The holidays are meant to be the most wonderful time of the year. But what if it's not? This time of the year we hold onto high expectations. We want everything to go well, we want to be happy and enjoy ourselves, but when that doesn't happen we can be left feeling disheartened, and isolated. There is a very prevalent expectation to be happy and joyful, even when we really don't feel like it.
For many, the holidays can be filled with loneliness, discomfort, and grief. Some may be experiencing Christmas without a loved one for the first time, family dysfunction, health concerns or maybe it's their first year abroad, away from the comforts of home.
Facts about loneliness you might not know.
One. Loneliness can impact anyone. It’s not just the old or the single. Even those who are surrounded by other people can feel the effects of loneliness. But how? When we feel like we have no one to turn to or talk to in times of need or crisis it’s a clear indication of loneliness.
Two. In order to combat loneliness we need to think about our true connections in life. Talking to someone you live with or work with won’t automatically make you feel less alone. Especially not if the relationship is casual. How we connect on a personal level is different to everyone, but for some it’s as simple as a video chat with a good mate, or a time spent on the phone with beloved family members. If you feel able to open up and talk about your loneliness (among other things) then the relationship automatically becomes one built on trust and love rather than necessity.
Three. Talking to people online or over the phone can help just as much as a face-to-face meeting.
5 Ways to cope with loneliness during the holidays.
1. Stay in touch.
If you’re feeling lonely, talk about it. Tweet it if you use Twitter. If you happen to be with people you trust, tell them how you’re feeling and what you need to help reduce the feelings of loneliness.
I’m lucky I’m able to spend a portion of my day with my partner, but I know this year is going to be lonelier than others. I know I’m going to have to reach out to him and others this year more than any other. That’s okay though. That’s why those people are there. So, take advantage and talk it out.
If you find yourself alone this year due to travel bans or lockdown restrictions, why not set up a Zoom call so you can all eat dinner together (virtually)?
2. It’s perfectly fine to want to be alone.
Sometimes all we want is solitude. Although we might be feeling lonely, being with others might not necessarily make it better. In fact, it could make it worse for a variety of reasons. Don’t let yourself feel pressured into saying ‘yes’ to invitations from friends and family. If you want to kick back on the couch with a movie, a box of chocolates and a cup of tea, then do so. Maybe you would rather go for a hike or a blissful walk in the snow? You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, especially not on Christmas.
Although it might be difficult to volunteer in person this year, it’s still possible to volunteer with various helplines and online services. Helping others can be very rewarding and can help reduce feelings of loneliness. I’m not entirely certain why but by listening to someone who might also be feeling the pressure of the holiday season, we can empathise and therefore reduce our own feelings of loneliness.
4. Celebrate online.
Much like staying in touch virtually, there are a variety of places to celebrate online. If you’re anything like me you have a multitude of people on the world wide web who would be more than happy to spend the day chatting online. Arrange a group of other like minded people to spend the day with. If you’re into gaming online, why not spend Christmas raiding dungeons or exploring fantasy lands?
5. Do something different.
This could be the year you create new traditions that are much more suited to the 21st century lifestyle. Embrace it!
You don't have to put up your tree or sit down to dinner. Nor do you have to follow the same old traditions passed down through generations. Although some people may find it comforting to act out rituals from years gone by, others might find it too difficult due to the absence of loved ones.
This year (2020) will go down as one of the strangest and most confusing years in our lifetime. Many families will be separated from loved ones during the holidays due to lockdown, travel restrictions and some may even have lost loved ones throughout the year. No matter your circumstances, there's no denying that Christmas is going to be very different.
While you may be grieving for what you've lost this year, it might also be a good opportunity to practice different traditions. Perhaps you could video call with your loved ones over lunch, visit the grave of a relative and place a wreath, or arrange a Christmas quiz night for all the family! Christmas doesn't have to be about a tree or presents or joyfulness. It can just be like any other day but with chocolate for breakfast.