It’s okay to not spend the holidays with family, with or without COVID restrictions.

The holiday season is traditionally viewed as a happy time for families to get together and celebrate, but for some, this is not always the case. For some individuals, dealing with copious amounts of stressors makes the holiday season unenjoyable. In other words, “the most wonderful time of the year” becomes archaic and difficult. Instead of having another year of unhappy holidays, recognize that it’s perfectly okay to spend the holidays with people who make you happy, even if they’re not your family.

For some, the holidays can lead to feelings of depression, making a time that is supposed to be happy into something they dread. “What is there to be depressed about during the holiday seasons?” some might wonder. Oftentimes families bring forth memories and discuss goals for the upcoming year, but these types of conversations can be overwhelming for people who have depression. 

In their article “The Seriousness of Depression During the Holidays,” the Neuro Wellness Spa explains that this season may “ . . .  cause feelings of dread, despair, and disappointment. While severe depression may occur any time of year, the winter holiday season can be especially difficult for individuals suffering from clinical depression.” If you are having these feelings, know that you are not alone and it is totally okay to feel this way during the holidays. Know that it is okay to know your limits and excuse yourself from the festivities to take some time for yourself.

For others, the holidays mean having to deal with family that may not accept their lifestyle and identity, which can make holidays awkward and uncomfortable. Knowing that you are going to be around those who refuse to accept or even know who you are can be incredibly anxiety provoking. 

From the fear of being misgendered, intentionally or not, in front of family to comments about your sexuality — for those that are out or those who are not — holidays with family means readdressing these identities internally and externally. These experiences can be embarrassing and traumatic, something no one ever wants to feel, especially during the holidays. 

With recent events that have happened in Washington State due to COVID-19, Inslee has placed a ban on gatherings exceeding groups of five people from outside of the household, which so far will affect Thanksgiving. This, in a way, provides an excuse to avoid the anxiety-provoking holiday season. 

The ban has been implemented as a means to stop the spread of the virus, so by not accepting the invitation, you are doing your part. Stopping the spread of the virus is extremely important, but taking care of your mental health is just as valuable. Yes, this virus gives an out for individuals who don’t feel comfortable with their families, however,  it is important to realize that even if there wasn’t a virus going around, staying away from people that make you uncomfortable is just as valid of a reason not to go to an event.

Some people may not want to spend the holiday season with family but have instead decided to see the friends they have made that accept them for who they are. Spending time with family — either by blood or not — is so important during this season. But, in this new COVID-19 world, it’s imperative we find creative ways to make this work.

Thankfully we live in a time where technology makes it easier and more accessible to stay in touch with others and have “face to face” time. Make time with some close friends through a virtual holiday, get together, eat and drink holiday themed foods and provide holiday music in the background.

Send each other gifts through the mail or drop some off at their house to coordinate a gift exchange together over video chat. Even though it isn’t happening in person, you still have the chance to experience moments of seeing others open gifts while spending time with those you care about. 

While this year looks a lot different compared to past holiday seasons, this doesn’t take away the stressors that come with it. If you feel depressed and know that your family is not going to support you as you are, remember that it is okay to not spend the holidays with them. The holidays are supposed to be a happy time for everyone and if being with friends brings you that joy, then it’s perfectly okay to spend time with them instead.

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