Many of us find ourselves alone over the holidays. Sometimes, it's a matter of circumstance: people live far from their families and simply cannot travel at this time of year. Other times, it's a matter of choice: some people sincerely prefer to avoid the fuss of large gatherings.
And other times it is simply the situation we find ourselves in, whether we like it or not. But even when it's a matter of choice, loneliness can often strike those who find themselves alone over Christmas. After all, is it not a time -- or so we're told -- to be among friends and family, loved ones and children?
Loneliness is really a complex emotion. It is only healthy and realistic to let yourself feel lonely and grant yourself ownership of that feeling. After all, it's something we ALL feel occasionally (sometimes even when we are surrounded by friends and family, it's possible to feel quite lonely).
But it's also one of those emotions with its own gravitational pull and it can too easily suck you down into deeper sadness and anxiety. It need not be this way! You can acknowledge the fact that you might be feeling lonely and vulnerable without drowning in those feelings.
Here are some things to do to make these holidays warm and delightful, even if it's just for you...
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Of course, you're not the only one alone at Christmas, and there are many who are alone and are also much need of help. If there's an organization you already donate time or money to, consider reaching out to them to see if there are activities you can join in on over the holidays.
Often, they'll be short on volunteers over the holidays and will welcome your contribution. Meals on Wheels, animal shelters and many more organizations need to keep going over the holidays just like any other day and your contribution would not only lift your own spirits, but make a big difference to somebody else too.
Make the same effort
If spending a holiday alone translates to sitting around in your PJs and eating frozen pizza, give your head a shake! You deserve better. Get up on Christmas morning and have a lovely bath (perhaps with those bath oils that were in your stocking), do your make-up and put on something gorgeous and comforting (I recommend cashmere!)
In advance, make sure you get to the grocery store and buy some really tasty treats. You may not plan to roast an entire turkey, but you can still make a scrumptious dinner, whether it's a traditional meal with stuffing and roast potatoes, or just your absolute favourite meal (lobster -- why not? baked brie -- bring it on!) Set the table, light candles, make it a real affair. It may feel a little like role-playing, but why not do something special just for yourself -- enjoy it!
Keep the traditions going
Just because you're alone doesn't mean you can't keep your family traditions alive. Listen to those favourite carols and Christmas songs, watch the Queen's speech, replay those favourite Christmas movies.
Don't act like it's not an important day -- accord it its full significance and let yourself reminisce on holidays past by upholding all those favourite traditions. For many, this involves traditions that precede Christmas Day -- like putting up a tree or hanging a wreath. Find ways of incorporating those traditions too, even if you have to modify them slightly. For example, you may not have a tree for your favourite sentimental ornaments, but you can fill a bowl with them and make a wonderful centrepiece for your coffee or dining table.
On Christmas Day, with everything closed and with bellies full of tasty treats, it can be tempting to just nap and watch movies and have another helping of leftovers. Push yourself to go out and get some fresh air. Especially if you're alone, it will do you good to be out in the world and to see some other faces.
If you have a park nearby, you may see some children playing in the snow, skating or people walking their dogs. These things are all uplifting and if you smile at strangers, the small interactions that follow will make you feel much less lonely and much more connected with mankind, which is really the point of the holidays, after all!
If you are alone because you're far away from friends and family, make some Skype dates in advance of the day. One of my friends Skypes her family overseas every year as they open their gifts to each other. Others prefer a phone call. It's a bittersweet thing to connect with people you love so far away, and you'll no doubt feel a burst of sadness as you hang up the phone. Still, maintaining and reaffirming those connections is part of what the season is all about.. and now we have the technology to make it all so much easier!
Let yourself cry, but be thankful too
If you're feeling lonely over the holidays, let yourself feel it. Don't try to stifle your own emotions. The holidays can be an emotional time for many people (alone or not), with all kinds of pressures and expectations. It's also a time of year that many of us look back -- and if it's been a hard year, those fragile feelings may surface again. That's okay and you shouldn't feel any pressure to be 100 per cent shiny-happy.
At the same time, let yourself find joy. Watch movies that make you laugh (as well as cry). Take the time to think about all those individuals who are working and keeping our cities safe over the holidays. Be grateful for the people in your life -- without a doubt you are loved and somebody is thinking about you and missing you right now. And know that even if there's nobody there with you right at that moment, you're very far from being alone.