Alone for the holidays

A young woman shopping for a Christmas tree alone.

Being alone for the holidays can be difficult. But you can take steps to have a happy holiday season on your own.

Unless you answer to the name Scrooge, you probably think of the holidays as a time for surrounding yourself with family and friends. But what if you are separated from your loved ones? What if you have to face the holidays alone?

People can find themselves alone for the holidays for many reasons, such as a recent move, death or divorce. And now, COVID-19 is making it harder for people to be together because of travel risks, illness and social distancing.

No matter why you're apart, being alone for the holidays can be difficult. But these tips may help you feel less isolated and find more joy:

Challenge negative thoughts. It's all too easy to worry that because you're alone this holiday season, all of your holidays will be like this. If you find yourself feeling like that, try to focus on the possibilities. Next year's circumstances may be much different—and better—than today's.

Reach out virtually. In this age of social distancing, video chats can help bring distant friends and family together for the holidays. You might also want to find out if any community groups are offering virtual events, like holiday concerts.

Spread some cheer. From civic groups to social causes, volunteering helps your community, and it has a mood-lifting effect, according to the American Psychological Association. If you can't volunteer in person, you may be able to help out online, over the phone or by making something at home.

Make your solo celebration special. Sit down to a festive meal that you prepared. Listen to holiday music. Read a favorite book or stream a movie. Use the day to do things you enjoy.

Allow yourself to mourn. Grief needs an outlet no matter the season. If you're alone because of the death of a loved one, it might comfort you to honor their memory with a special gesture—like lighting a candle or writing them a letter.

Be wary of false comforts. Turning to alcohol or other drugs won't cure your loneliness. Chances are, it will only add to your problems. Calling up a friend is one healthier coping strategy that may help you feel better.

Keep tabs on stress. From buying gifts to mailing out holiday cards, the holidays can be lonely and pressure-packed. If you're feeling the strain, check out these seasonal stress-busters.

Seek help, if you need it. If your loneliness becomes so intense that you're having trouble eating, sleeping, concentrating or enjoying activities that once gave you pleasure, talk to your doctor. These are possible warning signs of depression, which can—and should—be treated.

Reviewed 11/25/2020

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