How to Cope with Loneliness During the Holidays 

The holiday season is ideally filled with love and happiness and is a time when friends, family, and neighbors come together to celebrate. But this isn’t always the experience everyone has during the holidays. Whether you’ve recently lost a loved one, ended a relationship, moved to a new area, or are struggling to cope with the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many different reasons you may be feeling isolated at this time of year. 

You don’t have to be alone to feel lonely during the holidays. Depression, anxiety, and stress can result in feelings of emotional distance from your friends and family at this time of year, regardless of your physical proximity to them.  Feeling this way can be incredibly confusing and painful. 

According to AARP, 31% of people feel lonely during the holidays, and 41% of people worry about a friend or family member feeling isolated. It can be difficult to share feelings of loneliness with others. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer in silence. 

Take our advice and try the following five tactics if you feel lonely during the holidays.

1. Make a plan

Start by making a solid plan, so you’re prepared if feelings of depression, anxiety, or loneliness appear during the holidays. Having coping mechanisms to help you deal with these feelings can help you regain control over your life and your feelings. 

Plan when you’re going to do things, go to different places, and meet with friends. Add them onto your calendar on specific days, so you’ve got a visual reminder of everything you’ve got to look forward to over the holidays. 

It’s also a good idea to make a plan of things you can do when you unexpectedly feel overwhelmed by loneliness. List people you can call, places you can go around others, or simple activities that make you feel better. Place the list somewhere obvious, so it’s close at hand when you need it.

2. Be kind to yourself

The holidays are stressful for everyone.  Be extra kind to yourself and those around you, if possible.  Patience, compassion, and understanding of your limitations and stress can help you not act your feelings out inappropriately and give you safe ways of recharging and expressing yourself. Treat yourself to some fun activities or outings as a means of self-care to help yourself unwind and not feel so alone. 

From cooking your favorite meal, buying yourself a new outfit, and binge-watching Christmas movies to learning a new hobby, sleeping in, and getting lost in a book by your favorite author, there are plenty of ways you can make yourself feel special. Taking the time to do the things you love will stop you from thinking about being alone and help you focus on having fun.

3. Reach out to others

Even if you feel lonely when you’re in a room full of people, it is sometimes better to be around others than to isolate and amplify your feelings of loneliness.  If you’re not up for anything significant, start by saying hello to your neighbors or asking your colleagues about their weekend. Writing holiday cards or even just sending holiday messages to people you know will respond is a great way to lift your spirits.

There are many ways to connect with others if you don’t have any friends, family, neighbors, or colleagues with whom you can interact. Consider joining online communities made up of others with similar interests. Alternatively, you can volunteer for a local charity with meaning for you. Volunteering allows you to make friends with others while supporting a good cause, making you feel even better overall.

4. Change your expectations

It’s easy to feel lonely seeing families’ fantastic celebrations in holiday movies. Add into the mix exaggerated holiday commercials and the embellished photos people upload onto their social media accounts, and it’s not surprising many people feel isolated and inadequate at this time of year.

You must create your holiday expectations.  Not being part of a large family, not having a romantic partner, and not being invited to celebrations doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holidays. Create your own Christmas or holiday traditions. 

What’s more important is understanding the difference between what’s real and what’s fake. You’ve seen families before — they’re not like the perfect ones on TV. You’ve also got to remember that people save the absolute highlights of their life to share on social media. Their best experiences, photos, and stories. It’s not a competition!  Just enjoy the holidays in a way that works for you. 

5. Start a new tradition

Get involved in the holidays by starting a new tradition you can do independently. Your new tradition can be as big or as small as you like. Some ideas of fun events include taking a holiday road trip to somewhere you’ve never been before or cooking your favorite three-course Christmas dinner to spending a whole day watching holiday movies or making a new decoration for your tree, think of something festive you’d enjoy doing alone and make it part of your annual Christmas traditions.

Talk to us

If you feel depressed, anxious, or alone, we’re here to help. Schedule an appointment now, and soon you’ll be chatting to a therapist from wherever you feel comfortable. No matter the cause of your loneliness, we’re here to listen and help you find a way to cope during what can be one of the most challenging times of the year.

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. If you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger,  these resources can provide you with immediate help:
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988
24 Hour Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.8255
Crisis Text Line Text TALK to 741741