Do You Feel Emotionally Low This Holiday? It’s not just you…Here are ways to Deal with the Stress of The Holiday Season

This is a nostalgic time of year. It can be a time of great joy, celebration, and connection. I hope it is for you! AND it can also be a time of great sorrow and loneliness. It’s especially tough for those who have lost loved ones, have strained family relationships, or are struggling in other ways.

As we head into the last days of 2022, I encourage you to be compassionately curious with yourself – especially by bringing awareness to your expectations.

What pressures are you placing on yourself, others, and your year-end experiences?

Let’s face it – Hallmark movies are not real life.

  • Houses don’t need to be decorated to the rafters and company-ready 24/7.
  • Meals don’t have to be as perfect and elaborate as your grandmother made them.
  • The politically-incorrect family members who ooze drama are not going to suddenly be on their best behaviour.
  • Financial insecurities or important problems don’t always magically disappear. (Although miracles do happen!)
  • You don’t have to accept every social-gathering invitation you receive; and you don’t need to judge yourself if you have very few invitations.

To that point, I’ve noticed that socialization patterns have shifted since the pandemic. I’m seeing fewer group events with fewer people being included when they do happen. Anecdotally, I believe this shift in socialization is influencing people’s sense of belonging and self-esteem.

At the individual level, people are socializing less as they are caught in the whirlwind of juggling immediate family needs, heavy workloads, and small friend circles. These groups of friends are typically formed by convenient themes like close geography, work colleagues, or for those with kids, they often spend the most time with the parents of their kids’ friends. If your kids don’t hang out or you don’t have children, you may never see the friend who has fallen into this convenient friend circle.

In 16 years in business, I’ve never witnessed so many professionals feeling so exhausted from life both at home and at work. Many leaders have shared with me that they are struggling emotionally with feeling consistently stressed. They can’t remember a time when they just had fun with their friends and family. None of us are designed to withstand this much constant pressure.

Adding to the individual challenges, there is a collective heaviness across society as we rebuild after another difficult year. Our economy faces even more uncertainty than ever as we head into 2023. Frankly, if you’re risk adverse and react negatively to uncertainty, you’re probably living a very off-kilter existence right now.

Unfortunately, this combination of issues means there are more well-intentioned ‘hey we should get together’ comments floating around and not nearly enough actual get-togethers. Illnesses, weather events, and travel snafus mean many plans that are made are being cancelled. Intellectually, we know that’s not the other person’s fault, but emotionally it can reinforce a sense of feeling left out and isolated.

I’m reluctant to share a platitude, but if you’re feeling lonely and like an outsider this holiday season, it’s not you, it’s the way society is unfolding.

I’m reluctant to share a platitude, but if you’re feeling lonely and like an outsider this holiday season, it’s not you, it’s the way society is unfolding.

The above may not resonate with you – or parts of it may – but I can guarantee you it will resonate with someone you know and love. I believe this to be true because I’m hearing these sentiments from my clients, friends and colleagues. Parts of it, I even feel – or have felt – myself. While reading the above comments may feel like I’m painting a negative picture of how people are feeling this holiday season – that’s not my intention. I’m not even trying to make an excuse to say it’s okay to isolate and ignore people with whom you would have spent quality time with pre-pandemic. I’m aiming to shine the light on our collective reality. I consider myself a pragmatic optimist – I can see the tough stuff without passing judgment on it or losing site that there may be blessings to be found in this shift in society’s approach to socialization. I also recognize that there are people who are so far removed from troubles that weigh heavily on mental health, that they may think my commentary is wrong- that’s okay because for every one of them, there is another person who needs to hear this unfiltered message.

I believe that denying the heaviness and pretending everything is rosy is a big contributing factor to the mental health crisis. As the news headlines of late have highlighted, it’s often the people who look like they have it all together who are suffering the most in the background. They put up false bravado to save face in public, then live a private hell in their heart and mind.

Many people don’t have somewhere they feel safe to share these tough emotions, which intensifies the sensations of loneliness and isolation.

While I’m not a doctor and thus realize I’m not qualified to dish out mental health advice or emotional support, I do feel it’s on my heart to say: I SEE YOU. Loneliness and feeling like an outsider SUCKS. It hurts. It’s contrary to our fundamental need to be connected. We are social beings. Hopefully knowing that others feel a similar way can share the burden a bit and can ease questions like ‘what’s wrong with me, why am I not getting invited?

Here are some ideas I’ve used in the past to feel better when I was really sad and feeling lonely. By no means is this an exhaustive list. If you have ideas to share, please add them to the comments below. Every idea can help those who feel low. Perhaps your idea could save another tragedy as people navigate their own mental health challenges.

Reach out to others: If you are feeling lonely, so are other people you know. Make a list and start calling. Ignore the stubborn tendencies like “They haven’t called me, so why should I bother?”

Manage expectations: Just because you call, don’t expect the other person will have the bandwidth to connect with you in a meaningful way. (See the commentary above.) This is about circumstances, not about your worthiness as a person.

Take the lead: If you don’t have enough human connection, there is someone, somewhere who is your person and would love to hang with you. Do the work, build the network.

Be careful with extreme storylines: A situation may be genuinely tough, but it doesn’t mean EVERYTHING is awful. Keep an eye on extreme statements and words like NEVER, ALWAYS, EVERYONE and NO ONE.

Be aware of emotions and what they relate to: Powerful emotions have the power to overshadow everything. You may be hurt by one person, but that’s not the fault of another person.

Feel the feels: We only know what it feels like to be happy by knowing the contrasting feeling of sad; just as we only feel connected by understanding how it feels to be disconnected. A full life is expressed by feeling both ends of the spectrum and everything in between.

Don’t be afraid of the uncomfortable feelings: You can feel sad, bored, lonely, hopeless, embarrassed, AND still be okay. Sit with it. Observe the emotions within yourself. It’s been said that emotions are energy in motion – they need a healthy, safe way to be processed.

Be clear about what’s happening: Sugar coating bad things doesn’t take away the negative; just as painting a picture of doom and gloom doesn’t make the situation worse. Negative storylines make the tough stuff FEEL worse than it already is. The situation is what the situation is. I love writing problems on paper so I can see them clearly. Objectivity is your friend when you’re feeling low.

Remind yourself how much you’ve overcome already: Seriously, write it down on a piece of paper. You have not gotten through life unscathed and you are here reading this right now. That’s a testament to your success!

Be your own motivational speaker: The story of how you overcame what you’re going through right now may ultimately be someone else’s path to success. Imagine you’re a motivational speaker and give that speech to someone like you who needs to hear it. What would you say to that person?

Keep Your Brain Active: Learn a new skill.

Find the silver lining: There is always something that rises from the ashes. It takes time to see it, but if we look hard enough and get creative, there is typically something worthwhile that comes out of dark times.

Keep perspective: There is always hope. You have no idea what’s going to happen in the future – but you are not the sum total of your circumstances of this moment.

There is always hope. You have no idea what’s going to happen in the future – but you are not the sum total of your circumstances of this moment.

Take action (even if it’s small): An object in motion will stay in motion unless there’s a force that changes its direction. Your mind is the same way. Watch/read/listen to something up-lifting. Get your blood pumping to oxygenate your brain. Do the first step in that nagging task – just 5 minutes of accomplished activity can help shift your mood.

Recognize ‘coping fatigue’ as a separate emotion: This is what I call the exhaustion from continually having to be resilient. I have several videos and media interviews on this topic.

Most importantly – if you’re struggling emotionally and mentally. GET HELP!!! ASK. SHARE IN A SAFE PLACE. You are not the sum total of your challenges. You matter.

Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum – from joy to sorrow – I wish you the absolute best for the end of 2022 and the start of 2023. In the meantime, from my family to yours… Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Yuletide Greetings, Feliz Navidad, and Happy Holidays!

Allison Graham headshot smiling leaning against a grey wall, blue cardigan and white top

Welcome! I'm Allison Graham

Let’s face it – life is tough enough without having behaviour patterns that make life harder than it needs to be! 

That’s why I’m obsessed with finding ways to make the human experience easier by offering strategies for problem solving, dealing with chronic pain, leveraging empowering stress, and stopping patterns that create destructive stress. 

I hope you find huge value in my content. To go deeper please check out my online courses, coaching, and keynote speeches