The holidays are upon us, and the time of year when you're supposed to be feeling warmest and fuzziest can often be when you feel the most empty. Whether dealing with seasonal depression, grief, or not being home for the holidays, it's hard to keep those feelings at bay with the emphasis on ~togetherness~ that's part and parcel of the season. These tips on how to deal with loneliness over the holidays are a useful starting point for figuring out ways to cope, whether it be through distraction, processing feelings with patience, or coming up with creative ways to meet new people.
"This holiday season, I am dealing with the loss of my grandmother and coping with loneliness by spending extra time with my girlfriends, along with retail therapy," Je'Coven, 26, tells Bustle. "I also have a journal that has gotten me through the nights that have been harder to cope with."
The reality is that this time of year is incredibly difficult for many people. It can be easy to forget that we're actually not alone in feeling lonely or sad. But self-care strategies for dealing with loneliness over the holidays abound. Here are some places experts suggest starting.
1. Start A New Holiday Tradition That's Just For You
"It can be sad to reminisce on old holiday traditions if you have lost a loved one," Dr. Kristen Fuller, M.D., from the eating disorder treatment organization Center for Discovery tells Bustle. "However, it can also be therapeutic." For many people, she says, acknowledging and practicing old holiday traditions can bring a sense of belonging and joy. But starting anew with a holiday tradition just for yourself can help you overcome loss. "Coming up with a new holiday tradition can be a great way to get in the holiday spirit while starting a new beginning for yourself." Whether it's seeing a movie on Christmas Eve or baking a feast for yourself, it's a chance to revel in what you really love.
Volunteering during the holidays does good for the community and for your own health. "It takes the focus away from what you feel you are lacking and creates a feeling of connection and purpose," Jeannie Assimos, chief of advice at eHarmony, tells Bustle. "Giving back also reinforces that you are making an impact on the world." And you never know who you'll meet. Sign up for soup kitchens, virtual phone banks, food delivery services, gift drives, or other holiday programs to spread a little love.
3. Surround Yourself With People & Tell Them How You Feel
Find those people who really connect with you, and give them your attention during the holiday season. "As much as you might want to isolate yourself, you need to push yourself to do the opposite," life coach Ricki Friedman tells Bustle. "Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. You don’t need to do this on your own." If you need to take time to yourself then you should, she says, but recognize that you're a social being with love to give to those around you.
4. Spend Quality Time With Yourself
At the end of the day, your best friend should be yourself — and the holidays are a good time to invest in your own company. "As much as we need to be connected with other people, we also need to have that constant connection with ourselves," therapist Chantel Cohen tells Bustle. The crush of holiday social commitments, paradoxically, can make you feel even more alone and stressed. "If you start having these overwhelming emotions, please don’t ignore them," Cohen says. "Instead, decline as many invitations as you’d like, ask for help if you need it, and take time for yourself." She suggests doing self-soothing activities that work for you, whether it's taking in a Netflix series, making a cup of tea, or just doing — nothing.
5. Reach Out To People You've Lost Touch With
Get out the old address book and look up your old mates. "Think about the friends you used to enjoy, but don't see often anymore," Helena Plater-Zyberk, co-founder of online support network Supportiv, tells Bustle. "Use the holidays as a reason to ping them." Social media, text, email, even a handwritten note can be a good way to start the ball rolling.
6. Lean Into Your Feelings
Try not to push away your emotions around the holidays. "From a mindfulness perspective, every emotion tells us something about our inner experience that might be informing our outer experience," psychologist Jennifer Wolkin, PhD. tells Bustle. "Research indicates that well-being is actually predicated on having a wider range of emotions! Yes, the more you can feel, the better off you are." She says that during the holiday season, you should give yourself permission to feel whatever comes over you. Don't judge it or try to change it; simply observe it and sit with it.
7. Try To Avoid Dating Apps Or Jumping Into A New Relationship
Now isn't the time to go all-out looking for a holiday romance. "I always tell my clients to stay away from looking for relationships on apps or offline during the holidays," matchmaker Stef Safran tells Bustle. "Spend time with people who are less fortunate by doing something charitable; it will take your mind off of yourself, even if only for a few hours."
Above all, it's important to remember that you're doing your best during a notoriously stressful time. There's nothing inherently wrong with feeling lonely, and while it can be an unpleasant experience, riding out the wave of your feelings will always land you on other side eventually.
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