The holidays can be very festive and stressful at the same time. The end of the year can be hectic and extremely expensive, so even the most organized person can feel frazzled. Anxiety can also make an appearance and complicate everything.
Sometimes we forget that each person is a world in itself. We can get frustrated when we don’t feel reciprocity from our friends or don’t understand why certain people appear more sensitive this time of year. I’ve learned that the holidays bring much cheer and joy, but to many, they remind them of what they don’t have. It’s not about money, although that in itself does create a lot of stress. It’s about missing family, especially when you live in a different country, or they have passed away.
When in doubt just err on the side of kindness. You might end up being the reason somebody smiles during an otherwise stressful holiday season.
How to be inclusive this holiday season
- Not everybody celebrates the same holidays. Don’t assume; just ask. Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, the holidays also give us an opportunity to learn more about different customs and beliefs.
- Many people feel especially lonely, especially if they don’t have family close-by or have complicated relationships with those around them. If you know somebody who has recently moved to your area, invite them over if you’ll be hosting a holiday get together. Or make plans during that last week of the year to meet up for coffee, tea or drinks. That can make a world of difference. A clingy or demanding friend might just be very lonely.
- Some people cannot afford gifts. Don’t be offended if somebody doesn’t reciprocate a gift or gives you something of inferior value. You never know what’s going on in a person’s life. Just because you don’t know their struggles, don’t assume they are being inconsiderate or stingy.
- Don’t question sobriety. You might have friends who avoid alcohol due to religious, health or personal reasons. Always have non-alcoholic alternatives.
- Children of divorce can have a complicated relationship with holidays. No matter their age, they might feel guilty about spending a special occasion with one parent instead of the other.
- Depression can peak over the holiday season. Make sure to check on your friends who struggle with mental health, and be kind to those who appear stressed out.
- Don’t ask couples when they will have a baby. They might be struggling with infertility or have very personal reasons to not have children.
- Grief can feel overwhelming. The holidays make us miss our loved ones even more. If somebody you know has lost a loved one, check in with them. Don’t minimize their feelings. Follow their lead: if they want to talk about their grief, allow them. If they simply want distraction so they’re not reminded of who they miss, make fun plans or share funny stories over the phone.
It’s okay to celebrate the holidays the way you prefer. Just keep these things in mind when celebrating or spreading cheer. That way instead of being insensitive this holiday season, you will be spreading kindness.