How to cope with loneliness during the holidays

The festive holiday season is upon us. As you walk inside the malls and shopping centres, you’re greeted by Christmas décor and fairy lights. People are cheerful, lively, it really does seem like ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’ However, the holiday blues are real for some people. Instead of feeling joy and excitement, they feel stress, anxiety and loneliness during the holidays. 

There are many reasons why people would feel this way in this period: It can be a reminder that they’re single; they’ve lost a loved one; they don’t get along with their family members, or their family is on the other side of the world. Sometimes, they do have people around them but they still feel lonely. 

If you’re spending the holidays alone, for whatever reason, I’d encourage you to continue reading for things you can do to cope with loneliness. But, before we look at the different ways to cope with loneliness,  it’s important to realise that loneliness and being alone are two different things. Solitude can be a good experience for many individuals. It offers an opportunity to get to know yourself. To be in your thoughts. To reflect and to cancel out the noise around you. 

However, if you’re experiencing loneliness, there are a few things you can do: 

Take care of yourself

One of the best things you can do for your mind, body and spirit is to practice self-care. Treat yourself to a day at a spa; read a book; listen to your favourite music; go for a hike; exercise; take a long bath or watch a movie. Do things that lift your spirit and make you happy. Practicing self-care is not only good for your physical and mental health, but it will also improve your sleep and help you develop a more positive outlook on life.  

Give to others

It’s been proven that an act of giving improves a person’s mental status. A study done at the University of Missouri in the US showed that people who gave to others tend to score much higher on feelings of joy and contentment than individuals who did not give to others. Giving fills you up with love and the experience is wonderful and fulfilling. 

You don’t necessarily have to give money, but you can give of your time, you can donate clothes and shoes or make something special for someone less fortunate. Giving is also a fantastic reminder to be grateful for all that you have. Although you may feel like those with partners and families are better off, you’re in a position to help others and put a smile on someone’s face, and that’s something to be proud of. 

Reach out to someone

You may feel lonely, but you may not really be alone. There is always one or two people you can talk to. Reach out to a colleague or an old friend. Ask them what they’re up to. Go out for a drink, a braai, or invite them over to your place for lunch. You don’t have to wait for someone to reach out. You can be proactive and make that call…or text. 

Travel

If you have the money, why not go on a solo trip for a weekend or a few days. Visit a place that offers exciting outdoor activities, if you’re into that kind of thing. While you’re there, you can meet new people and create new memories along the way.

Solo trips allow you to step outside of your comfort zone. You have the freedom to do absolutely anything, within your budget, and without anyone holding you back. Traveling solo will also build up your self-confidence as you’ll have to make decisions and solve problems without relying on another person. 

Change your perception

Many people struggle with the pressure to live up to people’s expectations. Society, neighbours and our families “expect” us to come home with our partners at a certain age, to have children, drive a particular car and have a stable career. This causes a lot of anxiety for individuals who feel the pressure to live up to these expectations. Maybe it’s time to change the narrative. It’s time to change your perception. That way, you can manage other people’s perceptions of you, providing you the liberty to visit family during the holidays without feeling anxious.  

Remember that life is not a movie. No one has perfect holidays. Some people are fighting battles during the holidays, big and small. So erase those unrealistic expectations about the perfect holidays and don’t compare experiences. 

If you need more support, it’s important to seek professional help to relieve those feelings of loneliness and get through the holiday blues. 

“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”

Hafiz of Persia

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