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Loneliness during the holiday season

The streets radiate in the warmth of the shining lights blurring out any darkness looming in the frosty air. You can hear the happiness in people’s voices and feel the anticipation in the air of what is supposedly the most beautiful time of the year. Your heart desperately tries to grasp these merry feelings lingering everywhere your eyes rest, wanting nothing more than to fill the emptiness inside you. Yet, you feel more disconnected and lonely than at any other time of the year.

You might have lost someone, moved cities, don’t have anyone to spend the holidays with, or your mental health issues are preventing you from enjoying the holidays. There are plenty of reasons people feel lonely during this season. One important thing to remember is that there are many people who can relate to your feelings and are experiencing this exact same void. Because loneliness is not the same as being alone. You can feel lonely because you’re alone, but people can be surrounded by their family and friends over the holidays and still feel incredibly disconnected.

How to cope with it?

The first important step is to acknowledge your feelings. Feeling lonely means you’re human, because humans are social creatures, and we all yearn for connection. Acknowledging your feelings or your disappointment won’t erase them, but it might help you process them faster and lift a little weight from your shoulder. Fighting or suppressing your emotions takes up a lot of energy and can often make things worse. Labeling your feelings can help reduce the intensity of them. So, simply putting a name to loneliness helps your brain make sense of how you’re feeling, and that can help you to feel a little less lonely already. So, allow yourself to feel this way. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone feels lonely from time to time.

Show yourself some self-compassion. Self-compassion is about being kind to yourself and understanding that this is hard but a normal human experience that you are facing. Don’t judge your feelings, instead acknowledge that this can be a difficult time, and that it’s okay to feel lonely. Accept that the holidays may look different from what you expected or wished for. Remind yourself that you are not alone with these feelings, and that you can find comfort in your own heart. Essentially, loneliness is only a temporary feeling that will pass just like the cold season.

If you feel physically alone, reaching out to people might make you feel better. It could be calling someone instead of just texting them or inviting a friend over. Reaching out to people can sometimes be exhausting, especially when we're feeling sad or lonely. So, try to set a reminder for a certain time during your day or week to reach out to a few people. Choose a time when you usually feel energized and in the mood to be social. Even messaging back and forth with someone on a regular basis can make us feel more connected and less lonely.

In case you feel lonely even if you’re surrounded by people, it might be because you feel disconnected from yourself. You might want to think about an activity that doesn't involve other people but will help you deal with feeling lonely. Start making a list of things you enjoy doing by yourself, small things that make you feel better, such as taking a bath or buying yourself your favorite pastries. This way, you are creating a toolbox that you can open whenever you feel lonely. Just knowing that you have such a list might already make loneliness feel less scary for you. You now have an emergency plan in place, which gives you more control over the situation. You can keep adding things to the list, and explore your small moments of happiness. This act of planning for the future, known as proactive coping, can help improve resilience. Giving yourself things to look forward to and get excited about can help you cope with the lack of connection you might be feeling at the moment.

An act of kindness was also proven to make us feel less lonely. Kindness doesn’t cost anything yet the effect can be huge - it can help you to feel better and hopefully, make the day of the recipient a little brighter. It can be anything from calling someone and telling them you thought of them, supporting a homeless person, or smiling warmly at a person passing by. During the holiday season, there are a lot of volunteering possibilities, which allow you to meet other people, and more importantly your help will be greatly appreciated. These acts can create a sense of belonging, although you might not have any connection to that person. It will show you that you are not alone and can reduce your feelings of loneliness. The next time you feel lonely try an act of kindness and reflect on how it made you feel.

Maybe you could also change the narrative on what the holidays should be about - reset your expectations. Movies and commercials have shaped our ideas of what the holidays are supposed to be about, but it does not have to be your truth. Maybe it’s about catching up on things you weren’t able to do because of your daily schedule. Maybe it’s about learning to be alone and enjoying your own company. Try out different things to find out what lifts your spirit. Create your own holiday traditions. The holiday season can be about anything you want it to be.

The holiday season can be a challenging time for many people. So, remember it is okay to feel lonely around the holidays. Loneliness can mean different things, it could be about feeling alone but also about feeling disconnected from yourself. Yet, this feeling will go by just like the holiday season, because it is only one part of the year. There will be brighter days ahead.

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