You’re Not Alone, Holiday Anxiety Is Real

By Loise Machira

For many, the word festive seems to be an unfamiliar feeling and possibly something that millions across the world can barely relate to. The last time we could all gather in numbers to celebrate Christmas with our loved ones without worrying about COVID-19 or influenza was in 2019. And yet at the time, we didn’t realize how blessed we were to have that freedom.

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Back then, we heard about a spreading virus whose origin was in Wuhan China, and even then, we all assumed it would be contained. When the world was starting to shut down in 2020, nobody expected that 2 years later, we would be experiencing a global lockdown. On this week’s business daily, I landed on an article titled ‘Omicron rewrites the coronavirus plan for 2022’… you can imagine how this could easily trigger anxiety for readers including myself.

The one symbol of hope during this pandemic was the fact that multiple vaccines were made available across the world despite African countries lagging because of vaccine inequity. Conspiracy theorists among us, or rather the ‘anti-vaccine’ movement have curated narratives that have contributed to the apathy, and those inoculated are still falling sick. The pending question lingering on everyone’s minds is whether we’re making any progress.

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With the new strain, countries are slowly reverting to measures such as strict travel restrictions, reimposing mask requirements, and controlled gatherings. Some countries in Europe even have limitations on how many people are allowed in private spaces like homes. If you have experienced winter season before, you know how depressing the holiday can be if you’re separated from friends and family. The cold season almost has a direct impact on triggering feelings of loneliness and even depression.

For many who lost their loved ones during the pandemic, Christmas almost feels like reopening a wound because it’s a loud reminder of the void that was left behind. We never know what internal battles someone is facing and for this reason, it would be good to check in those you care about. A text, phone call or even a gift showing you’re thinking of them goes a long way. Sprinkling acts of kindness everywhere you go from the uber, to the matatu and even the local kiosk could save someone from falling prey to mental turmoil.

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This season also presents uncertainty for many who lost their sources of income and those who are struggling to get back on their feet financially. Millions in Kenya are living under the poverty line from hand to mouth and they don’t have the privilege to stop and assess how their mental health is affected. Financial wellness and our belief system with regards to how we manage money is a real trigger for many.

We can’t talk about holiday anxiety without addressing the world of dating and triggers that stem from our relationships and even friendships. If you’re on Netflix or whatever platform you prefer to watch movies from, everything has been curated to celebrate love, family, and marriage during Christmas. The reality is, many are separated, divorced, going through breakups, or stuck in toxic relationships. We forget that some of the content we consume could easily set us back into old toxic cycles we tried so hard to break from.

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In as much as we could try to look happy or maintain a positive headspace, it's equally important to admit where you are mentally, emotionally and spiritually instead of being avoidant. If any of these scenarios apply to you, know that you’re not alone in the struggle. Anchors are people we confide in when going through a hard time because they give us a shoulder to lean on and an ear to share our feelings. Identifying who this person is for you will make this season easier. I wish you a safe space this Christmas, and one where your mind is at peace even if only a borrowed time.

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Yours in Wellness,


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