While the festive season is generally seen as a time to gather with family and friends, for many, this can result in heightened feelings of loneliness during the holiday season. During this season, people will remember the loved ones they’ve lost. They may also be too stressed, anxious, or just overwhelmed to attend one of the many social events that seem to be obligatory, leaving them to feel left out and even more lonely.
And, that’s also not taking into the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which may prohibit us from attending social functions or visiting loved ones.
In fact, according to YouGov, one in nine Americans spent the holidays alone in December, and one in six spent New Year's Eve and New Year's Day alone.
Thankfully, there are healthy ways to cope if you feel alone during the holiday season.
Address Your Mental State
“Christmas is the perfect day to take the time to appreciate what you have in life, be it good health, a place to live, or food on the table,” writes Arlin Cuncic, MA for Verywell Mind. “Having gratitude will also help you to move past anxiety, as you learn to live in the present moment and be mindful of your surroundings. One way to practice gratitude is to write down three things you are grateful for on this day.”
“What if you're plagued by negative thoughts?,” asks Cunic. “If you feel like you don't know how to cope with being alone, ask yourself” the following question, "What would I do if I did know how to cope?" Remember, your thoughts have more power than you realize.
“You can choose to feel lonely because you are alone, or you can choose to feel grateful for the positive things in your life,” she adds. “Reframing your negative thoughts is the basis of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), an effective treatment for social anxiety disorder.”
You Don’t Have to Celebrate
It’s perfectly fine to not feel the holiday spirit. In fact, if you prefer not to celebrate that’s your decision. As such, if you don’t want to attend holiday parties or gatherings, then politely say “no” and enjoy the time however you please.
Connect With Others However You Can
We can’t stress this enough. No matter how you feel, you are never alone. If you feel this way, call or text a friend or family member. Reach out to a long-distance friend on social media. Or, set up a video call with your loved ones if you can’t interact in person.
You could also connect with others through online communities like Side by Side. This supportive community is available 24/7 and promises to be “a safe place to listen, share, and be heard.”
“One way to gain a better appreciation for the good things in your life is to get involved in volunteering,” adds Cunic. Volunteering during the holidays can enhance your sense of belonging, boost your self-esteem, and bring joy to less fortunate people. “Consider offering to help serve dinner at a soup kitchen, bring gifts to a children's hospital, or visit lonely residents at a nursing home.”
Other suggestions could be going to the grocery store for an elderly neighbor, taking a family member to a doctor’s appointment, or offering to watch your nieces and nephews so that your siblings can go shopping.
Another idea? If you know anyone else, like a co-worker, who is also alone on the holidays, ask them if they want to grab dinner. Or, maybe you could throw your own holiday party who are in the same situation.
Avoid Social Media
Christmas-themed photos and happy families on social media can lead to sadness and comparison for those spending the season alone. Take advantage of your alone time by going on a digital detox.
It may not seem like much, but you could drastically benefit from this simple act of self-care.
This is not an excuse to overindulge in alcohol or substance abuse. Rather, find healthy ways to shift your focus. For example, if you love work, you could spend the holidays getting a jump on an upcoming project or finally getting around to organizing your workspace.
You could also go for long walks or hit the gym whenever you feel alone. Other suggestions, going to the movies or a museum, painting, playing video games, or treating yourself to something special, such as booking a vacation.
Another idea? Write down your goals for next year. In addition to being a distraction, this is a simple and effective way to give you direction and motivation.
For more ideas, here’s a list of 60 healthy and uplifting distractions you may want to consider.