The holidays can be a time of great joy and great sadness, loneliness, and stress. Some days may be better, which is okay; remember to take it one day at a time. The holidays are a time of appreciation, celebration, and togetherness. Some people, unfortunately, tend to isolate themselves over the holidays and have no desire to participate in the festivities.
What to Know About Loneliness During the Holidays
Holiday loneliness is genuine and can be a crippling feeling. It is something we see yearly- soldiers overseas, patients and staff in hospitals, foster children, and even animals in shelters. However, holiday loneliness spans much further than that. Think about the families celebrating their first holidays without a loved one, the people who have distant family, or the ones who have no family at all. Missing out on gatherings due to work or other obligations can make anyone feel lonely during the holidays. No longer carrying on old family traditions can have the same effect.
Loneliness around the holidays can impact anyone. The good thing about all of this is that it is entirely normal. It is okay to recognize loneliness around the holidays, and it is normal to be sad about the people you are missing or the activities you think you are missing. It may feel uncomfortable, but it is okay, and the feeling will pass, especially if you take the time to listen and respond (Verywell Mind, 2022).
Coping with Loneliness During the Holiday Season
There is no right or wrong way to deal with loneliness; you do what feels right at that moment. The most important thing you can do is to listen to your feelings. What is your heart telling you? If it says you need some time alone, take it. Give yourself that space and grace to be alone in your thoughts and feelings to acknowledge and validate them. If your heart says you need to talk to someone, find a safe person. Find someone you can count on to talk to, who will listen without judgment and support you in your time of need. Make it count whether you choose to spend time alone or among the ones you love. When the need to be alone arises, decide on a self-care activity, including fun things to do.
Go and get a massage, take yourself to your favorite restaurant, or stay in with a bubble bath and a good book. If you want more social interaction, spend the holidays with your loved ones. If that is not possible, find ways to give back to the community by volunteering at a soup kitchen or local animal shelter. No matter how you deal with holiday loneliness, ensure you are doing something for yourself that makes your heart happy.
Stress, Depression, and the Holidays
The holidays are a stressful time for everyone for different reasons. Shopping, long lines, and massive amounts of people everywhere can be overstimulating for some people. Adding seasonal depression to the mix, you can have a recipe for disaster. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, can cause depressive symptoms, including fatigue and extreme sadness, particularly during winter.
Seasonal depression is due to lower levels of sunlight resulting in less melatonin and serotonin produced by the body to increase sleep and boost mood (WebMD, 2021). The winter months can be challenging for most people due to shorter days and colder nights. Those with SAD have more difficulty coping with the season’s changing. They may experience higher rates of stress, lower levels of motivation, and an increased desire to isolate themselves from the world and sleep the winter away.
Pressure can improve these symptoms for those with SAD, and in turn, stress can heighten SAD symptoms. The holidays can positively impact those experiencing seasonal depression as they can present a glimmer of light during a dark time, even for a short time.
Tips for Coping with Loneliness During the Holidays
How do you enhance the light when it is so desperately needed? Here are some ways to get through the holiday season:
- Start new traditions or recreate old ones. Bake those cookies you used to make with your grandparents, watch your favorite Christmas movies, and string some popcorn to hang around the Christmas tree.
- Spend time with loved ones. Call your loved ones or see them if you can. Loved ones in heaven? Talk to them. Know that they are listening and always with you; you may even find that they will respond.
- Do something kind for someone, such as sending a Christmas card to a soldier overseas or a sick child. Buy a coffee for the person in front of you.
- Take time to take care of yourself. Self-care is always so important, but especially during this time. Remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup.
- Know that you are not alone. Many people experience depression and loneliness during the holidays.
There are many other ways to cope with feeling lonely around the holidays; these are just a few. Get creative with it and find some different ways to have fun.
Remember this: “in a world of grinches, be a Cindy Lou Who.”
Written by: Emily Shelton, LCPC, CADC, CRSS
At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff specializing in therapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic at (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.