Being alone through the holiday season can be a painful time. For some people, the holiday season means spending quality time with family, sharing a meal, and maybe even sharing gifts. For others, this time of year may not feel cheery and is not the most wonderful time of the year. The season can be very stressful and devastating for people spending it without their loved ones. If you end up by yourself, there are a lot of creative ways to overcome the feeling of isolation.
Being Alone Is Not Uncommon
Humans are social beings, so being alone through the holiday season can be a painful time for some. People can end up by themselves on holidays for a variety of reasons. Some live far away from family or have jobs that require that they work the holiday. Those who are grieving sometimes choose to spend the day alone. Others have challenging family dynamics that can turn a happy holiday into an upsetting or stressful day of problems that they would rather avoid. Thus, being alone on a significant holiday can be a useful choice in some circumstances. Some people need the social stimulation the holidays offer, while others may not.
No matter the time of year or season, develop life skills to avoid and intervene with loneliness because research shows it can have adverse effects on health.
Here are a few things that might help you to celebrate the holidays:
Let Yourself Feel your Emotions
The holidays can trigger difficult emotions and make people reflect on how things used to be or how they wish things were this year. Allow yourself to feel sad, disappointed, or anything that might come up. Whatever you are feeling is okay. Take time to reflect on how you are feeling each day. You can write in a journal, talk to a friend, draw a picture, or call your EFAP to process your emotions.
Avoid the Rut and Triggers
If you find yourself without holiday plans and wish to celebrate, take action. Don’t sit and reason, trying to think your way out of feeling bad or down. The most effective way to intervene is by taking action. Behavior works faster on feelings than reasoning, and it’s more efficient. Plan now and create action steps. Doing so can help you avoid “depression triggers” that can throw you into a rut.
Think ahead of time about certain places or things that might bring up painful emotions, then come up with a plan for how to process these feelings. Think about what has helped you in the past; maybe it is listening to music or calling a support person when you feel triggered.
Limit Social Media
Social media can contribute to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression, especially during the holidays. So, consider limiting your time online. At the very least, remain aware of its potential to show you an unrealistic view of life - friends often post only the good.
Re-framing is a healthy way of choosing to look at a situation another way. An example of a re-frame is recognizing that although you can’t be at a certain holiday event on a specific day and are alone right now, you will be with those people you care about or love in the future at another event. You choose to look forward to that time instead of feeling trapped in a lonely state right now.
Keep an Open Mind
Your holiday season may not be what you hoped it would be, but you can try and adjust your expectations. Try and make another plan instead. If someone invites you to a walk in the park, accept the invitation! Being around people may help you enjoy the holidays. Or simply enjoy time by yourself. Staying home all day may be just as comforting!
Engagement Is the Secret
The secret to lifting your spirit is engagement with others, even if it isn’t in person. Enjoy the holidays whether you are with others or alone. However, be sure you experience daily interactions with people to safeguard your health throughout the year. You will feel more uplifted, experience less negative self-talk, and have accomplishments you will look back on with fond memories.
Check resources online, and begin your to-do list of events, special “me-time” treats, day trips, and new and unusual ways to fill the days. Take this time to do something nice for yourself this holiday season. You can take a warm bath, read your favourite book, or cook your favourite meal. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, just something that helps you care for yourself.
Helping other people over the holidays can help boost your mood. Look to your community for creative opportunities, grab a calendar and plan concrete steps that you will take when the holiday period arrives. Will you open your home to other single friends? Will you seek volunteer opportunities nearby? These activities are tried-and-true intervention steps others have used to overcome loneliness and experience gratitude.
Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is simply to do nothing. Don’t feel pressure to make plans every day; you can take it day by day if that works for you.
The holiday season can be tough. If you are feeling overwhelmed, remember to breathe. You can try using this breathing bubble. If you need support, you can also talk to a professional. It is okay if the holiday season does not turn out how you wanted it to. Do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself.
If you are in need of assistance during the holidays, connect with your EFAP for support. We are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.