Shifting guidelines, family dynamics, and global pandemics mean stress for the holidays for many.
By Riley Mulcahy
Turkey, sharing what they are grateful for, and appreciation of time off from school and work. For most people, the idea of the Holidays and seeing relatives is a positive experience. However, holidays can bring pain and stress to people who do not have a family to share or have a family they are not close to. Given that we are still in a global pandemic, the stress is magnified when we are expected to gather in large groups, even with the prevalence of vaccines.
According to Organizational Psychologist Adam Grant, most people who feel the stresses of the holidays are not necessarily depressed. Instead, we as a collective are “languishing.” Grant argues, “Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness” in his viral New York Times article. “It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.” We are living in an unprecedented time where the social and the political are intertwined.
Decisions to protect the wider community have been made by both major parties. When social and political unrest is running rampant, we must understand that languishing is an expected response. As we head into the holiday season, we also have to realize that people struggle to thrive, but that does not mean they are necessarily depressed.
Even though many of us are languishing, there needs to be an acknowledgment of those who are struggling. From a personal perspective, I know that I have struggled with social interactions since socializing more because I have had to learn how to interact with people I had not seen in a year or longer. Although I consider myself an extrovert, there is still a sense of anxiety I feel when I see people I have not seen for a long time or am in a big group situation. This Holiday season, it is crucial to give us a little more grace regarding social interactions. For some college students, this might be the first time they have seen their parents since the summer, or they might not be able to go home at all due to travel restrictions.
The political landscape has not helped people’s moods going into the Holidays. Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty last week for his part in killing two Black Lives Matter protesters. Writer Julie Lythcott Haims, who was previously the Dean of Freshmen at Stanford, summed up so many of the thoughts that a lot of people are feeling right now: “Because Rittenhouse had killed two white men, I'd thought that the chances of a guilty verdict were higher. Maybe they were. Even so, the chances weren't high enough.”
Instead of the typical Holiday stressors of family drama or someone forgetting to take food out of the oven, we are now dealing with complex and difficult conversations about race and privilege, which are needed conversations but challenging to have in the midst of differing opinions and family dynamics. When we hear about a white man being acquitted for a crime in “self-defense,” the holiday spirit can be tainted, especially when there are others who might think that he was in the right.
The Holidays will look different this year. Some may not have the chance to connect with family, or some may struggle to sit across from their family. The holidays can bring up feelings of loneliness and isolation. However, there is also an opportunity to reflect and try to help others who also may be struggling in the form of volunteering at a soup kitchen or seeing what the town/ city is doing to serve others and get involved in it.
Here are the articles referenced:
“There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing” by Adam Grant
Were You Holding Your Breath? By Julie Lythcott-Haims
Melanie Moyer '22,