Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

Why Christmas might be bad for your mental health

I am going to seem like a real scrooge for writing this post. There are many wonderful things about Christmas. These wonderful things include kindness, thinking about others, and being considerate. Togetherness and making time for people that are important to you is great and I wish we all did this more often, not just at Christmas.

Modern life means that we are all distracted by daily chores, bills to pay, office politics, who said what to whom, love issues, money problems, general stressors, and responsibilities. It’s no wonder that the important stuff – like friends, family, pets, and closeness get relegated to the back seat. Oxytocin, also known as the ‘hug hormone’ is a hormone that last longer in the brain and promotes contentment as opposed to dopamine – lasts for a shorter time but seems to be the hormone of choice in today’s world – gambling, sex, shopping, drugs, alcohol etc are all dopamine inducing activities but they only last temporarily.

Anyway – I digress. The point I am making is that Christmas is a wonderful time for connecting and bonding but the message usually gets lost in all the gift-giving and commercialisation – it’s all become about money.

Whilst some people really get the spirit of Christmas and will get the most out of it, there are many many others who find the festive season a real struggle. Here’s why…

 

  1. Christmas heightens your sense of loneliness

If you are someone who doesn’t have any family, or doesn’t have family living nearby, Christmas can be a trigger for loneliness. It’s hard to see all the TV adverts showing happy families embracing and laughing at the dinner table when you are enjoying your dinner-for-one. The elderly are another group that can feel very alone and isolated, especially id they have no one to share the day with. There are individuals whose sense of isolation is increased during this time – spare a thought for them because they often dread Christmas. It reminds them that they are alone and that no one is there for them.

Even if you do have family, people compare their family life to the comparisons of perfection that the media serve up. Any weaknesses in the family dynamic become prominent. Thoughts such as ‘My husband bought me a mop for Christmas, my neighbour’s husband gave her jewellery’, and ‘His wife is so affectionate and loving- all my wife does is nag’.

Christmas increases comparisons and we tend to view our situation in a more negative light, and end up feeling deprived and resentful. We imagine other ‘perfect’ families whilst we are arguing about who gets the turkey breast. You get the picture!

Merry Christmas

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

2. Christmas Highlights what’s missing in your life

The end of the year prompts us to take stock of the past year. Perhaps others are boasting about how well they have done or you notice that your year hasn’t quite gone as well as you had hoped. Automatic negative thoughts enter out heads and can impact our confidence, self-confidence and our optimism for the year ahead. If you’re single, you will most definitely notice all the happy couples around you. if you are in a relationship, you might ponder what’s lacking – another year gone and will you ever find the courage to leave? Christmas reminds us that another year is coming to a close, another chapter of our lives is ending.

3. Identifies social voids and failures

As I mentioned previously, the festive season is a virtual slap in the face for people who are lonely, empoverished, living without proper food and heating and so on. They may not have the money to enjoy a Christmas that is suggested or recommended by the media. It triggers failure in some people – the negative emotional impact is often missed. The ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ invisible barrier suddenly seems more visible. The socio-economics are a stark reminder of those who get to enjoy Christmas with all the trappings and those who might not even have a Christmas tree to enjoy.

4. Feeling of FOMO

Fear of missing out is constantly increasing thanks to social media and the access we have to observe what others are doing. We forget that many people embellish and they only show you the highlights. Once the camera stops, the smiles disappear and life is a lot less glamorous than they’d have you believe. FOMO leads to resentment and a feeling of not being good enough. Self-esteem issues are on the increase due to the social impact of social media and the tendency for people to buy into fake reality.

5. Places your focus on “shoulds” and “musts”

Whenever we tell ourselves we must or we should, we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves. Over time this can add rigid rules to our lives that often lead to anxiety and/or depression.

Examples:

I should have a happy family Christmas.

I must be a perfect wife and create the perfect meal.

I must have the best family and look successful to others.

 

Replace ‘should’ with could as that redirects the power back to you. Do things because you want to not because it’s what others expect from you. When you are true to yourself your confidence increases automatically and your levels of happiness also improve.

So, this Christmas, just remember that not everyone finds this time of year easy. If you can, help someone out in need or invite someone who will be alone to join you – it’s these kind acts that represent the true festive season.

 

Featured image: Photo by paje victoria on Unsplash