Embracing holiday blues

Tanvi Bobba, Staff Writer

The holidays are not always joyous. (Paige Douglass)

Early this week, I geared myself to shift from the relaxing mindset of Thanksgiving Break back to that of school. As finals are creeping closer, I am mentally mapping my move-out schedule. Right after I complete all my final exams that have been jam packed into two days, I will rush to pack, check out of my dorm, find transportation to the airport that is not bizarrely expensive and spend the flight longing for some much needed sleep. That will be draining. When my parents pick me up, their brightly lit faces will be contrasted with my groggy expression. 

There is much anticipation going home for the holidays but not always in a positive way.

The winter holidays are overly commercialized, leading to expectations that are implausible for many college students. Over Thanksgiving Break, the same Old Navy Jingle Jammies advertisement was played for me probably over a hundred times. After a couple of times, the ad seemed fun and energetic, brightening my mood. After the 50th time, the ad, in combination with the other assorted holidays ads, was nauseating. 

To make the most of time away from school, there is a want and even an obligation to feel overjoyed at every moment. But often, reality does not pan out as expected. It is normal to not experience the same level of enthusiasm as others, but constantly being surrounded by happiness can be isolating. The pressure from family, relatives or friends to appear cheerful makes it almost feel burdensome to share negative emotions. 

There are numerous valid reasons to dread the holidays. Perhaps you grew apart from your hometown friends. Perhaps you are worried about your family’s reaction to new changes in your lifestyle. Perhaps Thanksgiving Break did not go well, and surviving a much longer Winter Break seems like a daunting task. 

It is all too frequent that families do not recognize the newfound independence of college students. It is common knowledge that everyone changes both mentally and physically at college; we make new memories, have unique experiences and learn more about ourselves in an environment composed of people from all over the country and world.

However, students do not recognize the extent of these changes until they head back home. When we settle back in our now childhood homes, it can feel like being shoved into the mold of our previous self. In college, I schedule my time however I want and live in the same building as hundreds of other similarly aged students. At home, I tend to be bound by the rules of my family. 

Unfortunately, the American Psychological Association found that 38% of people experience an increase in stress during the holiday season, promoting issues such as “physical illness, depression, anxiety, and substance misuse.” In addition, the National Alliance on Mental Illness stated that 64% of individuals with a mental illness felt a worsening of their conditions around the holidays. Depending on where one lives, one may experience less sunlight, which can lead to symptoms of depression

To combat elevated stress levels, it is critical to acknowledge and identify rather than avoid one’s emotions. Not forcing oneself to feel happy and not isolating oneself are great ways to find a group of people, not necessarily family, who can accept one’s emotions and feel similarly. If returning home for the holiday is not the best option, create and celebrate new traditions. At the end of the day, we need to be in control of our own holiday experiences.