Coping with Loneliness During the Holidays
Discover ways to enjoy the holidays when facing loneliness
No matter who you are, you probably have been thinking about the holidays, including Christmas and the upcoming New Year, and what this time means to you. If you’re struggling to remain positive during this time, it could stem from many different reasons. It could be due to isolation, loneliness, a recent break-up, the loss of a loved one, or forced solitude due to all of the COVID-19 restrictions in your area. While this virus certainly has changed the way we think and the way we live our lives, there are positive ways to celebrate the holiday season this year. Here are some ideas of how others have decided to change their focus and chase away the holiday blues in creative ways. Who knows? Maybe you can start a new holiday tradition along the way.
All of these ideas were sourced from chats with members on 7 Cups of Tea! So the encouraging news here is that they are things that have worked for others. I hope something resonates with you, as well.
Thank people who have done something meaningful for you. It may be a co-worker, teacher or friend. This may be one situation where someone went above and beyond, or you may be simply acknowledging someone’s ongoing support. Post your thank you note on social media or on 7 Cups to share how someone else brightened your life. If you know how to contact these people, send them thank you notes. Practicing gratitude helps to lift your spirits and is an opportunity to appreciate and acknowledge people in a way that will surprise and delight them. Who knows? Maybe this person is struggling during the holidays as well, and it makes them smile at a time when they really need it. Spreading happiness can often be down by gratitude!
Sometimes feelings of loneliness can be lifted if you reach out to a friend or family member who you haven’t talked to in a while. Many of us have fallen out of touch with someone, even though we didn’t really mean to stop seeing or calling that person. Now is a great time to make that call or send that text. Even though you may not be able to visit due to restrictions with socialization right now, you may be surprised at how much better you feel after re-connecting and strengthening your relationships with friends and family. The relative isolation associated with COVID-19 is the perfect excuse to make contact. Lisa De Regt, MBPsS says, “The most valuable and powerful gift we can give this year is the ability to listen to one another and to fully immerse ourselves into the inner world of others. We might not be able to physically be present but we can show we care and love one another with a single message or a video call during the holidays.”
Socially Distanced Gatherings
Car parties – Everyone shows up in a large parking lot at a park or other location that is either public, or the host has gotten permission to gather in advance. Everyone brings a mobile device and the host coordinates a round-robin of socially distanced meet-ups. It can be as organized or casual as you need it to be, and if the weather doesn’t cooperate, you can set up parade-style and have a couple of cars do drive-by visits until everyone has had a chance to see one another and catch up.
Not-so-open house – This idea came from a mom who had 7 adult children and 3 sets of grandchildren. Her heart was breaking because the holidays were coming and she could not bear the thought of not being able to celebrate with them. Instead of one large gathering, one of the kids suggested that she bake her traditional cookies and pre-package them for each family. The families came over in shifts, wore masks and did not eat or drink while they visited. Gifts were exchanged and mom got to gift her traditional treats, instead of serving them.
Small group gathering – Do you have a large space such as a 2-car garage, deck or a 3-seasons porch? Ask your guests to bring their own snack and drink, a lawn chair, blanket and mask! You’ll supply some happy music and maybe a space heater if you can. If you live in a warmer climate, consider meeting up at a park gazebo that’s normally used for dozens of people, but limit your party to a group that can maintain an appropriate distance.
Telephone party – There are several apps out there today, including some that are free, that allow you to connect multiple people on phone and/or video calls so that you can connect as a group during the holidays. Skype and Facetime are probably the two most common ways to video chat. Think about emailing step-by-step instructions in advance if you have friends or family members who are not tech-savvy! This will help to make the activity of setting things up less stressful.
Even during COVID, you may be able to lift your mood by helping others in need. Contact your local food pantries and homeless shelters to see if there are ways you can contribute. If you don’t have money, you may still be able to donate time to make a positive impact in the lives of others who will truly appreciate your efforts.
Hobbies and Distractions
If you are feeling isolated and you’re unable to connect with people during the holiday season, it may be fun to find ways to distract yourself. Self-care is important when you have too much time to sit and think. Instead of spending time with thoughts that become negative, consider which activities to try instead. These types of things make your days and nights go by and keep your mind active in ways that can maintain or even improve your mental health:
Constructing a gingerbread house is fun even if you’re a full-grown adult!
Stretch your culinary skills by attempting some challenging recipes that you didn’t have time for in the past.
Put together a puzzle or buy a mandala coloring book and fancy colored pencils or markers.
Search online for free exercise videos to try something that looks interesting to you. Checking out a new form of exercise might also be fun if you like to be active.
Don’t just take a warm bath – make it a spa night. Light candles, use essential oils or bubble baths, and put a fluffy towel behind your neck to make it feel like a luxurious event instead of just a regular bath. Bring an iced tea or water with you so that you have an activity that will make the experience last a little longer.
Treat your pet to a new toy or treat – one that you make yourself! The internet is full of recipes and DIY projects that will show your pet how much you appreciate them.
Join an online self-help or similar interest group – there is a group for every problem and every interest. Now is the time to get involved with others who share common goals.
If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, give yourself permission to acknowledge your feelings during the holidays. Reflect on the happy memories and your favorite things about them. Share your feelings if you are comfortable doing that. If the holiday season triggers renewed grief or a sense of depression over someone you have lost, think about what you need in advance so that you are ready to counteract those feelings. Communicate with those who may be around you. They may say something that is not really helping, and it’s okay to gently let them know what it is that you need during this time.
This article was written by MIa. Mia is a listener who works in the healthcare industry. Her focus is on supporting the needs of individuals who are aged, blind or suffer from long-term physical or mental health conditions.