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How to manage loneliness over the holidays

The holidays can be a difficult time for many of us. Because it’s a time when you’re supposed to feel jolly or happy, if you’re not, you can feel worse. Similarly, it can feel like everyone is going somewhere, doing something, and enjoying themselves, and if we aren’t, we feel like we’re missing out.

If you’re already feeling lonely due to isolation, the holidays can intensify things, leaving you feel drained without really knowing why.

Surprising symptoms of loneliness

We don’t all experience loneliness in the same way. Some of us might feel tired, with low mood and no motivation, others might feel frustrated, having less patience for others and ourselves.

It can also manifest physical symptoms, like headaches, tight shoulders, or an increase in risky behaviours like drinking.

Why the holidays can make loneliness feel worse

Pressure

Tied to social media, during the holidays there’s a pressure to look and feel happy at all times.

While this is completely unrealistic, it’s still something we have to deal with. Family or other people in our lives may ask why we ‘aren’t in the holiday spirit’, or tell us to cheer up, which can often just make us feel worse.

While it may not always be possible, try to let go of that pressure to look and feel how other people expect you to, and definitely let go of any pressure you’re putting on yourself.

Remember: you’re allowed to feel however you want.

Social media and the fear of missing out

Social media can help bring us together during the holidays, but it can also make the sense of isolation worse, seeing only the very best of people’s lives, not the full picture. Everyone posts pictures of their families smiling at dinner, no one posts the arguments about who sits where at the table.

During the holidays we’re bombarded with pictures of families and friends spending time together. If we have to spend some time alone, it can feel incredibly isolating looking at everyone else who isn’t.

Consider limiting your time on social media, or only using it to get in touch with people you want to speak to, instead of looking at what everyone else is doing.

Adverts

Similar to social media, adverts during the holidays are always centred around groups of people getting together. After watching enough of them, this can filter into our subconscious, and influence how we feel about ourselves.

Try to remember that all adverts are designed on some level to manipulate you, and don’t let them influence how you feel.

You might feel like you’re the only person in the world who feels this way, but you’re not. Many people struggle with loneliness over the holidays, which means many people get through them every year despite how they feel. Here are some tips on how to deal with loneliness over the holidays that have helped other people.

3 Tips on dealing with loneliness over the holidays

Stay in touch with other people

If there are people you can call, video chat, or just message over the holidays, that can make a difference.

When we feel lonely, we can sometimes isolate ourselves further in an effort to protect ourselves from rejection or other difficult feelings. This can create a negative cycle where we feel lonely, and then continue to make ourselves feel worse.

If you’re feeling reluctant to reach out, remember that the people close to you want to help you through difficult times, want to hear from you, and would want you to talk to them.

If you can, consider letting people close to you know how you’re feeling. You might be surprised to find some of them feel the same way.

If there aren’t people you can go to, consider volunteering. It’s a great way to meet people, and make a difference at the same time.

Be gentle with yourself

Sometimes when we feel lonely, we can end up criticising ourselves, or feeling guilty, or generally just making ourselves feel worse by passing judgement on how we’re doing.

Remember that how you feel is valid, and that you shouldn’t judge yourself or beat yourself up over not feeling great.

If there are things you know help you cope, don’t try to go without them.

Create a holiday tradition that’s just for you

The holidays come with a lot of baggage. There are things you’re expected to do, whether you enjoy them or not. Over the years, just thinking about these activities can fill us with dread, especially as we begin to anticipate them as we get closer to the holidays.

But you can break that cycle. Instead, think about something you actually like, something you don’t do enough. Whether it’s making your favourite food, watching your favourite movie, or doing something completely different, taking some time for yourself and doing something you enjoy can really improve your mood. 

Remember that this feeling will pass

If you do feel lonely over the holidays, try to keep in mind that how you feel won’t last forever.

The holidays can drag on for a long time, but they always end, and life carries on. Many people find the holidays a tough time, but the new year lets you leave the holidays behind, and gives a fresh start.

Remember that you don’t need to feel happy or joyous, or anything other than how feel, no matter what time of year it is. If you’re feeling lonely over the holidays, you’re not alone, and there are resources to help you.

If you’re feeling lonely during the holidays, here are some links that may help:

You Are Not Alone – our service for helping people aged 16-25 fight loneliness

Campaign against Living Miserably, 0800 58 58 58 – call or web chat if you need someone to talk to

LGBT Foundation – advice and support

Samaritans, 116 123 – call or web chat if you need someone to talk to

The Silver Line, 0800 4 70 80 90 – provides support and advice for people over 55

Stand Alone – supporting people who aren’t in contact with their family

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Author: Jack Terry
Posted on: 20th December 2021

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