When It’s Not the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Holiday Stressors to Be Aware of This Season

As offices prepare to close for end-of-the-year holidays and coworkers plan celebrations (albeit virtual this year), it’s important to remember that this time of year isn’t jubilant for everyone. Although the long-held idea that suicides increase during the holidays is a myth, an increase of stress is not. Numerous surveys on the topic allude to the same thing: the holidays can fray our nerves incredibly. For example: a poll conducted by Healthline found that over 60% of the 2,280 respondents reported at least some increase in stress during the holidays. In another study of by the American Psychological Association (APA), researchers found that reports of fatigue, stress, sadness and loneliness increased significantly during the holidays.

Although the holidays evoke feelings of love, warmth and gratitude, it is important to also offer compassion to those who aren’t feeling as cheerful. It might be a time to check out from work, but it is also a time to check in with coworkers and other members of your community — especially in 2020.

Some causes of distress during the holiday season include:

Financial stress: The APA survey revealed that 69% of people tend to feel stressed by lack of money during the holidays. But in 2020, financial stress may be even greater. A Credit Karma survey found that 54% of Americans feel more financially stressed during this year’s holiday season than in years past. As unemployment numbers surged during the pandemic, so did evictions, small business closures and food insecurity. By Thanksgiving, one in six people — and one in four children — were facing food insecurity, and projections have shown 50 million people will be affected in 2020.

Families: Not everyone’s family situation is full of unconditional love and acceptance. Some people have experienced abuse at the hands of family members. Others, especially in the LGBTQ community, might be dealing with loved ones not accepting them for who they are. The problem is so severe among LGBTQ youth that they are 120% more likely to be kicked out of their family’s home in comparison to their non-LGBTQ peers. Transgender individuals are also more at risk; even if they haven’t been disowned by their family, they still might suffer families misgendering them (or referring to them by the name or gender assigned to them at birth) which can obviously cause extreme feelings of distress.

Mourning: It might be someone’s first holiday without a loved one, and with more than 300,000 Americans already gone and the record numbers of new coronavirus deaths occurring daily, the likelihood of someone you know coping with loss is infinitely higher. People may also be mourning other losses specific to the whirlwind that was 2020 — jobs, hobbies, relationships and traditions of gathering with friends and family, all of which have been greatly impacted by COVID-19.

Other mental health triggers: Holidays can be stressful for people who suffer from eating disorders because many events center on food. Additionally, it can be challenging for people struggling with alcohol addictions to avoid binge-drinking when many parties and events are based around alcohol. COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have increased many people’s alcohol consumption, so it is important to check in with people suffering from substance abuse disorders during this isolating time.

For resources during this difficult time during an incredibly difficult year, check out:


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