The holidays are generally perceived as a joyous time to celebrate all that is good — gathering with family, reminiscing on memories and filling a room with laughter.
However, for some, the holidays are the opposite — reminders of a family member who couldn’t be there, memories attached to trauma and feelings of anxiety in a room full of people.
Experts in the mental health field all agree that the commonality with all holiday resentment is expectation.
“As long as there are expectations, there is letdown,” said CEO and founder of Action Drug Rehab, Cary Quashen. False expectations can have some unhealthy consequences, leading people to ignore certain behaviors and traits that can create problems for their loved ones.
“I definitely suggest to people to let go of your expectations and stop thinking about what you wish you had and be grateful for what you do have and the people in your life that do love and care about you,” said Quashen.
A common word associated with expectation is perfection. People set their sights on having a “perfect” holiday that can lead to letdowns, but also unnecessary pressure, he added.
“I think when people put too much pressure on themselves to make everything perfect, that could be a stressor,” said Carolyn Labbe, vice president of clinical services for Child & Family Center.
To escape from this false reality and the possibility of letdowns, it is important to step back from expectations and look at the present.
Labbe advises people to not lose sight of what really counts and to be present in the moment.
“Just do the best you can,” said Larry Schallert, assistant director of student health & wellness/mental health at College of the Canyons.
As New Year’s Day approaches, expectations are being set at an all-time high due to the widely adopted “new year, new me” motto and resolutions.
It is never a bad thing to set resolutions. It is important, however to keep them realistic with a plan.
“If somebody’s going to have a New Year’s resolution for, let’s say getting sober, have a plan and a way and make sure that you execute the plan,” said Quashen.
Labbe advises starting small and working up.
“Don’t put expectations that you cannot accomplish,” said Quashen. “Make sure that the plan is something that you can do.”
New Year’s is also a time of reflection. Reflecting back on all the good we have done, but also the bad. Expecting more out of one’s self, being let down from the things that weren’t accomplished.
Thoughts such as these, in addition to an “emptiness” feeling from the end of the holidays, can lead to depression and anxiety.
“Suicides do not increase in rate during the holidays,” according to the Centers for Disease Control. “In fact, it actually decreases.” The CDC has labeled this a myth: “The holiday suicide myth supports misinformation about suicide that might ultimately hamper prevention efforts.”
However, it is after the holidays that suicide rates are seen at an increase.
“More suicide attempts, more people wanting to go to treatment after the holidays because of all the expectations and then things that they’ve done that they shouldn’t have,” said Quashen.
All the experts say that being on easy on one’s self, accepting imperfection, avoiding ruminating on resentment and high expectations and seeing good as good enough are vital tools in fighting the mental health stressors that can come with the holidays.
“Just remember … you are doing better than you think you are,” Quashen said.
For more information visit bethedifferencescv.org
Those in need of immediate mental health related assistance can dial the 988 crisis line or text 741741. College of the Canyons students have access to free personal counseling with a 24/7 call line at 661-362-3259.