By, Laurie Stoneham
For a wide variety of reasons, many of us find ourselves alone for the holidays. With the emphasis on families and being with others, the holidays can be an especially lonely and trying time, even for those of us who are usually okay being on our own. But don’t worry, there are many things you can do to make the holidays a little less lonely when you’re alone.
- De-mythologize and adjust expectations. Elaine Rodino, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Santa Monica, Calif., says there are so many categories of expectations about the season being just right that it brings up all sorts of issues relating to family, stress and anxiety, eating disorders, sobriety, self-esteem, competency — the list goes on. “There’s this idea that it’s supposed to be perfect, and if it’s not, the person asks, ‘What’s wrong with me?’” She adds that statistically, the number of “traditional households” in this country is not in the majority.
- Pick up the phone. Call friends and ask to be included in whatever they’re doing. Rodino suggests offering to bring a dish or seeing how you can contribute to the gathering. She says most people love opening their homes and expanding the celebration. It works for everyone.
- Be proactive. Create an “alternative family” made up of people whose company you enjoy. Plan and prepare a potluck feast if you like. Remember that you are not alone in being alone during the holidays. Get together with others and have some fun.
- Plan an outing. Go on a hike, or go to the movies, a park or a museum. Enjoy the outing with your group or by yourself.
- Pamper yourself. Treat yourself to a day of beauty at a spa, get a massage or find some other special way to luxuriate. Do whatever you enjoy doing.
- Reach out. “Build bridges the rest of the year, and cross them during the holidays,” said Craig Ellison, Ph.D., author of Saying Goodbye to Loneliness and Finding Intimacy. If you can’t be with family or loved ones during this time of the year, send them letters or e-mails or call them — in other words, reach out to them.
- Remember your bonds and blessings. Pull out photo albums and read old letters. While this may be bittersweet, Ellison says it’s “not toxic.” If possible, get on the phone and talk with loved ones who are still living.
- Help others. Volunteering at a mission or shelter for the homeless will help you feel connected. Ellison suggests that you participate in activities with this organization at other times of the year, not just on one day of the year. This will make the experience more fulfilling. Rodino says volunteering at a soup kitchen gives you a healthy perspective. “There’s nothing like that for slapping you back to realizing how well you are,” Rodino noted.
- Travel. If you have the finances, get away for a few days. Go skiing or take a tropical holiday. Singles groups often have tour groups during the holidays. Rodino says this gets you out of the traditional holiday mindset.
- Get through the day. If you’re unable to do any of these things, Rodino tells her patients to just get through it. Read. Sleep. Rent a video. And remember, tomorrow it’ll all be over.
The holidays can be a lonely time, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel alone. Stay focused on acknowledging and meeting your needs, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly the holidays are over.