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Loneliness & Isolation During the Holidays

Feelings of loneliness and the experience of isolation is not a new phenomenon during the holidays. It is uncomfortable, but fairly common, to have an experience of feeling alone in a crowd because loneliness and isolation are as much an internal experience as an external one. As we move into the holiday season, crowds, and gatherings, let’s take a closer look at how to remain healthy, connected, and proactive this year.

If you are someone who has previously struggled with feelings of loneliness and isolation during the holidays, take a good look at the list below and make a plan for how you may be able to cope better this year. And, even if you’ve never struggled with loneliness or isolation, make sure you take a look too. This year you may come up against challenges you haven’t had before or, you may be the strength and support someone else needs. Regardless of your experience with isolation and loneliness during the holidays, this information may be useful to you in one way or another.

Tips for Coping with Isolation & Loneliness During the Holidays

Recognize the “Temporary-ness”: Especially in college, the winter break can seem to stretch on for what feels like an eternity. Rather than think of this time generally, take a real look at it literally. It may seem easier to manage when you know you will be back with your friends in 4-6 weeks rather than “in January sometime.” Start a countdown like you did as a kid. Share one on an app with a friend. Enjoy the anticipation together. Here’s a fun app to begin countdown celebrations.

Get Out: Getting out of your typical surroundings, whether that be your home or even your town, can be helpful. The benefits of being outside, even for a little bit, are well-documented. So, if you can, make sure you get a few steps or breaths outside each day. And, for a creative turn, it can help to be outside of your own experience. Even if you are not interacting with other people, it can help to take a drive to see other people and sights you don’t normally see. Just remembering how big humanity is and that everyone else is just trying to get along like you are can be comforting. You are not alone in your experience.

Be Creative: If you are not able to do and be with the people you want to be with, get creative. There are so many virtual ways to get together now. Even having one virtual get-together a week with a friend (or a group of friends) can be a big help to those feelings of being all alone. Be the one who reaches out and schedules with others! And, if you do have more time on your own, it could be time to start some new connections. Starting a new hobby can keep you busy, picking up a few holiday hours at a local store may provide connections, or finding other people online who share similar interests may create a whole new community for you.

Set a Routine: In times with less structure we can be very tempted to let go of our usual get ready, shower, bedtime, workout, eating routines. However, while the occasional break from the ordinary is good, extended lack of routine can be counter-productive to our overall well-being. Setting a schedule for yourself, setting alarms, even setting a weekly goal or two can be helpful for focusing on what you can do rather than focusing on not being with others. If you’re just starting out, try starting your mornings well. That often leads to a better rest of the day.

Tell Someone if You are Struggling: Whether through phone calls, FaceTime, Zoom, texts, social media, or virtual counseling, you have more options than ever to reach out if you are having a hard time during the holidays. It may not be the same as being in a room with someone but that doesn’t mean it isn’t helpful. Even if you only write in a journal, getting words out of yourself can help with feelings of isolation and loneliness. Remember, however you are feeling is okay, and you certainly aren’t the only one feeling that way.

The holidays have unique factors that can impact loneliness and isolation. But, because the impact is so universal, it doesn’t take long to find others who are probably going to say, “I’m struggling too.” Let’s reach out and all help support one another through this potentially difficult season.

Originally published December 16, 2020. Updated December 24, 2023 by Anne Rulo, Author, Speaker, Therapist. FB/IG/Twitter @annemrulo

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