Coping with feelings of loneliness can be especially hard during the holidays.
Everywhere you look, you’re bombarded with messages that you’re just not supposed to be alone at this time of year.
Hollywood movies paint idyllic pictures of holiday romance and “Leave it to Beaver” family moments.
Greeting cards arrive in your mailbox, featuring the highlights of other people’s perfect lives with their family trips, engagements, births, and great exciting vacations.
At the shopping mall you pass by strangers walking arm-in-arm with their kids and their lovers, fueling your projection that everyone has someone right now. . . everyone, that is, but you.
You start to wonder if it’s even possible to survive the holidays without being dragged down by loneliness.
Let me assure you there is a way and here are five tips to help you find it.
There is a way to cope with loneliness during the holiday season and here are five tips to help you find it. Click To Tweet
1. Begin by acknowledging the validity of your feelings.
It can be easy to dismiss your loneliness as selfishness or self-pity, but the truth is, you aren’t the only one who feels this way.
Nearly 50 percent of those in the U.S. and Canada report feeling lonely during the holidays.
Some are dealing with the loss of a loved one.
Others are separated from their friends and family.
Relationship and connection are placed on a giant pedestal at this time of year. This can leave some of us feeling a little “bullied” by loneliness simply because we can’t seem to escape it.
Luckily, you don’t need to hide under a rock to avoid this.
When you notice you’re struggling with feelings of loneliness, it’s important to acknowledge these feelings (rather than working overtime to push them down an invisible hole). When you admit that your feelings exist, you can start asking yourself the deeper questions associated with loneliness–the ones that will help you identify the solutions you need to work through it.
2. Resist the temptation to withdraw.
“You’re not wanted here.”
This is the go-to voice of loneliness, even if it’s not likely to be true.
Studies show that a lonely brain is not a reliable brain. During times of intense loneliness, our brain turns against us, making up stories to convince us that our greatest fears are actually true (e.g., My friends and family haven’t invited me to join them for dinner because they enjoy my company. They’ve invited me because they feel sorry for me.)
When you listen to the voice of loneliness, you get locked into its destructive cycle. To break that cycle, you need to sort your feelings according to authentic vs. inauthentic emotions. This will help you hone in on the underlying factors that are making matters worse.
If you’re tempted to withdraw, seek out one or two people you already feel connected to. Maybe it’s a friend or a crazy aunt. Make the effort to reach out to them to schedule a get-together. (Remember: Nearly half of us say we’re lonely during the holiday season. Statistics are on your side here! You’re likely to reach out to someone who feels the same sense of loneliness that you do.)
3. Do what you love.
A little self-indulgence is good for us, and loneliness this season is a perfectly acceptable time to splurge on yourself for a change. Here are four of my favorite ideas:
- Watch all the best movies. Most large theaters are open during the holidays, so consider creating your own film festival. Spend the day watching some of the best new releases.
- Attend a church service. Find one that is hosting a choral service or showcasing the talents of the children in its congregation.
- Enjoy a “favorites” day. Curl up with the book you’ve been ignoring since last Christmas, or find a local restaurant that’s open on Chrismas day. (Hint: Look for a restaurant at a large hotel. They’re usually open every day of the year and often offer a special holiday meal.)
- Reach out to friends or coworkers. If you know of others who might be spending the day alone, reach out to them and host a meal or plan to meet at a restaurant. Even if you just spend a few hours together, connecting with others will help derail the inauthentic emotions running roughshod through your heart and mind.
4. Help others.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is doing something for someone else.
- If you sing or play an instrument, nursing homes and assisted living communities are great places to put on a seasonal performance.
- If you love animals, shelters in your area may be looking for volunteers to walk dogs, play with cats, and provide on-call transport for stray animals and wildlife.
- Participate in fundraising events for your favorite charity or faith-based organization.
- And check your local newspaper or radio station for a list of other opportunities to volunteer.
5. Understand the difference between feeling and reality.
There is a big difference between feeling lonely and being alone. (I talk about that here.)
Loneliness is your reaction to the reality of being alone, and it often comes rushing in with harmful projections like, “I’ll be alone for the rest of my life,” or “There must be something wrong with me.”
If you want to step out of your debilitating loneliness, you have to create enough space between your emotional reaction and your reality.
- You may be alone right now, but it doesn’t mean you are inherently flawed.
- You may be alone right now, but it doesn’t mean this is your fate.
- You may be alone right now, but it doesn’t mean no one wants to be around you.
When you quiet the negative narrative in your mind, you can start to see your reality with greater clarity in the present moment. And when you make space to see and acknowledge the facts of your situation, rather than your projections, you can start to see ways of moving beyond the often paralyzing feelings associated with loneliness.
This holiday season, it may not be possible to escape your feelings of loneliness, but it’s absolutely possible to work through these emotions.
Whatever you do, don’t wait until the day is upon you. Make a plan and start putting it into motion today.
Take good care : )