Unrealistic Expectations of Gift-Giving: The Holidays Cause Stress

Jordan McRath, Sports Editor

   The holidays are a time that many people view as and associate with joy, happiness and relaxation. Although this is the popular consensus, the holidays often cause stress and anxiety more than anything else due to economic shortages within families, the indecisiveness of what to buy, and all the conflicting feelings that come with visiting relatives.

There are a lot of traditions that will always be troubling during the holidays, one of these being the concern over not having enough money to buy presents for loved ones. According to a survey conducted in 2020, “Over half (54 percent) of those surveyed feel more financially stressed about the holidays than they did last year, and 47 percent respondents said they have negative feelings towards the holidays as a result of needing to adjust celebrations or traditions because of COVID-19.” There are many scenarios where families do not have the funds to participate during this special time, and a heavy amount of stress and sadness can come along with that. Perhaps COVID-19 has shortened peoples’ incomes, or families are not as financially sound from the start due to disasters or crises. The common expectation of the holidays is spending money to give others amazing gifts that they have always wanted, and not being able to fulfill this cultural necessity is bound to cause anxiety (creditkarma.com).

Another aspect that comes with getting gifts is deciding the perfect one to buy. It is a common expectation that people receive at least one gift that they have always wanted, or one that greatly satisfies the person in question. However, what if you do not know what to buy? It could possibly ruin the mood of one’s entire Christmas if you disappoint a person anticipating a certain gift. In addition, it could leave you scrambling, looking for something that seems interesting and unique while everyone else competes for that perfect gift. “I have definitely felt the stress of the holidays before,” said Junior Melanie Aguliar Luna. “It’s not just the fact that someone might hate you for giving them a boring gift, but it’s also dealing with the crowds in stores, and the long lines. I usually try to get my family the most elaborate gifts, so you can imagine the stress when I have no idea what I’m doing,” said Aguilar Luna.

Another cause of holiday stress is loneliness and the depressing realization of not having anyone special in your life to spend such an important season with. A website that specializes in seasonal depression states, “The reason behind the claim that depression rates and suicides rise during the holidays is that holiday cheer amplifies loneliness and hopelessness in people who have lost loved ones, or who have high expectations of renewed happiness during the holiday season, only to be disappointed,” according to Winshester Hospital. “One study found that two out of three newspaper stories about suicide or depression from mid-November 1999 to mid-January 2000 made a connection between suicides and the holidays, further encouraging the notion.” This feeling of isolation gets put on center stage as people are surrounded with others spending quality time with loved ones (winchesterhospital.org).

Finally, family gatherings add a huge amount of stress to the holiday season. Many may think to themselves, “Family gatherings cause stress? No way! I love my family.” While that may hold true for many individuals, it is not always the case for others. “I love Christmas and it is a beautiful holiday, but sometimes it can be difficult visiting family members and having reunions,“ said Aguliar Luna. “From my own personal experiences, some members spill gossip about each other and overall some people within the family just are not the nicest people. It makes for a really toxic environment sometimes, and that can really bring tensions to what is supposed to be a ‘feel-good’ occasion.”

The holidays can be a very joyous and commemorative time, but it is definitely not free of its faults and harmful effects. It is a very chaotic and arcadic time of the year and many fall victim to its disarray, causing feelings of stress and isolation. So enjoy this holiday season, but know that others may be suffering. Keep your eyes open and look out for someone you know that might need a little help and cheer.