The Illusion of a Perfect Holiday Season

Trigger warning: Please note that the following article contains content about childhood trauma, dysfunctional families and social anxiety.

Sometimes, living or merely existing in itself can be an act of courage. Period.

Let me tell you a little about myself. I am 22-year old hopeless rom-com enthusiast. The moment the month of December begins, you will find me overdosing on hot chocolate, humming Frank Sinatra songs, looking for the fragrance of Viburnum, or well, excitedly convincing someone about how December is the best month of the year.

But here’s also something I can personally vouch for: despite having a job I love, a beautiful family, friends that care, and surprisingly decent mental health, it can get terribly lonely at times.This can be a phase for some, a particularly horrible day for others, and for many of us, the majority of our lives.

Beyond anxiety, what any festival can also tend to do is propagate this conventional idea of a ‘perfect holiday’ or even worse, a ‘perfect family’. One of the therapists that I absolutely adore and follow once stated, “Biology is an indicator of genetic ties, not of healthy relationships.”

This, in my opinion, is a healthy and essential reminder for all of us. It’s okay to draw boundaries and detach yourself from toxic people even if they are genetically related to you. The process will require you to create a family of loving people or find a community among people who love you and understand you. This can be people who are healing (just like you), or people who don’t see your boundaries or need for space as selfish. This can involve finding a role model outside your family. This can mean creating your own holiday traditions.

This can mean anything that brings you joy, that’s all that should matter.

This brings me to my next essential reminder: If social media is triggering any negative emotions or anxiety in you, it is okay to uninstall and disconnect for a while. I have always believed that while social media can be toxic if we were all a little more empathetic and kinder, the internet can also be the biggest blessing we have in this battle of feeling less alone.

Take a step back and see what this season really means to you. The only point of the holiday season should be to hold the strongest power of the human race, humanity. The act and reminder that love, in some form, exists somewhere all the time. Call up an old friend. Give notes, balloons, or flowers to random strangers. Acknowledge and spread the joy. As repetitive as this might sound, practice gratitude. Contrary to popular belief, it takes conscious efforts to feel gratitude. Make a list of things that you feel gratitude for. Remind yourself about this list every now and then.

Practice the five senses technique, whenever you feel anxious, divert your attention to your five senses. List five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and the one thing you can taste. This can create self-awareness and help you feel present at the moment. Remember that there is no pressure on you to have fun or have someone else’s idea of fun.

I have always witnessed that our past can make us feel like we deserve the unhappiness that comes our way. I have pushed people I love and adore just because I let my anxiety get the better of me. Trust me when I say this, someone might have pushed you away because of the same. It’s human to feel like you’re not good enough. It’s not often that you find people who get you, support you, and truly want to see you learn and grow.

So, when you do find these people, cherish them. But beyond that, try to be that person for someone. Keep an eye out for your friends and acquaintances who are having a hard time. Reach out, if need be.

My note of love and hope, however, is for each one of us, despite all our vividness and complexity, here’s a quick reminder: You deserve all the love, care, and attention in the world. This goes out to people who are battling mental illness during holidays, people feeling lonely, people who are physically ill or distressed, people who are caretakers, people who are broke, people who are forgotten, people who feel like giving up or starting fresh, people who are grieving, or just people who aren’t able to fight their anxiety.

Each one of you is special, you’re doing what you can to get where you want to. You’re learning, unlearning, and growing every, single day and that’s an act of courage too. I am proud of you.

Bhuveneswari is a marketing professional by the day who also runs her own initiative that aims at facilitating a conversation around mental health. She hopes to make people smile a little more with each passing day with her words.

Featured image credit: T. Rampersad/Unsplash