrapers, but the season is about love — romantic, platonic and familial. Check in on people who may be having a tough time with the holidays. The best gift you can give is the gift of community.