5 coping strategies for spending the holidays alone

The holidays are typically seen as the season for spending extended time with family and friends celebrating the season together, but this isn’t the case for many. The anticipation of spending the holidays alone can bring feelings of sadness and loneliness. If you plan to celebrate alone, whether by personal choice or being emotionally or physically distanced from the ones you love, there are ways you can manage these emotions to find a greater peace and appreciation for the season.

Sometimes sadness is accompanied by feeling sorry for ourselves, causing us to fixate on how the holidays were once celebrated. This deepens our sense of loneliness and strengthens our sense of loss. Instead, reframe your expectations to experience something different this year. Remind yourself that different isn’t bad but rather an opportunity to grow and learn more about what brings peace and joy to your day. Practicing one or two of the following strategies can improve your frame of mind and allow you to enjoy a holiday made especially for you.

1. Give thanks. Expressing gratitude for the positives in your life and recalling good things others have brought to it is a mental health practice that promotes emotional wellbeing. Reduce loneliness while adding a more positive spin to your day by starting a gratitude journal.

2. Volunteer your time to someone in need. It’s impossible to feel alone when serving others. Share your aloneness by supporting a cause you believe in or doing good for others. Helping others by participating in a gift drive, handing out holiday meals to the homeless, or helping out an animal shelter provide wonderful opportunities to give back.

3. Seek out spiritual connections. Attending a church service, choir performance, or prayer service redirects your attention to the reason for the season. Spiritual experiences help quiet your over-thinking mind, allowing you to reflect on your faith and distracting you from materialistic advertising. Reflecting on your faith helps you feel more connected to something greater and restores your sense of peace.

4. Treat yourself. Spending the holidays alone is an opportunity to do it your way. Go out to a restaurant you’ve been too busy to enjoy, take a luxurious bath, listen to the music you love, call an old friend, or plan a trip for the New Year. Life is hectic so we rarely find time to treat or pamper ourselves.

5. Feel your feelings but don’t wallow in them. No matter who you are or who you are with, not every moment will be merry and bright on the holidays - and that’s okay. Old memories, lost loved ones, and struggles with difficult issues surface during the holidays causing us to reminisce and feel sad at times. Feeling your feelings and accepting them helps prevent you from over-indulging in mind numbing drugs, alcohol, or other unhealthy vices. Being alone can help you be honest with your feelings and having the space and time to face our truth is the biggest step towards healing our unresolved problems that we stuffed away in our otherwise busy life.

Being alone doesn’t mean you’re broken, intolerable, or need help. Use the time to channel your authentic self, connect with your faith, and celebrate the day with gratitude and appreciation that you have this time to get back in touch with what adds meaning to your holidays.