While the holidays are often credited as the ‘happiest time of the year’, they may not always feel that way to you. Particularly if you are distanced from your family and friends, either by circumstance or choice, or if you experienced a loss, feeling festive may be a tall order. Many people report feeling lonely and sad during the month of December, and that’s okay. At Native, we are here to help you work through your emotions, provide solutions and help, and most of all, validate that your feelings are normal.
Here are some effective ways to deal with loneliness during the holiday season:
Embrace how you feel.
First things first: give yourself some grace for feeling lonely. We often try to brush these thoughts and experiences under the rug for fear of being judged. While being lonely is an uncomfortable feeling, it also gives us a clue into our mental state. Lean into it, and try to see what you can learn from the emotions. Try journaling as a way to process loneliness. You may be surprised by what clues into your psyche you unearth from this simple, timeless practice.
Make a plan.
One of the reasons you may experience anxiety or depression during the holidays can be from a lack of control. Perhaps you’d love to see your family, but you can’t afford the plane ticket home, or you can’t take the time away from work. Maybe you want to join in the traditions you grew up loving, but something feels off this year. Creating a game plan to tackle these feelings can put you back in the driver’s seat when you’re feeling this way. You can do this by creating a list of people or activities that bring you joy or even strategizing what gatherings you’ll RSVP to and which ones you will skip. These proactive measures all provide some comfort and may even boost your confidence.
Readjust your expectations.
A big component of loneliness during the holidays is due to sky-high expectations that are impossible to meet. When you apply this amount of pressure on your celebrations and experiences, both with yourself and others, you can be left feeling disappointed. To help create a happier season, try your best to be realistic and practice forgiveness. If the cookies aren’t just-right, it’s okay. If you don’t get a chance to deep-clean every part of your house before guests arrive, they won’t mind. Take a breath, listen to your body, and move forward.
Be around people if you can.
If you lost a loved one this year, the holidays may feel emptier and less vibrant than ever before. The lack of their presence can be felt in every tradition, each meal, and even as you go through your shopping gift list. Rather than being around others, you may be tempted to hide away at home, away from everyone. While taking those moments of solitude can be beneficial, it’s helpful to spend some time around others, if you can muster the courage.
Maybe it’s a coffee with a close friend who wouldn’t mind keeping you company while you sit in silence. Or a family member who would happily take a walk down memory lane with you. Even if you walk around a park where you pass by strangers, it will help battle loneliness since it puts you in nature and reduces feelings of isolation.
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Finding parts of your life that you’re thankful for can be a tough task when you’re feeling lonely. It’s easier to continue in the tumbleweed of negative thoughts, but an attitude of gratitude can turn around your healing process. When you’re feeling down this holiday season, take the time to sit down and make a list of the big and small things you’re grateful to have. This can be your circle of friends, your job, your furry companion, your beloved fleece wool blanket, a warm mug of tea, or even sunshine on a cold day. Over time, add to this collection, and read it when you are feeling sad.
Resist social media.
It’s human nature to compare ourselves to other people, but there’s a danger in trying to live up to the Joneses on social media. Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and all other platforms provide a disoriented view of reality that’s inaccurate and highly edited. When we’re feeling lonely, simply seeing photos of smiling, happy families or newly engaged couples can worsen our feelings. Instead, stay away from these platforms, and turn to feel-good movies and books, a bubble bath, or other self-care rituals that nourish your body and mind.
Talk to a therapist.
At Native, we help each patient find personalized mental health solutions that work for their individual needs and lifestyle — during the holidays and always.
If you’re in Pennsylvania, Native would be happy to be a part of your mental health care team and help you decide which solutions to battle loneliness and depression are best for you based on your individual needs and goals. To learn more about all of the mental health services we provide, click here.