Causes of Loneliness
A few things that can contribute to loneliness during this season include:
Elderly people who cannot be with family.
Single parents whose children are spending the holidays with their other parent.
The loss of a loved one.
Divorce or separation.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a depression brought on by the change in the season to winter.
Those who are struggling from an existing mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety.
Struggling with finances or debt during this time can also lead to withdrawal and the feeling of being alone.
Being around toxic or difficult family members is not good company, and can also heighten feelings of loneliness and otherness.
Seeing the excessive cheer and joy of holiday propaganda everywhere and all over media can enhance your feelings of loneliness and disconnect. There is so much emphasis on togetherness and being with family. You may avoid social gatherings because you are not able to get into the ‘spirit of the season.’ We are overwhelmed by the way we should be spending the holiday.
Scrolling through social media can enhance your feelings of loneliness. A lot of it, especially around Christmas time, will be filled with images of people celebrating, with family, friends, etc. While most of what people share is just the good parts, it is unhealthy to get taken up by it.
Think about what your expectations for the holidays are. Be realistic about what you can participate in this season.
Whatever the cause of your loneliness, it is valid and can be difficult to cope with during the holidays.
Ways to Cope
One of the ways to alleviate your loneliness is to seek the company of other people. You can decide who you see, in what setting, and for how long. If it gets too much for you, just a little social interaction can help you feel better. Remember to spend time with people who make you feel welcome. If you know of someone else who will be alone this Christmas, considering reaching out to them.
Create Your Own Traditions
You can create some traditions of your own that you can do by yourself. Maybe this involves writing and mailing out holiday cards – a truly novel activity in this day of email and WhatsApp. You could also spend some time on video-calls to friends and family.
Spend Time Outside
Try to spend some time out of the house. If you live in a cold climate, it may be a bit tricky to find an outdoor activity that is comfortable. Instead, you could visit a museum, volunteer somewhere, go to the theatre, etc. You can also find out about holiday-related events in your community or neighborhood.
Look After Yourself
Having time to yourself is healthy and restful. However, if isolation continues for an extended time, it can cause depressive symptoms. When feeling lonely and blue, it is easy to fall into unhealthy patterns. As always, self-care is important and can make a big difference towards improving how you feel. Try sleeping and waking at regular times. Eat at regular times and eat healthy. Engage in some sort of physical activity for at least 20 minutes a day. Do a hobby or start up a new one. Spend time outdoors. Buy something nice for yourself that you can enjoy especially this season. This could be some comfy socks and fluffy slippers. Or a cozy blanket and those books that you have been meaning to read.
Finally, there is gratitude. This is talked about a lot and dropped in everywhere. But there is a reason why the practice of gratitude is given so much air time – it works. Spending a few minutes every day in a grateful state has amazing benefits for your mental and emotional wellbeing. It takes you out of a mindset that operates from lack and comparison. It shifts you into an inner space of abundance and openness. It makes you increasingly aware of the good that is in your life. Gratitude therefore also enables you to better handle adversity.
New Year’s Eve
There is also pressure to do something memorable and huge on New Year’s Eve. This is another societal construct and adds pressure. Think about how you really would like to spend New Year’s. Are there certain people you would like to see? Is there somewhere you would like to go? Would you enjoy spending it at home? Reflect on what you want to do and why you want to do it. Go with the choice that makes you feel good. Decide on something that makes you look forward to New Year’s. Feeling lonely at the turn of a new year is normal. You are not the only one that feels this way.
New Year’s is also a time when we may think about where we are and where we had hoped to be. We put the pressure of new year resolutions on ourselves and tell ourselves that this time we will be different. How about we change our thinking about ourselves? Instead of focusing on what we have not done or what we should have done, we can focus on what we have achieved. Give yourself credit for the struggles you overcame in the last year. Take the time to appreciate the areas where you have grown and what you have learnt.
Reach Out for Support
There is a stigma around spending the holidays alone. You do not need to conform to cookie cutter societal expectations. Ultimately, you need to do what feels good to you.
If you feel you need some extra support this holiday season, remember that you are not alone. Reach out to mental health services for help. Depression therapy or talk therapy can help alleviate your heavy feelings and give you tools to cope. Trust Mental Health has a team of therapists from diverse backgrounds, and that are multilingual. We also offer online/virtual therapy. Contact us for a free 15 minute consultation. We will match you with a therapist best suited to your specific needs.