💛6 Reasons the Holidays Stress Highly Sensitive People Out💛
Why does the holiday season need to be so “extra”??
In my reality, I believe the holidays are special... magical... hearty-opening... I love (parts of) the holidays. Growing up, there was nothing more enchanting than watching our house transform with lights and decorations, and almost bursting with anticipation for the big day itself. What about you, Beauties?
...And now... Welcome to eight weeks of aggressive advertising, in-your-face holiday prep, with loudly proclaimed good cheer.
Are you good cheered yet, Beauties? Are You? You need to good cheer... harder... I can hear you sighing along with me...
At least there's cookies ~ there's definitely nothing more enchanting than scrummy Christmas cookies.
As an adult, I love seeing people be kind to each other, and putting up the tree. But, tell me please, why does the holiday season need to be so extra?
I guess the high-pressure, multi-sensory holiday onslaught must hit the spot for some people — or at least, I guess marketers think so. But, for me, I’d prefer a calmer holiday season. The hustle and bustle doesn’t enhance the magic; it robs it, like a Grinch creeping through the homes of the Whos down in Whoville.
And there’s a reason I feel that way. It’s because, like roughly 1 in 5 people, I’m a highly sensitive person.
Being highly sensitive means I was born with a nervous system that processes everything very deeply, from my thoughts and feelings to what I take in from the world around me.
In general, being highly sensitive is a blessing — but not in loud, overstimulating, highly emotional situations.
Which, apparently, includes almost every minute of November and December.
Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at:
The 5 Ingredients of Holiday Season Overload
1. The fever pitch starts two months too early
First things first: it seems Halloween bears honourable mention here because, apparently, it is now part of the Christmas Industrial Complex. I could barely find a ceramic pumpkin all October long, because they were already crowded out by quaint little snow-covered model houses and miniature Christmas trees. Really?
And that’s the first step in the holidays being A. Bit. Too. Much. Anything fun (like the holidays) tends to be highly stimulating; anything joyful tends to be emotionally charged. My sensitive system can handle either of these things in small amounts, but when it goes on nonstop months on end? Already I can feel my phobia of leaving the house kicking in...
To be clear, I know some people love playing Christmas carols in August and setting up their tree as soon as the calendar strikes November. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that — you do you.
What’s overwhelming is that all the stores, advertisements, commercials and radio stations start in early, too. And they do this for no reason other than making more profit. The result is that department stores become a sensory/emotional megaphone, one that actually incentives me to avoid going shopping. This doesn’t just last for a few special weeks, but for months at a time.
Which brings me to….
2. The things I used to hold in my heart are now just a sales gimmick
I know a writer who once had probably the coolest job in the world. He got to be Santa — not at the mall, but at an imaginary North Pole. He worked with a company where kids would send in their Santa letters, and Santa would actually write back. He literally wrote the words that they would receive from Mr. Claus himself (and sometimes a side note from Rudolph or the Missus). Sometimes, he said, he teared up as he wrote it.
I have to admit, that’s pretty magical.
But there’s also the weird cost to these productions. Not just in dollars — you can believe the parents shelled out for this magical experience — but in our expectations. Every single part of the holiday miracle is now commoditised. You can buy apps... clothes... seasonal flavored lattes... home décor... funny sweaters you’ll wear one time... Menorah socks... lawn inflatables... rooftop Santa sleighs... oversized mangers... event tickets… and on and on....
No single one of these is wrong on its own. But add them all up, and you have an experience where everything just feels “yuck.” As a sensitive person who picks up on the frequency of a situation, I notice when things are fake. No one wants to find out their boyfriend or bestie is only around because they’re getting paid; I feel the same way about holiday magic.
And that’s the thing, the magic is not there because you pay for it. The more it’s commercialised, the less the magic is there at all. I guess I wish we could all just calm down with the marketing gimmicks and the screamy-splashy Christmas sales. The less dopamine hits I get in a mall, the happier I am.
But at least we’re all nice to each other, right? Oh, wait —
3. It's... oddly divisive, isn't it?...
Personally, I’m extraordinarily sensitive to how people react to my words. As a result, my policy is to try to be conscious of the holidays that other people celebrate, wish them well in a way that will matter to them, and not assume they celebrate the same things I do. My other policy is that I sometimes slip up, and please don’t yell at me.
Why? Because the holiday season is supposed to be people coming together. It’s supposed to be goodwill to all humankind. It’s an excuse to be nice in a frankly not-very-nice world.
So, when I’m given two buttons to push, one labelled BE GRACIOUS and the other labelled THROW A FIT ABOUT HOW SOMEONE PHRASED THE NICE THING THEY SAID, I am deeply upset that people hesitate to push the big-hearted one.
And that’s true no matter what your preferred greeting may be.
4. Ah, the family situation...
I love my family, Most of them. A lot of the time. If I'm well-rested.
Which is kind of the point. For anyone, sensitive or not, I think family obligations are often a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it’s important that there are occasions that bring us together with loved ones; on the other, they often involve sibling rivalry, parental henpecking, opposing child-rearing styles, and the almighty Uncomfortable Political Conversation.
The Uncomfortable Political Conversation is my least favorite part of any holiday gathering. That’s because, as a highly sensitive person, I check the following boxes:
- We’re highly aware of other people’s anger (or discomfort)
- We hate upsetting people
- Yelling makes us anxious to the point of nausea
- We don’t just “move on” when the arguing stops
- “Good-natured debates” are often neither of those things, and we can see right through it
- We thrive on harmony and, like a fragile flower, rougher conditions make us wilt
As a result, I absolutely Do Not Want to Be Around for the political outrage — especially this year. In my family, it often starts as indirect comments meant as bait or, worse, underhanded slights. When I hear these, I'll no longer wait until I’m ready to cry: I'll just leave the room (and I’ll take my plate, if need be).
Here's a way around it; perhaps try this one on for size:
“I want to stay, but I don’t feel well when political debates start. Can we agree to table that topic until after dinner, and I’ll give you space for it?"
That will usually shut people up and, if not, perhaps Christmas cake and podcasts can be a perfect combination.
5. Everyone’s expectations are just A. Little. Too. High.
For me, this is what ties it all together. I could probably get through the whole morass of everything above if we just didn’t take ourselves too seriously. If we went into the holidays with a light heart, a light touch, rather than so much invested in it.
But that’s not how I see people "doing" the holidays. Do you?
Instead, it seems people are piling pressure and demands and needs upon the holidays, absolutely insisting that everything be just so: the look, the events, the schedule, the gifts, even what people say and do. I honestly believe that if we invented a weather control device, we’d use it to get Christmas “just so” before we used it to solve world hunger. Sad to even feel that, Beauties ~ you too?
And it’s this part of the holidays — the high expectations — that I think is hardest for many sensitives.
Highly Sensitive Beauties: We don’t have to do the holidays the way everyone else does them. We don’t have to put the pressure on ourselves and others. We don’t have to live up to those expectations ourselves, either.
When the holidays are overwhelming, give someone a hug. Tell them they’re okay. And maybe bring cookies..
Thanks for reading all the way to the end, if I’ve sparked some joy, please consider sharing!