I’ll be alone this holiday season, but I know I’m not alone in this reality. By alone, I mean that I have no plans to spend any time with any of my friends or family which, as I’ve gotten older, has become the norm for me. I am a divorced mom who splits major holidays with my ex-husband, so I only spend Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve with my son every other year. I am single with no romantic prospects, so I won’t be snuggled up with anyone special. And my friends, most of whom live in other states, all have plans to spend time with their families; my own relationships with my family members are sparse and tenuous at best.
It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the loneliness of it all but I’ve figured out some ways to navigate the season without succumbing to sadness. If you can relate to my situation, here are some ways to manage holiday loneliness and come out better in the new year.
Plan ahead and focus on surrounding yourself with things that uplift your spirits like warm fragrances, holiday decor, and some of your favorite holiday foods.
First, you have to sit with the idea of being by yourself. I actually enjoy alone time and look forward to it; the demands of the work I do often mean traveling a lot and being around a lot of people, so I cherish my downtime. I enjoy going to the movies and dinner by myself so I often end up doing these things during the holidays.
It takes some of us longer to reach a point of being content to spend time with ourselves, however, so if it is more difficult for you, it’s totally normal. It’s okay to be sad about it, so allow yourself time to let the tears flow and process the frustration. If you live with depression or experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, this time of year can trigger symptoms that are difficult to manage. Plan ahead and focus on surrounding yourself with things that uplift your spirits like warm fragrances, holiday decor, and some of your favorite holiday foods. If possible, schedule an extra session with your therapist and talk about how the season is making you feel and get some tips for managing those emotions.
If you’d rather not be alone, think about why you’re going to be by yourself and if there is anything you could do to change it. Have you reached out to your family to reconcile whatever difficulties exist? Holidays bring about feelings of forgiveness and now might be the perfect time to resolve lingering tensions. If money is the issue, have you asked anyone for help? It’s a season filled with the spirit of giving and many are feeling even more generous, so swallow your pride and reach out. Maybe your friends have extra room at their tables or family gatherings but you won’t know if you don’t ask. I’m pretty bad at this, so I get why it might feel uncomfortable. Do it anyway.
If you live in or near a large city that has major holiday celebratory events, put them in your calendar. I absolutely love going to Christmas villages and festivals. You can pick up some sweet gifts to send to others or for yourself. I try to get a nice cup of hot chocolate or some mulled wine and walk around. Seeing children light up with joy and wonder does so much for my spirit. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, it’s hard to resist carolers and your favorite holiday songs, so just spend a few hours losing yourself in the moment. Most of these festivals are free to attend, so even if you’re low on funds, you can have a great time.
While we should all try to give of ourselves throughout the year as much as possible, the holidays provide more opportunities to do so because organizations open their doors to receive help.
Going to a holiday party or concert by yourself is a great way to get into the holiday spirit and fight off the doldrums of loneliness. Pretty much every retail store has major sales, so why not treat yourself to a fancy new outfit, maybe a new hairstyle, and go where you can dance and enjoy some great music? Download the MeetUp app onto your phone and see where other solo folks are hanging out in your city and join them. If being around a bunch of folks you don’t know freaks you out, knock back a couple of mugs of spiked eggnog and remember that you’ll probably never see most of them ever again.
A few years ago, I made a commitment to travel abroad more and began to take more solo trips. I find them to be refreshing periods of self-reflection and healing and a change of scenery is often just what I need to focus on goal setting and developing specific plans for my future. I thought about taking a quick trip, but the costs of holiday travel can be daunting. If you know that you’re probably going to be alone and decide to spend some time away, start planning in the summertime and put some money away to make it happen. Maybe leaving the country is outside of your budget, so consider traveling domestically. If you live in the United States and in a state where it gets cold, head south or southwest — places like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina or Camelback Mountain in Arizona offer perfect relaxing and adventurous retreats for solo travelers. Maybe this can be the start of a new tradition for you, one that prioritizes your self-care and feeds your whimsical spirit.
Finally, doing community service is another way to make the most of the season. While we should all try to give of ourselves throughout the year as much as possible, the holidays provide more opportunities to do so because organizations open their doors to receive help. Food banks, shelters, and kitchens often need assistance with meal prep, gift distribution, and conversation — a lot of folks just need people to talk to because they, too, are alone. Some require early registration, but more local, smaller initiatives welcome walk-ins, so get out there and make a difference. You may even make a new lifelong friend in the process. And if it’s difficult to get outside and you have some extra resources, maybe scroll your social media feeds and see if there is anyone seeking extra help this holiday season and make a donation or two. I know they’ll be super grateful.
I’m the last person to pretend that everything is holly jolly and decked out with jingle bells because the truth is that this is one of the most incredibly difficult times of year for so many people. I also know that being intentional about creating positive space and energy is a powerful act of self-care. It’s easy to fall into emotional ditches and wallow in the slums of sadness, but you don’t have to. Not this year. Let this be the year that you try something different and get ahead of loneliness. You deserve it!