The thought of being alone – or perhaps, alone again – this holiday season, may be weighing you down with feelings of sadness and despair. While others are anticipating the joyful reunions and celebrations to come, you are hurting inside. If you are inclined to minimize or dismiss your pain, please consider a healthier approach: be kind to yourself by planning ahead. Mental health and wellness professionals suggest adopting a few specific strategies to help combat your feelings of loneliness and isolation at this time of year.
Honor your feelings
Depending on your particular circumstances and ways of coping, you may notice feelings of anger, sadness, depression, or even jealousy. As opposed to pushing them down, or feeling bad about having them, name them. This is how you can start to take control of your experience. Instead of defaulting to telling yourself “I’m fine”- when you’re really not – say “I’m feeling very sad right now.” Then move to the next strategy.
Share your feelings
Almost always, there is someone who will understand. Reach out to that person. Acknowledge how you feel and hear them out, as well. The mere act of doing so will help you to feel “less alone.” But don’t leave it there. Make a point of talking about your loved ones, or about a holiday tradition or a specific memory you cherish. Doing so will help keep positive feelings fresh in your heart and mind while reinforcing the connections you have with others – even if you can’t be with them. And speaking of connections…
Initiate a “work-around”
That’s right, reach out to your loved ones and suggest a way to connect over the holidays, even if you can’t be together in person. I can attest that this really works! My close friends and kin were eager to think outside of the box in order to connect with me when we found ourselves isolated during the 2020 holiday season. But don’t wait until the hectic day before Thanksgiving or until Christmas Eve. Folks have already made their plans by then. Call a few weeks in advance. Suggest a time when you can talk by phone or get together on Facetime. If you don’t know how to use Facetime, Zoom, or another platform, get help in advance so that you are prepared. Here’s a major tip: be flexible. Do your best to accommodate their schedule. For example, maybe you connect a few days before the actual holiday. And finally…
Make a plan for those days of celebration
Imagine that you have employed all of these strategies and it is now Thanksgiving or Christmas Day. Without a specific plan for how you will spend your time, you are likely to experience loneliness and sadness. Instead, literally map out your day. Maybe you’ll eat a “fancier” breakfast, play a game, watch a favorite movie, or help someone else who may be lonely by calling and sending some good cheer.