How To Cope With Loneliness During The Holidays

The holiday season is hustling, bustling, and busy. However, if you are struggling with loneliness during the holiday season, your experience might be quite the opposite. Loneliness During The Holidays

For people dealing with loneliness – whether it’s a random bout of transient loneliness brought on by a specific event or chronic loneliness that’s been happening for a while – seeing the excitement of the holiday season going on around them can be incredibly isolating.

If you struggle with loneliness during the holiday season, it is possible to cope with it and move through this time in a positive and productive way. 

5 Reasons People Have Such A Difficult Time With Loneliness During The Holidays

There are a variety of reasons why a person may especially struggle with loneliness during the holiday season.

1| They are going through the holidays without friends and/or family members who would normally be there to celebrate with them. 

Over the months leading up to the holiday season, if a person has lost someone close and special to them, the idea of celebrating the holidays normally can feel impossible. During a time when friendship and family bonding is so important, the idea of going through holiday celebrations and rituals without them can feel empty and meaningless, causing feelings of loneliness. 

2| They are having to celebrate the holiday season away from the people they love most. 

Whether it’s due to travel issues or schedule conflicts, sometimes people cannot actually get home to celebrate the holidays with their loved ones. When they know their family and friends are celebrating and they aren’t going to be able to be a part of it, they can develop some serious loneliness.

3| They are trying to live up to seriously high holiday season expectations. 

There can be a lot of stress surrounding creating the “perfect” holiday season experience. If a person runs themselves ragged trying to get every single detail of their holidays perfect, they can feel let down and lonely when those incredibly high expectations inevitably don’t get met. 

During one of the busiest times of the year, it is understandable that some plans won’t go exactly as desired and trying to cling to every last detail of that perfect image can lead to a lot of loneliness and depression.

4| They feel like they are isolated from everyone else who seems to be having a super fun and enjoyable holiday season. 

Some people get very lonely during the holiday season because they believe everyone else is having a great time without them. 

For example, they may see tons of people on social media posting pictures from holiday parties, and seeing all these people having fun while they are at home can make them feel like they are missing out on the enjoyment because they don’t have anywhere to go or anyone with whom they can celebrate.

5| They also struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). 

Some people tend to experience higher instances of depression during the winter months. This condition, called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is linked to the winter months because this translates to less daytime hours, colder temperatures, and less exposure to sunlight, which can cause some people to feel incredibly depressed. When you compound SAD with the holiday season, a person can experience serious loneliness.

3 Negative Effects Of Holiday Season Loneliness 

Experiencing loneliness during the holiday season can negatively affect a person in a few different ways. Whether they get lonely specifically during the holidays or their loneliness intensifies during the holiday season, it can cause some serious issues. 

1| Feeling lonely can affect your ability to sleep. 

Loneliness can create some serious interruptions to your sleep cycle. You may find yourself struggling to stay asleep through the night, feeling unable to fall asleep, or even sleeping way too much. Being caught in a poor sleep cycle can cause other issues to form and make loneliness feel even worse.

2| Feeling lonely can result in poor brain function. 

When you feel lonely, you also feel stressed out. This is especially true during the holiday season; you may experience stress at the idea of missing celebrations or not being included with others. This stress causes the release of extra cortisol into your body, which can make it difficult to focus and concentrate. 

Cortisol is produced in response to a perceived threat, as it is designed to help the body react when it is in a stressful situation – however, if you get tons of extra cortisol pumping through your body, it can negatively impact your brain function.

3| Feeling lonely can impact your overall physical health. 

Loneliness already takes a great mental toll, but it can also negatively affect physical health, too. People who experience chronic, long lasting loneliness are at greater risk of developing dementia, strokes, heart disease, depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies, to name a few.

15 Strategies For Coping With Loneliness During The Holidays 

If you are struggling with loneliness during the holiday season, consider these tips to make this time of the year feel a little easier and less isolating. 

1| Keep yourself busy. 

A great way to cope with loneliness during the holiday season is to keep yourself busy. For example, the holidays might be a good time to pick up a new hobby or learn a new skill. If you have thought about adopting a pet, consider doing it during the holidays so you have extra time to get them adjusted to their new home and bond with them. Keeping yourself busy will help distract yourself from the holiday season and focus on something else more enjoyable.

2| Consider volunteering somewhere in your community where your help is needed.

The holiday season is often a time of great need in your local community. For example, toy drives, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and beyond likely see an influx of folks needing their assistance, and this means they need more volunteers to keep up with the demand. 

Consider signing up to help. The volunteering work will not only keep you busy and get you talking with other volunteers, but you’ll also give back to your local community in a helpful and meaningful way when they need it most.

3| Try to avoid or ignore holiday advertising. 

Holiday advertisements are often the picture-perfect, Hallmark-movie-ideal image of what the holidays should look like. It’s important to remember that these images are highly inflated and difficult to actually obtain in real life – they are the picturesque images of perfection. However, if seeing holiday advertising sends you into a loneliness spiral, do your best to ignore them altogether.

4| Have a plan to tackle tough feelings during the holiday season before it starts.

Before the holiday season settles in, work on a game plan to initiate if the feelings of loneliness become too strong. For example, you may have a plan to call a family member when you’re feeling exceptionally low and need to lift your spirits. 

You may request an extra session with your therapist or counselor. Regardless of what you do, having a plan in place can help you ease into the holiday season a little easier.

5| Find opportunities to spend time around other people – even if you aren’t actually spending time specifically with them.

Simply being around other people – even if you aren’t actually interacting with them – is a good way to alleviate feelings of loneliness. 

For example, if you normally work from home, consider taking your laptop to the public library or a busy coffee shop during your work time. Being around the hustle of other people can help you feel a little less lonely.

6| Spend some time each day practicing gratitude. 

It is easy to feel lonely during the holiday season when it seems like everyone else has a lot more than you. Rather than wishing you had the lives those other people have, spend some time each day being grateful for what you do have in your life.

Often, feelings of loneliness can cloud your ability to appreciate what is already in your life. Taking time to recognize it and appreciate it can help banish feelings of loneliness.

7| Remind yourself that loneliness is a temporary state – not a “forever feeling.”

The holiday season – and the loneliness that may surround it for you – is not a permanent state. Eventually, the holiday parties stop, the decorations get put away, and regular life resumes once again. Remember that feeling lonely during this particular time of the year is not going to last forever, and emotions like loneliness are temporary.

8| Build some meaningful rituals that honor people you may be missing during the holiday season.

A common reason for feeling lonely around the holiday season is the absence of loved ones who are no longer with you. If you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one during the holiday season, consider building some new rituals or traditions to celebrate them during this time. 

For example, you can visit their favorite places or cook their favorite meal. Doing these special activities can make them feel closer and alleviate some of the loneliness, even if they aren’t actually there with you.

9| Keep your social media scrolling to a minimum. 

Seeing all the happy, excited holiday posts on social media can give you the fear of missing out (FOMO) like nothing else. It’s important to set aside your smartphone and log out of social media during the holiday season, especially if loneliness is a problem for you. Instead of wishing you could spend time with others and have the same kind of holiday experience, focus on yourself and your own needs.

10| Embrace unconventional ways of celebrating the holidays, especially if you can’t celebrate your normal ways. 

If you aren’t going to be able to celebrate the holiday season how you normally would, don’t let the loneliness settle in – instead, find some unconventional ways to celebrate.

 For example, if traveling is going to make going home for your family’s holiday party impossible, try video calling them to “join in” instead. While these alternatives may not be quite the same as the “real deal,” it can help you still feel like a part of the merriment and fun.

11| Get comfortable with whatever specifically triggers your loneliness around the holiday season.

Many people experience an onset of loneliness when they encounter a specific trigger. For example, were you feeling totally fine until you walked past a group of carolers in your neighborhood? 

Identify what exactly causes your loneliness to begin – these details may give you more insight into why you are feeling lonely and what you can do to remedy those feelings. 

12| Rethink what your expectations are for the holiday season. 

Many people enter the holiday season with lots of big visions and high hopes. Everyone wants their holiday season to look like a picture-perfect image of holiday happiness. 

However, it’s important to recognize that entering anything with incredibly, impossibly high standards is a recipe for a letdown – especially during such a chaotic and busy time of the year! 

Instead of maintaining these crazy high expectations for the “perfect” holiday season, focus on enjoying everything in the moment and actually experiencing what is happening around you. You’ll experience far less loneliness and disappointment that way. 

13| Remember that feeling lonely during the holiday season is very common. 

It may feel like everyone in the world is having the “best holiday season ever,” but it is important to remember that it isn’t true. There are many other people all over who are experiencing loneliness and other difficult feelings during the holiday season just like you are. 

Remembering that your experience isn’t strange at all, and that other people know exactly how you are feeling, can be a great comfort when you’re feeling low. 

14| Find small ways to connect with others. 

Even if you can’t spend as much time with your loved ones or friends as you would like during the holiday season, you can find other small ways to connect with others. Make a point to say hello to your neighbors, send out some holiday greeting cards, and call some old friends you haven’t spoken to recently. These small acts will help lift your spirits during the holiday season. 

15| Stay away from using substances or other unhealthy coping mechanisms to soothe yourself

When you’re feeling lonely, turning toward vices such as alcohol, drugs, excessive spending, and other forms of unhealthy coping mechanisms may seem like a good way to take the edge off your emotions. 

While these methods may give you some temporary reprieve, it is important to remember that they have long lasting negative effects – your temporary state of seasonal loneliness is not worth overspending or overindulging in any chosen coping mechanism. 

The Bottom Line

Feeling lonely during the holiday season can be challenging, but it is possible to cope with it and manage those difficult emotions in a positive and productive way. 

Despite the holidays being heralded as the “most wonderful time of the year,” it is okay to have a less-than-enjoyable view of the season. Not all people experience the holiday season or loneliness the same way, and it is possible to take good care of yourself with some coping strategies if the holiday season is a lonely time for you.