4 Most Depressing Things About The 2020 Holiday Season & How To Remain Optimistic

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family celebrating the holidays

The holidays, despite promoting togetherness and merriment, are often associated with some less-than-comfy feelings.

The holiday season often evokes Seasonal Affective Disorder, the stress of shopping for and buying gifts for ever-growing lists of people, and the pressure of reuniting with family that may or may not always treat you right.

And this year, the 2020 holiday season has the added stress of being in the middle of a pandemic.

COVID-19 has interrupted pretty much every aspect of our lives this last year. As outdoor activities become more restricted with the changing seasons and the number of COVID cases continues rising, we are looking at more and more isolation and confinement.

Tighter restrictions will prove especially difficult in the upcoming holiday season.  

Especially considering how many of these holidays center around people coming together and sharing seasonal food, we need to be careful about protecting not just ourselves but our fellow citizens from this pandemic or the crisis will only be prolonged, putting more and more people in danger. 

RELATED: Why I Actually Prefer Being Single This Holiday, Even During A Pandemic

Through all of this strife, it is important to remember that you are not alone. For better or worse, everyone around the world is in the same boat.

Just like all of the posters, billboards, and spray paint say while I walk around Chicago with my mask on, "we're all in this together."

While yes, it sucks that we all have to go through this arduous time, we can take solace in the fact that it is something we all have in common, and we can all take part in making the matter better.

1. Travel is restricted.

Even though most countries are only partially restrictive with regulations put into place for COVID protection, it is advised not to travel at all.

Airports and planes are very public and the planes are very confined — even when not at full capacity! The risk of getting or spreading coronavirus is too great to reasonably justify most travel.

Although gathering with distant relatives can be arduous at times with complicated family histories and dynamics, it is still a shame that we won’t be able to see our loved ones that we already don’t get to see very often.

Holidays give us the opportunity to reconnect and be with those who aren’t a part of our everyday lives, but for everyone’s safety, those reunions will have to wait at least another year — we don’t really know how long this pandemic will last. 

What to remember

While it is annoying, even heartbreaking, that we cannot travel this year during the holidays, it is a necessary sacrifice for public health and the health of our loved ones that we would normally be visiting.

Of course grandma wants to see you — but give her the chance to see you next year by not endangering her susceptible health this year.

2. Even nearby family and friends probably shouldn't come over.

Eliminating travel from the equation, even your loved ones nearby probably shouldn’t come over for the holidays.

Everyone leads individual lives with varying degrees of exposure to other people, and socializing can be a ripple effect. If one person has COVID, everyone they interact with is at risk, and then everyone that those people see, and so on.

We should really be limiting our socialization to only the people we live with or already have to see on a regular basis.

For example, I have a relative who only lives across town from me. She has a chronic illness in her lungs making her especially susceptible to catching COVID. I can’t in good conscience see her this holiday season despite her living so close to me because of the danger.

Elderly relatives, sick relatives, even healthy and young relatives considering the ripple effect should not be put at risk just for the sake of tradition.

What to remember

It's a tough decision to make to distance yourself even from the loved ones who are so nearby. It's so tempting to think, "Well they're right there! What's the harm?", but there is potentially a lot of harm.

Keeping your company limited keeps everyone safe.

As much as I wish I could see my sick relative, I know that for her safety more than mine, it is the right thing to do to not see her. Sure, she will be disappointed. I'm disappointed.

We are all disappointed by the restrictions that COVID has forced upon us, but by adhering to those restrictions, the likelihood of having a normal holiday season next year becomes much greater.

RELATED: What Are 'Parasocial Relationships' (And How Could COVID-19 Have Affected Yours)?

3. Affording the holidays may be more difficult this year.

The holidays usually take a toll on people’s financials because of just how many people we may have in our lives. And because the holidays only come around once a year, people often seize this opportunity to splurge and really spoil our loved ones.

This year, because of the pandemic, a lot of people are out of work.

Sure, many jobs can be done from home, but people who work in restaurants, retail, hospitality, and other jobs that require in-person interaction are getting in line for unemployment benefits. These benefits vary and usually only cover the essentials, if that, so the economic hardship around the culture of the holidays is hitting many people hard.

Santa may be leaving IOUs under the tree this year.

What to remember

Fortunately, your loved ones will understand. The kids maybe not so much, but when they grow up, they will retrospectively understand.

A lot of people are forced into this predicament and hardship this year. Times are tough and very weird.

I told my sister that I'd be uncomfortable if she gave me a gift and I couldn't afford to give her one in return, but she told me that she doesn't expect anything in return, she just wants to give me what she is able and what she thinks I'd like.

Plus, homemade gifts can be some of the most meaningful, sentimental presents whether you're artistically inclined or not because of the effort that goes into them.

4. On top of SAD, we have COVID cabin fever.

During the late full and winter, the sun sets much earlier and sometimes it is too cold to be outside — I’m writing this from Chicago in fear of another polar vortex.

Quarantine has caused us to be confined to our homes for even longer. We didn’t get to enjoy the defrosting spring of this last year, and now only after a few short months of being able to socially distance in the open air, the cold and rising case numbers are pushing us back inside. People are going stir crazy from this isolation!

Even with plenty of things to occupy us at home, not having a change in environment and only interacting with the same few people — for those who don’t live alone! — can make us bored out of our minds.

Some may be starting to get a bit snippy with those that we live with making the upcoming holidays much less holly jolly than usual. 

What to remember

This detriment to the holiday season can be remedied by the holidays themselves. When life was normal, the holidays would often help combat SAD because of all of the lights, excitement, and unique traditions that the holidays bring.

You can get cozy under a blanket and watch those movies that you only watch during this season and sip on a drink that isn't available year-round.

The holidays are so special because they only come around once a year, so they have a distinct joy that is experienced only during this time.

Sure, you may be sick of your significant other, roommates, kids, whoever you live with, but finding that common merriment that comes with celebrating the holidays can shake up your routine and bring everyone back into good spirits.

Try to stay sane and safe this holiday season. Even though it doesn’t always feel like it, this pandemic won’t last forever.

RELATED: 6 Steps To Coping With Depression & Despair In COVID-19 Quarantine

Colleen Fogarty is a writer who covers self-care, astrology, and relationship topics.