How to cope with feeling lonely on holidays
Family holidays, Christmas in particular, for most of us mean happy times – they are a chance to connect with our loved ones, share great meals and have fun time with family. If you just take a look at the numerous holiday TV ads and Christmas-themed movies – you’ll see that everyone there is happy, cosy and smiling… and everyone has a large, close-knitted family. Unfortunately, since we all have families, we all know that’s not always the case.
Some people have strained family relations and that often gets even more pronounced during the holidays. Some people’s core family members are not alive any more, some have no siblings, partners nor kids. Or their kids happen to be spending the holidays with their ex spouse. Some people’s family lives on the other side of the world and it’s not always easy to reunite. (Especially during the holidays when air ticket prices go through the roof. Shouldn’t that be times when they are at their lowest, to help us all get to our loved ones easier?)
If you are in those or similar situations, and for one reason or another can’t be reunited with family during Christmas, all the holiday cheer can create a completely opposite effect and make you feel really lonely and miserable. And it gets worse and worse as Christmas draws closer and seems like there’s no way to escape being reminded of it – and the fact you have nobody close to spend it with.
It’s not the actual days that are so hard to bear – after all, it’s a couple of days off work which in any other case we’d welcome with a happy grin: it’s the thoughts in our heads that make us feel bad, thoughts that say: ‘I have no one to spend Christmas with – which means nobody loves me. I am unlucky, not worth of being special to anyone. I’m not good enough.’
What a horrible thought to be associated with such a wonderful holiday. And yet, it’s a direct product of all the emphasis on love, connection and belonging that Christmas symbolises – and much like Valentine’s day as a celebration of romantic coupling makes everyone not-so-happy in love feel really low, family-focused holidays have a similar effect on people who don’t have a (happy) family.
To be honest, I’ve always thought Christmas is overrated any way. It comes with tons of stress around cooking, cleaning, buying presents, trying to please everyone (especially hard with today’s more and more demanding kids), not to mention the excessive spending that is for many a great burden on their finances. But yes, I get you – we feel stressed out and tired when we do have it, but dearly miss it when we don’t.
So how to get out of the holiday blues? You can’t run away from decorations, songs, shop windows and TV (unless you just lock yourself in for weeks, which is not a realistic option), but you can still choose how you’ll spend your Christmas, and how you’ll feel about it.
If you have friends who are also alone and have no family plans – go ahead and make plans together. I did that one year in a foreign country where I was working and living at the time: got together with a couple of friends and colleagues who didn’t get to go home that year either – agreed for everyone to bring some food, drinks and a surprise present which we then exchanged via raffle. It turned out just fine: we had fun, ate some yummy food and spent the day in company of people we care about – so nobody felt lonely even though we were all far from our families.
Or you can accept an invite from a friend’s family – people who know you are alone will be happy to have you around, and don’t worry about spoiling their family fun – they wouldn’t invite you if they thought you wouldn’t fit in.
If no invites or opportunities for socialising find their way to you, don’t be discouraged – you can still have a wonderful time even when you’re just on your own. Think about it as just any free day, a perfect opportunity to just relax on your own terms – and you’ll immediately feel better.
You can catch up with your favourite TV shows or movies, read a good book, pamper yourself with a warm bath or just do anything else around the house or outside that makes you feel good. Having a bit of peace and quiet is one of the greatest luxuries in today’s world, so savour it. Make the day all about you and indulge in whatever makes you happy.
There are other options to make your alone-time on holidays less lonely like travelling abroad, or helping in the community, or volunteering with some charity group – but most important, as with anything else, is your mindset. Christmas is a day just like any other – and you can spend it feeling good or bad, whether you’re on your own or surrounded by people.
It’s what you make of it that counts. So challenge yourself – and make it count! You’ll be surprised how many happy moments you can have once you let yourself be free of the idea that Christmas holidays can only be enjoyed with family. Besides, what have you got to lose – nothing but that dreadful feeling of loneliness. And that’s not much of a loss, isn’t it?
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