The Hidden Struggles of the Festive Season: Why Checking In Matters

As the festive lights twinkle and carols fill the air, the holiday season brings a wave of joy and togetherness. It’s a time when happiness seems almost mandatory. However, beneath the surface of festive cheer, some individuals silently struggle with mental health challenges. This season, let’s remember that sometimes, those who seem the least likely to struggle might be the ones who need our support the most. 

Continuing in this spirit of understanding and empathy, our article aims to shed light on these often-hidden struggles. The holiday season, with its unique blend of joy and pressure, can magnify these challenges while also masking them. We will guide you through recognizing the subtle warning signs in both ourselves and others, share ways to extend a helping hand, and suggest strategies to manage any feelings of sadness that might emerge during this time of celebration.


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Understanding the Hidden Struggles of the Holiday Season

The holidays are often portrayed as a period of unbridled happiness and family togetherness. Yet, for many, this time can amplify feelings of loneliness, anxiety, or depression. Those who are away from family, grieving a loss, or battling personal demons might find the festive season particularly challenging. It’s crucial to acknowledge that mental health issues don’t take a holiday break. In fact, SAMHSA reported that up to 64% of people with existing mental health issues report worsened conditions during the holidays.

Understanding what some may experience during the holidays and how it impacts their mental health is the first step to providing support. Here are some of the unseen stressors that may occur throughout the holiday season: 

  • Contrasting Realities: While holidays are seen as joyful, they can amplify feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
  • Acknowledging the Struggle: Mental health doesn’t take a break during holidays, impacting those away from family or grieving losses.
  • The Absence Felt More Deeply: The holiday season can intensify feelings of loss or disconnection.
  • Stress and Expectations: The pressure to maintain a cheerful demeanor can exacerbate mental health challenges.
  • Pressure to Perform: Increased invitations to outings, expectations of gift giving and receiving, and encouraged eating and drinking can all play a role in increasing stress and anxiety. 

As we better understand these hidden struggles, we can become more empathetic and supportive for those around us. The holiday season is a reminder that joy is not a universal experience, and it’s important to be mindful of the diverse emotional states of those we encounter. Now, let’s shift our focus to “The Mask of Merriment” and explore how outward appearances can sometimes hide internal turmoil during these festive times.


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Masking – Hiding Your True Feelings

During the festive season, a phenomenon often goes unnoticed — ‘masking.’ Many people grappling with mental health issues adopt this mask, presenting an outward appearance of happiness while concealing their true feelings. This facade, especially prevalent during the holidays, can obscure the pain and struggle someone is experiencing. It’s crucial to remember that a smile doesn’t always signify internal joy.

Why People Wear the Mask
People mask their true feelings for various reasons, ranging from not wanting to burden others to fearing judgment or misunderstanding. This act of concealment is not uncommon. Unfortunately, it comes with a cost. Studies show that nearly 30% of individuals who hide their emotions experience heightened stress and anxiety. The effort to constantly shield one’s true emotions can lead to increased stress and a sense of isolation.

Recognizing the Signs
The signs of someone struggling behind their mask can be subtle yet telling. Look for changes in behavior, such as decreased enthusiasm or a sense of forced positivity. These shifts can be indicators that someone is grappling with deeper issues. If you suspect someone may be masking, there are a few action steps you can take to make their experience over the holidays better. 

Fostering Authentic Conversations
If you notice these signs in someone, encourage them to engage in genuine conversations. Create a safe, non-judgmental space for them to express their true feelings.

  • Pro Tip: Engage with open-ended questions that show you’re genuinely interested in their well-being, extending beyond the holiday merriment.


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Encouraging Honesty and Offering Support
Gently remind your loved ones that it’s perfectly okay not to feel okay, even amidst holiday celebrations. Offer your presence and attention; sometimes, just being a willing listen can be the most significant support.

Seeking Professional Help
If your concerns grow, encourage them to seek assistance from mental health professionals. Professional guidance can provide the necessary support and strategies for managing their well-being.

By being observant, empathetic, and open, we can help break down this mask and offer the support that truly makes a difference. As we move forward, let’s remember that the greatest gift we can offer is our understanding and unconditional support.


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The Importance of Checking In

This holiday season, let’s make an effort to check in on our friends, colleagues, and loved ones – even those who seem to be doing well. A simple, genuine “How are you really feeling?” can make a world of difference. It’s an opportunity to offer a listening ear and remind them they’re not alone.

Find time to engage in compassionate inquiries with loved ones, acquaintances, co-workers, extended family members, neighbors, and even strangers when you have the capacity to do so. A heartfelt question like “How are you really feeling?” can open doors to deeper conversations and create a much needed safe space for sharing. 

  • Pro Tip: Incorporate phrases like “I’m here if you need to talk” or “It’s okay to not be okay, even during the holidays.”

Checking in on others who may experience mental health issues can make a huge impact with a small effort. Here are some of the benefits of a simply check-in: 

  1. Alleviating holiday stress and anxiety
  2. Counteracting seasonal loneliness
  3. Offering a sense of belonging
  4. Detecting subtle changes in well-being
  5. Providing emotional support
  6. Breaking the cycle of isolation
  7. Encouraging healthy coping mechanisms
  8. Reinforcing the importance of self-care
  9. Boosting overall mood
  10. Normalizing discussions about mental health

As we navigate the holiday season, let’s remember the immense value in simply checking in with those around us. Whether it’s through a message, a call, or a face-to-face conversation, these small gestures can have a profound impact on someone’s mental health and well-being. This holiday season, let’s commit to being there for each other, creating a supportive community where everyone feels heard and valued.


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How to Offer Support

In the previous section, we discussed the importance of checking in with friends and family who may be facing mental health struggles during the holiday season. Recognizing their challenges is the first step, but knowing how to offer support is equally crucial. Here are some effective ways to provide assistance and show that you truly care.

  • Be an Active Listener: Sometimes, the best gift you can offer is your presence and willingness to listen without judgment.
  • Encourage Professional Help: If someone is struggling, gently encourage them to seek support from mental health professionals.
  • Stay Connected: Regular check-ins can help, even if it’s just a text message or a quick call.
  • Offer Practical Help: Sometimes, offering to help with everyday tasks can alleviate the stress that the holiday season brings.
  • Create Inclusive Traditions: For those away from family, invite them to participate in your holiday traditions or create new ones together.

Offering support goes beyond mere words; it involves action and genuine involvement. Utilizing these strategies can make a significant difference in the lives of those who may be struggling during the holidays. Remember the power you have to make a difference and that our actions can bring light and warmth to others during this festive season. 

Being Supportive and Asking for Help

The holiday season is a reminder of the joy and warmth of human connection. Let’s use this time to extend our compassion beyond the usual festivities. By reaching out and checking in, we can help lift the weight of silence that often accompanies mental health struggles. This season, let’s spread true holiday spirit by being there for each other, in all the ways that truly matter.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, the help of a friend is not enough. If you or someone you know is struggling this holiday season, Positive Presence Global is here to help. Our team of compassionate mentor-coaches understands the challenges of mental health and is dedicated to supporting you on your journey to a positive, fulfilling life.


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Jessica has roughly 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, curating premier wine programs in Las Vegas and developing educational programs for the largest beverage distribution company in North America. In 2022, Jessica altered her focus and is now utilizing her educational, management, and organizational skills to positively impact others on a grander scale. She is now developing multiple modalities focused in emotional intelligence, executive functioning, meta-learning, and positive psychology for struggling teens and young adults.

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