7 Tips For Dealing With Loneliness Over The Holidays
The holidays are upon us and the time of year when we're supposed to be feeling warmest and fuzziest is frequently when we're left feeling the most empty inside. Whether dealing with seasonal depression, grief over a death, a breakup, past trauma, family baggage, or any other kind of loss, it's hard to keep those feelings at bay with the huge emphasis on ~togetherness~ that's part and parcel of the holiday 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 so many people, and it can be easy to forget, when mired down in our own loneliness, that we're actually not alone in feeling it. Holiday blues are incredibly common; extroverts, who need more social engagement to decompress, can feel lonely since it seems like everyone else is hunkering down for winter, while introverts experience loneliness as a result social overwhelm.
But the good news is that self-care strategies abound, and there are plenty of things to try. 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. However, it can also be therapeutic. For many, acknowledging and practicing old holiday traditions can bring a sense of belonging and joy. But starting your own holiday tradition can also be a way to overcome loss and help curb your loneliness. 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." —Dr. Kristen Fuller, Center For Discovery
"It takes the focus away from what you feel you are lacking and creates a feeling of connection and purpose. Bonus: When you surround yourself with people who share similar values and interests, you never know who you might meet! Giving back also reinforces that you are making an impact on the world." —Jeannie Assimos, chief of advice at eHarmony
3. Surround Yourself With People & Tell Them How You Feel
"This is a big one because as much as you might want to isolate yourself, you need to push yourself to do the opposite. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. You don’t need to do this on your own. Do not keep the pain to yourself! Remember, you can take time to yourself, and you should at certain points, but a community is key." —Ricki Friedman, life coach
4. Spend Quality Time With Yourself
"This may not be the first thought people have when they're feeling lonely, but there are different causes of loneliness. Sometimes we miss some good old-fashioned alone time. As much as we need to be connected with other people, we also need to have that constant connection with ourselves. This is a good remedy for this time of year when there are an abundance of Christmas parties, family gatherings, and work responsibilities. The stress of all of these commitments can make you feel overwhelmed, which can also bring about feelings of loneliness. Maybe you feel no one understands, or you have just had enough of events and obligations. If you start having these overwhelming emotions, please don’t ignore them. Instead, decline as many invitations as you’d like, ask for help if you need it, and take time for yourself. Curl up on your couch with a cup of cocoa and turn on a holiday movie. And if that’s not your cup of tea, do whatever it is that soothes you — even if that includes doing absolutely nothing." —Chantel Cohen, therapist and life coach
5. Reach Out To People You've Lost Touch With
"Think about the friends you used to enjoy, but don't see often anymore. Use the holidays as a reason to ping them. If a phone call is too daunting, get the ball rolling with a text or email. If that feels too hard, mailing a hand-written note can feel satisfying too, without the emotional burden of an immediate interaction." —Helena Plater-Zyberk, co-founder of Supportiv
6. Lean Into Your Feelings All The Way Can Actually Help You Feel Better
"Often, the holidays create a sense of longing to be with those we love, and those we desire to love. From a mindfulness perspective, every emotion tells us something about our inner experience that might be informing our outer experience. Rumi wrote about how we should treat every emotion as a visitor, without looking to get rid of any of them, but to understand their message and purpose.
What Rumi alluded to was also recently confirmed by research indicating that well-being is actually predicated on having a wider range of emotions! Yes, the more you can feel, the better off you are. Perhaps during this holiday allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling: validate it, without judging it, without needing to change it. It doesn’t mean you have to like the feeling, but what can you learn from it if you just sat with it?" —Dr. Jennifer Wolkin, psychologist
7. Try To Avoid Dating Apps Or Jumping Into A New Relationship
"Holidays are tough for most. I always tell my clients to stay away from looking for relationships on apps or offline. 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." —Stef Safran, matchmaker
Above all, it's important to be gentle with yourself and 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.