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It's Okay to Not Be Okay During the Holidays

More people experience grief and depression during the holidays than you think.

Photo by Artyom Kulikov on Unsplash
It's okay to not be okay during the holidays.
Source: Photo by Artyom Kulikov on Unsplash

During the holidays, there is a lot of societal pressure to have a "perfect" holiday. From looking at social media accounts, it looks like everyone has a tight family and a lot of friends. However, the reality is that the holidays are never perfect, and more people spend time alone during the holidays than you might think.

It is okay to feel sad and lonely right now. It is okay to not be okay. In fact, it is common to feel isolated and filled with sadness during the holidays—people just don't talk about it. Wouldn't it be refreshing (and a relief) if we said to each other how we really feel during the holidays? While I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, I am really missing my mom this year. If we were more open about how we are feeling, and if we really listened to each other instead of saying, "You'll be fine," how freeing that would be!

Reach Out

One of the best things you can do right now is to reach out to someone, even if you feel like it is the last thing you want to do. Depression and grief are isolating and can make you feel that you are a burden on people. Depression and grief lie. You are anything but a burden to others. In fact, people want to hear from you. If you are thinking about hurting yourself, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Practice Self-Care

Self-care is of utmost importance right now. Take some extra time to pamper yourself. Treat yourself to something that you have been putting off. Keep in mind that there is a fine line between isolating yourself and needing alone time—you are the best judge of whether your alone time is crossing over into unhealthy behavior. Trust your judgment. If your alone time no longer feels replenishing and feels stressful instead, it is time to make contact with someone.


Volunteering during the holidays is one of the best ways to help yourself heal. Helping others is a way that we can contribute, whether that is by preparing meals for others or helping at an animal shelter. Volunteering pushes us to have contact with other people. Even if you don't necessarily want to be around other people, it makes you seen. And just the act of being seen and acknowledged by others can help you feel better, or at least feel more at peace.

Have Someone Check In With You

Remember, it is okay to not be okay. Please reach out for help. Consider having a person check in on you during the holidays. Someone that calls you every day to see how you are doing. Texting is okay, but talking to someone every day on the phone, and better yet seeing you in person, can go a long way.

Limit Your Time On Social Media

If social media makes you feel connected with other people and helps your mood, that's great! However, many people find that looking at happy photos and stories on social media lends to a feeling of isolation. If that is the case for you, set a timer on your phone for viewing social media. When your time is up, stay away from it. Remember, people post their highlight reels on social media, not what goes on behind the scenes. For every photo of a happy family, there is someone stirring drama up at home, a baby throwing up, or a burnt holiday dinner. People just don't post those photos.

Honor Your Losses

If you are grieving the loss of a family member (including pets), find a way to remember them during the holidays. This includes carrying on traditions. My brother put Life Savers holiday books in our Christmas stockings, a nice nod to a tradition my mother started for us when we were kids. We have a photo on display of two of our dalmatians posing with Santa; they passed away in 2005 and 2007, but they are still a big part of our family and our family stories.

Honor those that are not with us this holiday season. While some are concerned that will bring up feelings of sadness, sometimes we need to feel the grief to get through it, rather than pushing it down and hoping it goes away. It all boils down to what feels best for you. Sometimes people find that journaling about their family members helps them with their feelings of loss.

Beware of the Anti-Climatic

You may feel relieved after the holiday season, but you may also feel a sense of being let down. You can always orchestrate a do-over on the holidays. It's never too late to have another holiday celebration, even if it is in the middle of the year. Everyone deserves a holiday do-over. Have some enjoyable activities lined up for when the excitement of the holidays pass. That includes reading or listening to a book while snuggled in your favorite blanket.

The holidays are days like any other, and the good news is that it's virtually impossible to do them wrong. And a million ways to make them bearable.

Copyright 2019 Sarkis Media

More from Stephanie A. Sarkis Ph.D.
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