Feeling Lonely This Holiday? You Aren't Alone

Feeling Lonely This Holiday? You Aren't Alone

“Oh there's no place like home for the holidays…”

The holiday frenzy usually kicks off in early November, and for 8 straight weeks radio stations, department stores, and neighbors are all busy getting into the spirit of the season.

For some, this time of year is filled with happy memories, delicious meals, and special moments with friends or family. But for others, it can be painful and lonely.

Perhaps you moved away and started over in a new town. Perhaps there was a family fallout, and you no longer communicate with certain people. Maybe your job has you working overtime, or you simply don’t feel like socializing.

Whatever the case may be, life carries difficult experiences sometimes. And these times can be highlighted during the holiday season.

If you’re feeling lonely this holiday season, you’re not alone. There are things you can do about it, and today we're covering just that.

What is Loneliness?

Humans were made for connection. While technology and smartphones allow us to meet and engage with people from all over the world, a growing number of people feel more isolated than ever, especially those using social media (1).

Loneliness is a state of mind where you feel disconnected from others. Everyone experiences this at times, and according to Psychology Today there are 3 types we as humans may experience throughout our life (2):

  • Emotional loneliness: this type often stems from feeling you don’t have deep attachments or meaningful relationships with people. You might feel this way if you don’t have a best friend, aren’t in a romantic relationship, or recently lost a beloved relative. Feeling you don’t have anyone to talk to about important personal matters can bring on this type of loneliness.

  • Social loneliness: this is when you feel you don’t belong to a certain group of people. This can also apply to a close relationship, like a spouse. You may also experience this in rooms with a lot of people you don’t know, or if you believe your presence isn’t welcome.

  • Existential loneliness: part of your existence as a person will involve bouts of loneliness. This type comes up periodically as you go through life, causing you to question what your purpose is, feeling alone in your journey, or exploring deeper parts of yourself. While normal, many people don’t like these uncomfortable feelings and try to avoid them.

Why We Often Feel Lonely During the Holidays

If feelings of loneliness are a normal part of life, what is it about the holidays that seem to amplify this?

There are a few reasons people feel more alone during the holidays:

  • Unrealistic expectations: the holidays are highly associated with social circles. If you recently broke off a relationship, there can be this expectation of showing up to parties, exchanging gifts, and being happy with that person. People that aren’t very social can be perceived as suspicious and untrustworthy, which can increase feelings of isolation (3).

  • Lack of support system: If you don’t get along with members of your family, you’re less inclined to want to spend time with them over the holidays. If you don’t have any family at all, the lack of companionship can leave you feeling alone (4).

  • Social anxieties: Some people consider themselves homebodies and have no desire to go out and mingle. Some dread the idea of making small talk at work parties or other social events and get anxious about the potential of being judged, evaluated, or rejected (5).  

How to Cope with Loneliness During the Holidays

Loneliness during the holidays is more common than we’d like to think. Thankfully, there are ways to cope.

Here are a few ways you can positively manage your feelings:

  • Choose to Believe You’re Not Alone: It’s easy to think you’re the only person who feels lonely over the holidays, but the truth is that there are millions of other people who feel the same way you do. Reaching out to hear other people’s stories, whether in-person or virtually, can help you feel more connected.

  • Reevaluate Your Expectations: If you don’t have a special date to take to a holiday party, there’s nothing wrong with taking a friend instead. Likewise, even if you have a difficult family member at the dinner table, you can still take what kind gestures they give as an act of love. Reevaluating your expectations can help prevent feelings of isolation.

  • Get Involved: Sometimes the best thing you can do is get out of your own head. Volunteering at a soup kitchen, animal shelter, or assisted living center can help connect you with others. Who knows, perhaps you’ll alleviate a sense of loneliness in them, bringing joy and deeper connection.

  • Be Kind to Yourself: Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re struggling. Consider seeing this as an opportunity to try something new, like dancing or pottery class. Give yourself a spa day or take your bike down that new nature trail. And if you really don’t want to attend a holiday event? Don’t! This year can be different, and that’s ok.

  • Choose Gratitude It’s amazing how finding things to be thankful for can change your perspective. It’s ok to acknowledge feeling alone, but don’t let it stop there. Look around you --- if it’s cold outside, be grateful to have hot, running water at home. If you don’t have a date to a party, be thankful your legs and arms still work. It might seem unrelated, but taking the time to be thankful, even for the little things, can help you better cope with the holiday blues.

  • Get Connected: Depending on where you live, there may be local churches hosting Christmas parties or special services. The Salvation Army may need a few extra volunteers, or your elderly neighbor might need help keeping her lawn looking clean. Don’t let anxiety get the best of you – try to get connected.

Wrapping It Up

The holidays bring out a wide range of thoughts, emotions, and feelings. On the one hand, it’s a much-anticipated time of laughter, joy, and maybe a gift or two.

On the other hand, holidays bring on feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and isolation.

Wanting to belong is part of being human. Getting involved, practicing gratitude, and believing others are going through the same thing can help shift your perspective to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The holidays can be a great time for reflecting as we wrap up the end of the year. If you’re thinking of ways to actually keep New Year’s resolutions, check out these tips here (6).

References & Disclaimers

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5722463/

2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/lifetime-connections/201907/the-3-types-loneliness-and-how-combat-them

3. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-75712-3

4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3598859/

5. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder

6. https://karamd.com/how-to-make-resolutions-you-can-actually-keep/

✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author