I’ve been fine all year, but the closer it gets to the holidays, the more depressed I get. I don’t think I have depression, I’m just not into Christmas. This happens every year. I look at all these people on social media at holiday parties, and see the couples being all lovey-dovey, and I just can’t wait for the holidays to be over and done with so I can be normal again. Is something wrong with me? —Anonymous
If it’s any solace, you’re not alone. For some people, the holidays really are the most wonderful time of the year. There are presents and parties and time off work. There’s more time with family and friends. There are light shows, and holiday performances with Nativity scenes, sometimes with real animals. For the deeply religious, it’s a time to commune with God and pay heightened attention to their faith.
But for a lot of people, even the faithful, the holidays absolutely suck. People get overwhelmed by all the pressure to meet expectations—to have a significant other to take to a holiday party, or to actually be getting along with their significant other like the people in commercials. There’s pressure to wear the right outfit and buy the right gift, to spend money on friends and family who may not even appreciate the gifts you bought. There’s pressure to spend money you might not have on people you may not like. And celebrating can be a lot of work, pushing through crowds in packed stores, picking the right gift and finding the time to perfectly wrap it, to buy a tree, or to put up the pseudo one and decorate it.
Christmas can seem like a never-ending list of busy work. And as soon as it’s done, the pressure is on for New Year’s Eve. The housecleaning, cooking the black-eyed peas, the pressure to be at the right party, the dress, etc.
The holidays can also be very lonely, even if you’re surrounded by friends and family. Just to give you an example, my grandmother has been deceased well over 10 years. Day to day during the rest of the year (except around her birthday), I’m cool. But starting in mid-December, I miss her with a physical ache. It can be hard to be excited and happy if you’re thinking of loss and disappointment. And that’s normal.
So I get it. With all these expectations and sometimes loss, it’s no surprise that so many otherwise-not-depressed folks suddenly feel so blue. But I will tell you this: Sitting on social media is not helping. If you want to feel better immediately, get off of it. Now.
Understand that many people, myself included, spend a great deal of time curating their accounts. And more often, the people whose lives you look at and envy probably aren’t posting their unfiltered photos, and they aren’t posting the 20 bad selfies it sometimes takes to get one great one. They’re not telling you about their frustrations and disappointments with their families and friends and partner and job that every human person goes through at some point, and sometimes all at once. They may be posting about how amazing their partner is, but no one is awesome every day and in every moment. Those happy-looking couples argue, too. They just don’t—and aren’t supposed to—make that a Facebook status update.
If you want to celebrate the holidays like the people you see on Instagram, call a girlfriend or your partner and go to a well-decorated restaurant and drink eggnog. Take pictures by a big tree like all the people you’ve seen on social media so you can realize how awkward and weird it can be to interrupt reality with a mini photo shoot or by holding up a selfie stick in public. (From experience: It’s awkward.)
And if you just aren’t into this season at all, just do the least (instead of the most), only the things that would cause World War III if you didn’t follow through. (FYI: If it were earlier in the season, I would suggest that you opt out completely and give folks with expectations a warning heads-up that you can’t be counted on this year. It’s late for that right now.)
Also, you’re clear on what you don’t like and don’t want. Use your newfound downtime to figure out what makes you happy, and what you can actively do to keep your spirits up. Is it reading a book? Is it saying “no” more? Is it watching the entire first season of Narcos on Netflix in one day? Create a list and start checking it off. You don’t have to wait until the new year to begin.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously in Ask Demetria: “My Friends Didn’t Show Up at My Birthday Party, and I’m Ready to Drop-Kick Them”