Woman experiencing loneliness during the holidays

How to Manage Loneliness During the Holidays

For some people, the holidays are a time of togetherness. However, if you’ve recently lost a loved one or feel disconnected from friends and family, you might find you feel more lonely than normal. Here’s how to work through loneliness during the holidays.

Would you like help managing loneliness during the holidays? Schedule a visit with a counselor at Dana Behavioral Health for easy-to-access professional behavioral health services.

What Is Loneliness?

Many people think that loneliness is defined by who you are or are not spending time with. While the presence or absence of people is a factor in loneliness during the holidays, it isn’t this physical fact that determines whether you feel lonely or not. Loneliness is a feeling, and you can experience it even if you spend time in the company of other people. When you’re lonely, you feel socially isolated.

Who Gets Lonely During the Holidays?

Both extroverts and introverts can feel lonely. Some people feel lonely despite having friends and family around daily. There could be many reasons they feel lonely, such as when the relationships are superficial or the one they love most can’t be with them. These social creatures feel lonely when they don’t have their usual level and kinds of social interaction. However, even introverts may have to deal with loneliness during the holidays. If your social scene is different than usual, you may feel disconnected and lonely.

Health Impacts of Being Lonely

Loneliness can disrupt your mental health, but it can also impact your physical well-being. Here are some of the effects of loneliness on your mind, emotions, and body.

  • Increased production of the stress hormone cortisol, which can cause headaches, trouble sleeping, and gastrointestinal problems
  • Changes in brain chemistry
  • Aging faster

Although you may not completely control how much time you spend with other people, you will feel better mentally, emotionally, and physically if you manage your loneliness well.

Why You Might Feel Lonely During the Holidays

The reason for your loneliness during the holidays may be much more complex than you realize. Several factors can increase your feelings of loneliness, regardless of how much time you spend with others. Here are some of the reasons you might feel lonelier than usual and how you can work through them.

Unrealistic Expectations

Most people think of the holidays as a time of happiness, togetherness, and celebration. And sometimes, each of those things occurs. However, to expect this to be true every holiday season may be setting your expectations too high.

You might also assume that others are out having a great time while you sit alone in your home. Well, that may or may not be true, and it’s different for each individual. Think about what is triggering your “Fear of Missing Out.” Are you seeing friends’ posts filled with happy greetings and photos of people celebrating? The picture can’t tell whether those people feel connected and happy. It can’t tell you if that was a one-second smile or a day-long joyous occasion. If the holiday social media posts make you feel lonelier, it’s probably best not to scroll through them.

Grief or Distance from Family and Friends

Losing a loved one before or during the holiday season can make you feel sad and alone. In a very real way, you may experience a kind of loneliness during the holidays that you’ve never felt before. It’s okay to feel sad, even during the holidays, so don’t shame yourself for that or try to pretend it isn’t true. What you can do, though, is using proven strategies to lift your mood. For example, going outside for a leisurely walk or practicing mindfulness can help you focus less on your feelings of loneliness.

You might also feel lonely if you’re separated from family and friends by distance. Maybe you’ve always spent holidays with them, but now they live far away. Although you can’t be with them in person, you can check in with them via phone, FaceTime, or Zoom calls.

Behavioral Health Issues

Behavioral health problems can increase your feelings of loneliness during the holidays. If you’re already struggling with major depression or seasonal affective disorder, being alone on what is “supposed to be” the happiest time of year can bring you even farther into the doldrums. You may experience fatigue, sleep problems, and sadness. Anxiety can also contribute to feelings of loneliness, as can many other behavioral health issues. The best solution to these challenges is to seek help from a qualified behavioral health provider.

Chronic Conditions

There are many ways chronic health problems affect your mood. While it’s true that depression and loneliness are two different things, there may be a connection there. After all, if you’re feeling sad and hopeless, it’s hard to meet your needs for social interaction.

Yet, chronic conditions can physically separate you from others. Suppose you have mobility issues. In that case, getting out and being with people is more challenging. Plus, you may be dealing with painful or annoying symptoms and side effects of medications, so you don’t feel like going out. Or, you know you don’t have the stamina to make it through the gathering you would like to attend. At times like these, it might help to plan your own small event, such as having friends over for a take-out meal.

How to Beat Holiday Loneliness

6 Tips for Minimizing Holiday Loneliness Infographic

Beating loneliness during the holidays is rarely an easy task. Yet, there are several tactics you can use to create a happier holiday season for yourself. Follow these tips to connect with others and enjoy your holidays more.

Use Technology to Connect

Using your phone, tablet, or laptop to connect with others is an easy fix for disconnection due to distance. With modern technology, you can spend time with friends and family, whether they live in the next town or on the other side of the globe. A quick phone call or a Zoom meeting with someone you care about can brighten your day and remind you that others care about you.

Follow Healthy Life Habits

Many holiday events focus on food and drink. Unfortunately, much of the food and drink people consume during their celebrations are extremely unhealthy. You can have a good time while enjoying healthy foods and staying hydrated. Be sure to get enough sleep and take time to exercise each day. With the extra energy and endurance you gain, the holidays become easier. When you feel healthier, you may feel more like connecting with others or enjoying your time alone.

Connect with Other Lonely People

One thing lonely people often misunderstand is that they aren’t the only ones who are facing loneliness during the holidays. You might picture everyone else out there having fun while you sit alone. But there are always others who face loneliness, too. One way to lift the feeling of loneliness is to reach out to someone you know is alone this year. You may find that your mood lifts as you try to boost theirs.

You can read about how to talk to others who are suffering in How Can You Help a Friend with Depression? 5 Ways to Show Support.

Work on Being Grateful and Giving

Dwelling on your aloneness increases the intensity of your loneliness during the holidays. Yet, holidays offer many opportunities to refocus your thoughts. Many charities do special events and drives during the holiday season. Joining in as a donor or volunteer can help ease your loneliness. It’s also helpful to cultivate a sense of gratefulness for what you have. Write down what you’re grateful for each day, or use one of those phone calls to share your gratitude.

Share Your Feelings

Sharing your feelings can help relieve them. Talk about your loneliness, how it feels, and why you think it’s happening to you. Discuss what you’d like to change in the future. Tell someone how much they mean to you. Loneliness can make you feel disconnected from your feelings, and you may feel some relief when you recognize and share them.

Seek Behavioral Health Help

Seeing a therapist for loneliness during the holidays may sound strange to you, but you might want to consider seeking behavioral health help for several reasons. First, loneliness can lead to depression if you don’t know how to manage it. Second, if you truly have no one to talk to, your isolation can affect your mental health. Third, if you’re dealing with problems like depression or anxiety, isolation can hit you harder. Finally, a therapist will guide you to your greatest good, helping you find the practical and psychological solutions that are best for you.

Dana Behavioral Health Is Here for You!

Dana Behavioral Health is here to help with various behavioral health issues. Whether you are experiencing depression, anxiety, grief, or feel lonely and isolated, we make it easy for you to access help. Loneliness during the holidays is no fun, but you can reach for a more enriching holiday experience when you have the help you need. Our therapists are here when you need us, ready to assist you and help you through loneliness or any other mental health crises.

Want to have a more pleasant, connected holiday season? Talk it over with a therapist at Dana Behavioral Health.