The holiday season is all joy and lights and gifts and love….Or so we’re meant to believe. But, often, the reality of this time of the year can be quite different. In fact, feelings of loneliness during the holidays are incredibly common. We’re made to expect a magical, joyous experience, often leading to disappointment when reality doesn’t live up to the anticipation.
That contrast between the bright, joyful ideal and the feelings of isolation and sadness that many of us actually experience during the holidays only make it that much harder to go through. We wonder if something is wrong with us, if we’re the only ones who are down on Christmas. Well, we’re not. And here’s how we can deal with it.
Why We Feel Lonely During the Holidays
The pressure of the holidays is high. We feel like we’re supposed to be joyfully exchanging gifts, kissing under the mistletoe, and toasting champagne with loved ones at midnight. But for many people, being with close, cherished others during the holidays just isn’t possible.
Some are empty-nesters whose children have moved out of the house. Others live too far from their families. Maybe you can’t afford the plane ticket this year. Maybe you’ve gone through a recent break-up. Maybe you’ve experienced a death in the family. Maybe you don’t have any close relationships with family members to begin with. If you’re in one of these situations, the holidays can often just serve as a reminder of your struggles, making you feel anything but merry.
And even people with a seemingly “perfect” family aren’t going to have a perfect holiday season, because humans are fallible and they fight and they cry and they make mistakes. That can be just as disappointing and isolating.
How to Support Yourself During This Time
If you’re in this position, it’s important to take care of yourself during the holidays. Here are the steps that you can take.
Try not to isolate yourself. Reach out to the support system that you do have, whether that is your friends, a therapist, or an online counselor. Even online message boards can serve to make you feel less alone.
Be kind to yourself. Do the things you love and that make you feel good. Take a long bath, read a book with a good story, watch a favorite movie or some hilarious stand-up, take a walk on a pretty street… whatever it takes to put a smile on your face and some warmth in your heart.
Be grateful. Remind yourself of all the blessings you have in your life. Maybe you’re grateful for the breath in your lungs. No matter your circumstances, all of us have something to appreciate in our lives.
Give to others. There’s nothing more gratifying and perspective-granting than looking outward and using your talents and time to help out in your community. Thinking about and helping others is a certain way to make you feel warm and less lonely.
Be realistic. Know that what you see in movies and on social media is not a real representation of reality. Behind every beautiful photo of a smiling family is frustration and tears and disappointment. If it serves you, consider abstaining from social media entirely until the holidays are over.
Be honest. Have honest conversations with others. Hearing about how other people in your life also feel lonely during the holidays will make you feel less alone and allow you to realize just how common this experience is. We promise, it’s not just you.
See the big picture. As lonely as you might feel out there this holiday season, know that you are not alone. You’re part of a global community of human beings that are kind, benevolent, and want good for one another. Carry that support with you in your heart. Send compassion and loving-kindness to yourself and to the rest of your human community – this winter and always.
And finally, reach out for professional help. A therapist can hold space for the loneliness that may come up. They support in discovering ways to understand where loneliness comes from and tools to feel more connected.