Take a moment to consider the words which are most commonly associated with ‘Christmas’. It is likely that the first which came to mind were Joy, merriness or peace. Despite these common relations, for many, the reality of Christmas and all the ‘festivities’ which accompany it could not be further from this. Historically, Christmas has always been an annually difficult time for those struggling with their mental health, but the instability which has haunted the entirety of 2020 will no doubt only amplify the issue.
The problem is not necessarily in the idea that the holiday season instigates mental health issues, but that it ultimately intensifies those which are pre-existing. We implement an element of comparison into most aspects of our lives, so it is plausible to believe that, observing the outward merriment of the festive season will destructively highlight people’s individual struggles. According to a YouGov survey, 27% of women and 25% of men attribute greater feelings of depression in the month of December to the festive period, meaning that the damaging impacts are fundamentally unavoidable.
Alongside this, Christmas is undoubtedly an overwhelming period, so much so that it almost seems as if everything is embellished, exaggerated and raised in volume as soon as the calendar is turned to December. For people living with anxiety, it is easy to see how this annual process could be daunting. Bright lights and busy crowds are known as potential triggers of anxiety, both of which could be intimidating to the 8 million people in the UK who are currently living with the disorder. It almost seems inconceivable that the same event that is so widely synonymous with tranquillity can easily provoke feelings of such inescapable panic.
The anticipation Surrounding Christmas seems to only get longer each year; now, it seems as if children barely have time to revel in the success of their Halloween hauls before we see Christmas lights erected and tree decorations being sold. Alongside this extension of the season comes an increasingly larger expectation to deliver a fulfilling, magical event, an expectation which is likely to cause stress of worrying magnitude. This could be especially present in a financial regard, owing to the strain of intimidating gift-buying. Is it really worth it for a superficial stocking full of primarily useless items?
The pertinence of this issue is notably evident this year. This is particularly in the increased prospects of loneliness at a time when such overt emphasis is placed on family unity and community interaction. For elderly individuals at high risk, isolation is a realistic, yet frightening possibility, inhibiting this ability to fulfil to these expectations. More universally, the inevitable yet uncomfortable stray from normality and typical customs could be upsetting.
Of course, in exploring the detriment of Christmas, we cannot simultaneously dismiss the positives which come alongside it: The feelings of hope and excitement, as well the opportunity for certain people with religious affiliation to feel connected to their faith. However, a more open dialogue surrounding mental health should also be applied to this period. I therefore encourage you to challenge the exclusively positive portrayals which we are exposed to and instead consider the difficulties which it could concurrently impose.