As the winter chill sets in and you pass your neighbor on the street or co-worker in the hall and you shout out a cheerful, "Happy Holidays," consider this: The holidays are the hardest time of year for many people and when you say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays", they have no idea what you're talking about.
Financial Stress: Divorce rates have been known to spike immediately after the holidays between Christmas and Valentine's Day each year. With the expectation that you out-give your family member or co-worker or you have to appear that your finances are in order, it's easy for people to over-spend.
Personal Loss: There's never a good time to lose a love one, but when you lose someone during the holidays, that feelings cycles back in full blast. Sitting and watching people around you who are able to celebrate with their loved ones can be even more piercing during the holidays. It's normal around the anniversary of the loss for the individual to experience excessive crying, isolation, anger, anxiety, physical weakness, and/or spiritual questioning. Grief is different for everyone and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Grief and depression are not the same but they can co-exist.
Social Anxiety: Many people become extremely self-conscious or become worries about judgement from others in regular social situations. If you don't have this, then you probably haven't thought about the fact that the holidays call for lots of social saturation: the office Christmas party, the dinner at your cousin's house, that cookie exchange. All of these events can present great internal conflict for people with social anxiety. If you notice that a friend of family member is chronically cancelling on your events, be sensitive to the fact that they may truly feel like they are "unable" to attend.
Seasonal Depression: There are speculations as to the cause of SAD and nearly 1 in 3 people are diagnosed with it, but this is just another reason that the holidays may not be so happy. It's important to note if you feel a notable change in mood with the weather. It's common for us all to want to go out a little less when that winter chill sets in. It's more indicative of SAD if you're experiencing symptoms such as heavy limbs, weight gain, increase in appetite, hypersensitivity, or over-sleeping.
These are just a few road blocks for enjoying the holidays. It's important to remain sensitive to these (and other) mental health issues that may be impacting someone's ability to "be jolly." Most people with these issues would give anything to enjoy the holidays but simply don't feel like they can. Encourage friends and family to see professional help with these issues. You will not successfully bully these individuals into finding the holiday spirit.