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Facing Loneliness During the Holidays

Whether or not you've chosen to spend the holidays alone, here are our tips for addressing loneliness during this time.
Red and gold christmas tree ball ornament. Facing Loneliness During the Holidays blog from Evoke Mind + Body Wilmington, NC

By Savannah Mullis

Lighting the Christmas tree, opening advent calendars, decorating gingerbread houses, and building snowmen are some of the heartwarming traditions associated with the holiday season. Most of these activities are connected to traditions loved ones have passed down, but what about people who spend holidays alone for one reason or another? Whether being alone was a choice or not, loneliness can be difficult to navigate during the holidays. Loneliness can be experienced in many forms during the holidays and throughout the year, for that matter. Let’s explore the presence of loneliness during the holiday season and ways to support yourself. 

How Loneliness May Show Up

First things first: let’s define and differentiate being alone versus feeling lonely. 

Being alone is just that: physically in a space with no one else. Being alone (or even mentioning it or seeing someone else alone) can create a level of discomfort in our lives that may perpetuate feelings of loneliness, especially during the holidays when an additional desire to be involved in social events and interactions can be present. The feeling of loneliness does not hold the same permanence as being alone; feelings can be redirected and changed.

Reasons You Might Feel Loneliness During the Holidays

Traveling

Whether it be in the sky or on the highway, traveling is common during the holidays. It comes with its own personal bundle of barriers that may limit people from being able to see their loved ones. The cost to fly is more expensive during the holidays, and gas can also be a financial burden when traveling long distances. Traveling demands a sizeable amount of time for planning and packing which can be difficult to sacrifice. Not to mention, weather delays and the other many airport complications. Traveling isn’t always suitable for everyone.  

Grieving Loved Ones

Missing family members and loved ones can be especially challenging during the holiday season. It can introduce and invite a lot of those lonely feelings when missing someone who is no longer here. To combat this, honoring them and creating traditions in their absence can be a way to reframe your thoughts. Instead of dreading their passing, there can be positive anticipation of celebrating them another time in the year. ➝ For more information on this topic, click here.

Upholding Boundaries

Traveling and grieving are mostly out of your control, but what about when you choose to not see the people you typically spend the holidays with? It is okay to feel lonely even when it is your choice to be alone. Boundaries can be set for a multitude of reasons. Maintaining established boundaries can be difficult during the holiday season when connection can be so desirable and family expectations were previously set. It is essential to remind yourself how relationships without healthy boundaries do not serve you. In other words, can these relationships bring you peace, and how important is it for you to protect your peace? 

Tips for Combating Loneliness by Supporting Yourself

So the question remains: how can you support yourself? Acknowledging your emotions is important because ignoring your feelings could have some adverse effects. It’s just as important to not sit in those feelings, but instead capitalize on your time. Here are a few options for exploring the proverbial silver lining to spending the holidays in your own way. 

Expand on Solitude

Plan a day trip. That cute little beach town you’ve always wanted to explore? Head there and find out for yourself what is so charming about it. Or check out that state park you’ve always wanted to hike. (This is a two-for-one, as you will not only pass your time in a fun way, but you will also connect with nature.)

Help Others

You can always decide to minimize feelings of loneliness by serving others. This may look like volunteering for a local organization or even picking up shifts at work. These can be ways to get out and about if that’s what you desire while simultaneously helping others.

Make New Traditions

Think about some new traditions you may like to incorporate. Traditions build resiliency, so why not think about a couple of things you might like to do and carry into your yearly celebrations? 

Reach Out to Friends

You may be surprised to learn that many people spend holidays alone, but the only way to know is to ask. Finding fellow friends who are available during this time can help minimize feelings of loneliness. 

If traveling is the barrier to being with loved ones, technology can be helpful. Utilizing video call platforms such as Zoom, Skype, or Facetime can maintain connection without traveling the distance. Use technology to stay connected instead of as a form of escape or furthering feelings of loneliness. 

Take the Time for Rest

The holidays can be strenuous on our well-being because of the hyperactive spaces the holidays create. For most people, operating at the fullest capacity with minimal downtime is common during this time of year. Rest is a great way to take advantage of spending the holidays on your own. This could be catching up on sleep, especially since our bodies crave more rest during the winter months. The key is to ensure that sleep is not an escape from how you are feeling.

You don’t have to be sleeping or lying down to be resting. Rest is anything that fills your cup; this could be deep cleaning, reading, or watching your favorite TV show. Resting looks different for everyone and is defined by whatever recharges you, whether that’s in stillness or movement. 

Avoid Making Comparisons

You may have heard that “comparison is the thief of joy.” I couldn’t agree more! If seeing others’ holiday shenanigans on social media or hearing about it around the office is causing more harm than good, it’s okay to disconnect from it. We can simultaneously be happy that people are enjoying themselves and get a little case of FOMO. Acceptance of your current situation is the goal: the more you can embrace your own journey, the more fulfillment you will find in it. (This is true of other times of the year, but I digress.) Which brings us to…

Pass on (Unfulfilling) Social Environments

I recently heard someone refer to “JOMO: the JOY of missing out,” and I couldn’t relate to anything more. Sometimes, we crave rest even when presented with opportunities to spend time with others. It’s okay to politely decline or leave if you find yourself in a situation you’d rather not be in. Conversely, don’t automatically dismiss social invitations.

Sometimes we feel as though we don’t want to go to an event or holiday gathering, but we can find ourselves having a good time even if we were originally dreading the event. I know you are asking, “But how can it be both? Do I go to the party or do I stay home?” The answer is this: do what will bring you the most enjoyment. There’s a distinction between avoiding an event because you want to avoid other humans and skipping it because it won’t bring you joy. The behavior may look the same, but the motivation will be very different. 

We Are Here for You

During the holiday season, it’s important to acknowledge how you are feeling and proceed accordingly. Honoring whatever or whomever it is that you may have lost, determining what is best for yourself, and being intentional about how you spend the holidays will ultimately keep those feelings of loneliness at bay and help you embrace being alone in the most fulfilling way possible. Who knows? You may grow to love this new way of celebrating the holidays. 

If feelings of loneliness are looming or bothersome, we are here to help this holiday season and all year long. You are never truly alone in this world, as we are all part of the human experience. We would love the opportunity to support you in your journey!

Contact the Evoke Mind + Body team to learn more.

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