There are a lot of expectations around the holiday season. Christmas commercials remind you that it’s the season to be with family and loved ones. Buy lavish gifts and enjoy the food and parties. When you’re dealing with grief, depression or another type of loss at the holidays, it can really put a damper on the season. Feeling lonely or isolated any time of the year is awful, but the holidays can compound those feelings, making them agonizing and unbearable.
If you’re already dreading the holidays, you can take steps to alleviate some of the burdens. It does mean you have to be proactive. Recognize that taking action might be scary. But the results could be very positive. When you’re lonely, you often underestimate how much your friends and family really care about you. It makes it even harder to reach out. What can you do to feel less alone and miserable?
Write Your Own Script
Turn off the holiday movies that present the perfect day. Even Thanksgiving dinners in the movies are over-rated. Seriously, how many times did your parents serve a perfectly cooked turkey on a platter that was exquisitely garnished? When it comes to your holiday plans, you can make it your own.
Forego the holiday hype. Ask another friend over for a quiet day. Cook what you really want to eat. Choose from your favorite comfort foods instead of sticking to the traditional meal. Your holiday doesn’t have to look like it’s out of a movie. It doesn’t even have to look like the holiday you had last year.
It can be scary to ask people if they want to hang out on the holiday, even when you’re feeling 100 percent. Consider that you aren’t the only person who is feeling alone. You may have friends whose plans fell through and who ended up being alone on the holiday.
Put it out on social media, “No plans for the holiday. MSG me if you want to hang out.” By asking for messages, you won’t embarrass anyone who is also feeling bad about being alone. Have a specific activity in mind, maybe two. People are more likely to respond when they know what you’re suggesting.
Build new relationships. Ask your pastor about people who are spending the holidays alone. Visit a friend who lives in a nursing home. Volunteer in a local organization. Offer to pet sit for someone who is going out of town. You can reach out without having to attend a party. You may have to take a risk, but you can do it.
Don’t get defeated. Loneliness and isolation can make you feel skeptical and pessimistic. You probably want to avoid further rejection. That’s understandable, but there’s no reward without risk. Start out by asking someone about their holiday plans. If they say they don’t have any, make a suggestion about what to do.
Own Your Decision
It’s okay to spend the holiday alone. But make sure that’s really what you want. When you feel lonely, you may feel even more disconnected when you’re in a crowd than you would if you had stayed home with a good book. The most important thing is to take care of yourself this season.
Keep These Resources Handy
The holidays aren’t easy when you’re dealing with grief, depression or any other mental illness. If you need help, these resources can provide support or direct you to help in your local community.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — Call 800-273-TALK (8255)
- NAMI HelpLine — Call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email firstname.lastname@example.org (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
When the holiday blues hit you, try to make a connection with a friend or family member. You are loved. It’s okay to feel lonely. But there’s no need to wallow in your misery.