From someone who has spent most of their holidays alone.
I’m in something of a unique position because I’ve spent so much time alone over the holidays and hating it. As a child, my immediate family was highly dysfunctional and school was my only reprieve from deep loneliness. That meant my winter vacation was rarely a joyous occasion.
As I grew older, various circumstances led to even greater isolation. Depression and borderline personality disorder each fed into my loneliness until I was stuck in this vicious cycle of being alone during most holidays, hating it, and falling into a particularly hopeless sort of loneliness and social anxiety.
All while pushing good people away and engaging in new dysfunctional relationships.
I used to dread the holidays from as early as August because I knew what unhappiness was to come. Fortunately, I’ve been able to get out of that extreme sense of isolation, and I’ve learned a lot about beating my loneliness, especially around Christmastime.
1. Figure out what it is that bothers you the most about your loneliness
It’s easy to look at loneliness as a monolith emotion. As if it’s only one thing and it’s the same for everyone. Unfortunately, loneliness is an enormous, beastly feeling which greatly varies from person to person.
If you really want to manage your lonely feelings, it’s vital that you explore the shape and breadth of yours. What is it that bothers you the most about feeling alone at Christmastime?
Sometimes, people discover that they feel ashamed or embarrassed to be alone. Some folks realize that they’re defining their worth by their social connections. Others find out that their loneliness is rooted in unhealthy expectations of themselves or others.
However your loneliness makes you feel, it’s a heck of a lot more manageable once you figure out why it hurts so bad. It’s definitely not the same for everybody.
2. Try to focus on your reality more than your mood (which is most subject to change)
Often, at the root of our loneliness, there are significant lies or half-truths about ourselves and our experiences. Much like depression, loneliness frequently bombards us with a false reality. One that says we’re always alone, that we deserve to be alone, or that we will always feel this lovely.
One of the most helpful things for me has been this realization that my loneliness is a liar, and it’s frequently based on fear.
When we focus on our reality by acknowledging that what we feel might not actually be an accurate picture of our lives, it is often much easier to heal and move forward.
3. Resolve to make next year different and less lonely
Whether or not you’re actually alone this Christmas, let’s say that you feel lonely. You can resolve to make things different next year.
Once you explore the reasons your loneliness gets so deeply under your skin, and once you understand your reality, you can start making plans for a better holiday next year.
The plans will vary from person to person. You might need to reconnect with a loved one, make new friends, travel, or shift your perspective. Whatever you do, you’ll discover that when you focus on a goal to not have a repeat of this year, you will actually make yourself feel a whole lot better.
4. Give yourself a chance to have some fun on your own.
It is easy to become so overwhelmed with feelings of loneliness that we miss out on the joy that’s right in front of us. Can you picture how it might feel to actually enjoy alone time?
Sometimes, we feel lonely because we’ve never really made friends with ourselves. We might think that joy can only be found in others. The day you discover joy in being alone with your thoughts is the day you’ll experience real freedom.
It’s not as if you have to love everything about being alone. But if you can begin to appreciate a few of the benefits (like inner peace, better self-awareness, and a greater understanding of yourself), you’ll be able to have much more fun.
5. Do something that’s valuable for somebody else
Loneliness is such a big feeling, that it has this tendency to swallow up everything in its path. That makes it easy to lose sight of the world around you.
If you are able, try reaching out to another person who also might be feeling the loneliness of the season. Offer a helping hand or listening ear. Deliver a thoughtful gift.
Loneliness is powerful, but we still have so much power within ourselves to do good and help each other heal. Sometimes, it’s surprising to discover how much joy exists in that place where we step outside our own heads and see what good we can accomplish.
6. Don’t beat yourself up over your lonely feelings
It helps to look at lonely feelings around the holidays as a sign that something is off track. But that doesn’t mean that you are off track or wrong.
There are endless reasons for feeling lonely. Validate those feelings, and then do your best to move on in a positive way. Give yourself a break and try to take comfort in the fact that you are not the only person battling loneliness right now.
In that respect, you are far from alone.
7. Change the story that you tell yourself about loneliness
I once read that if you’re trying to get over a difficult breakup, it helps to work on your personal development to move past the point of ever wanting to be with that person again.
This takes some reframing.
It’s an interesting philosophy and one that’s been surprisingly helpful to me. In fact, when I look back on the ways I’ve been able to conquer my loneliness, I see that reframing the story I tell myself about being alone has made all the difference in the world.
These days, whenever a lonely thought begins poking at me, I ask myself what it’s really about. Nine times out of ten, I’m not feeling lonely for the reasons I think.
Once I dig a bit, I discover that I’m actually feeling insecure, or I might be craving affirmation. Of course, at the root of those feelings is typically the notion that other people determine my value. When I deal with that idea and remind myself that my worth only comes from me, my loneliness is just a memory.
8. Be honest with yourself about what you’re going through and get help if you need it
The Christmas blues are for real and not at all uncommon. The holidays really are the perfect storm of stress and pressure to make most anyone feel more lonely this time of year.
But your loneliness might be a sign of something more serious than holiday humbugs. It might be a sign of depression or another mood disorder and mental illness. It’s possible that the best gift you can give yourself this Christmas is a help.
Please don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your physician or a mental health provider who can help get you on a path to healing.