While this season brings excitement, spirit, and joy, it also typically brews sadness, loneliness, jealousy, discomfort, disappointment, and anxiety for many of us.
These feelings can become especially overwhelming as you reflect on your life circumstances and come to terms with being single. So, why does this time of year bring up difficult emotions, particularly loneliness?
Holidays breed high expectations and high anticipation as there is pressure to celebrate, shop, eat, gather, give, cheer, etc. While there are many positive effects of celebrating the holidays and the new year, the pressure can be intense. For example, the culture of gift giving leaves most people feeling burdened by the need to find the “perfect” gift, handle financial stress, and avoid over-spending. There may be a feeling of obligation to participate in the extravagant nature of the holiday season.
You might also face many questions as you get together with people who you don’t see regularly. It can be difficult to talk about a dissatisfying dating life or a painful breakup. Being honest might be too anxiety provoking, awkward or stressful. Friends, family, and co-workers may bombard you with questions about your personal life at gatherings, events or parties, causing you to want to avoid social situations and retreat. Feelings of isolation may be also triggered if you don’t feel connected or included in holiday get-togethers or you are struggling to make plans.
Another common reason for loneliness? The end of the year is a natural time for contemplation, reflection, and assessment. Your mind may negatively or harshly judge you or this year as you ponder what went wrong in your love life and why you are still single. Falsely believing that love and happiness are present for everyone but you fuels negative beliefs about yourself and others. These flawed beliefs induce feelings of sadness, loneliness, and loss.
It is essential to remember reflection is good and healthy, but not when it leads you to beating yourself up or believing that the grass is always greener on the other side. Make sure you don’t let the negative outweigh any positive growth or accomplishments that took place throughout the year. The key is to grow from reflection, not to self-shame. Have compassion…always.
No matter where your loneliness originated, it does not have to take over or control your life. To combat loneliness around the holidays and to avoid suffering more, here are five strategies:
- Show up for yourself
Validating your emotions and acknowledging how you feel (even if the feelings are completely uncomfortable or miserable) are both important for healing and feeling better. Feelings that are unacknowledged tend to persist and intensify, so remember to do the opposite. Be present with your emotions and resist shaming yourself for feeling lonely or avoiding how you feel. Give yourself permission to feel and understand that you are not alone.
- Manage expectations of yourself and others
Many of our ideas about the holidays are not reality-based. Instead, these ideas are fed by our culture and imagination, as well as false hope of perfection and control. Be careful here and give yourself a thorough reality check. If you have social anxiety, expect to feel anxious as you walk into your office holiday party. If your parents are struggling in their marriage, expect that the vibe at the dinner table might be a little off or contentious. I am not at all suggesting you approach life with a negative outlook; this is about having realistic expectations.
- Seek company and get out
When you feel lonely, it is common to feel inclined to isolate more. Being alone and feeling unhappy about it naturally leads to rumination and more negative thoughts. It is also more apparent that you are alone in the absence of others. Isolation strengths loneliness, so doing the opposite, and seeking connection and company is healthier. Contact a friend, take a social risk, go to a movie, walk around a museum, exercise, read in a coffee shop, etc. Be out in the world and don’t give into the temptation to hibernate for days on end.
- Practice self-care
If you’ve read my other articles, you might think I sound like a broken record when it comes to self-love and self-care. However, taking good care of yourself and treating yourself well are the very means to increasing self-esteem, especially during difficult times. Include yourself when brainstorming gifts for others and remember that nice, compassionate gestures don’t have to cost a penny. Like to cook? Try out a delicious recipe on yourself. Like the outdoors? Take a walk or hike. Like the festive lights? Check out holiday events or décor. With a greater focus on giving to others around the holidays, remember to give to yourself. Bottom line: Self-care is essential and healthy; not selfish.
- Volunteer and take deliberate action to make a difference
Volunteering and getting involved are powerful remedies to loneliness because they build a bridge for you to feel needed and achieve a level of intimacy. When you surround yourself with like-minded people who share similar values, passions and interests, you feel connected and secure. Giving back also reinforces that you have an impact on the world. It also gets you out of the house. Get involved by researching volunteer opportunities and organizations that interest you. You will feel better by giving, so remember to be a part of the world and avoid attempting to solve loneliness with further isolation.
About the Author:
Rachel Dack is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), Nationally Certified Counselor and relationship coach, specializing in psychotherapy for individuals and couples via her private practice in Bethesda, Maryland. Rachel’s areas of expertise include relationships, self-esteem, dating, mindfulness, anxiety, depression and stress management. Rachel is a co-author to Sexy Secrets to a Juicy Love Life, an International Bestseller, written to support single women in decreasing frustration about single-hood, leaving the past behind, cultivating self-love and forming and maintaining loving relationships. Rachel also serves as a Relationship Expert for http://www.datingadvice.com/ and other dating and relationship advice websites. Follow her on Twitter for more daily wisdom!