Christmas is a time to connect with our loved ones and celebrate the gift of giving. But for many people it can feel the opposite. Being separated from family and loved ones – either due to work, loss, or conflict – can make Christmas a time of unhappiness and loneliness.
We might feel disconnected from others and feel like nobody really understands us, listens to us, or values our company.
The holidays can be a difficult time if we are feeling like this, but there are simple strategies you can use to help manage feelings of loneliness.
Here are some ideas to get you started this holiday season.
Think differently about loneliness
Like all negative emotions, loneliness is an important and valid part of human experience. Loneliness tells us that we crave connection. It comes from a part of ourselves that wants to reach out to others. If we never felt lonely, we might never recognise just how important meaningful relationships are to us.
So a good first step in managing feelings of loneliness is to think differently about them. Rather than viewing these feelings negatively and being hard on ourselves, we can choose to see loneliness as a healthy part of us that motivates us to connect with others.
Reframing loneliness in this way can help us feel better about ourselves and more positive about seeking meaningful relationships.
Reconnect with yourself
If we find it hard to connect with others, or genuinely don’t have many social opportunities, then a good place to start is to try connecting with ourselves first. When we’re taking good care of ourselves, we are more likely to be positive, and feelings of loneliness may have less power to get us down.
There’s no right or wrong way to do this. A great starting point is to try brainstorming some ideas for activities that make us feel good and then start doing them.
Some suggestions are writing down your thoughts in a journal, going for a walk, spending time in nature or pampering ourselves. Try planning one nice activity every day and keep a record of how it made you feel. If you build some momentum with these activities before the holidays arrive you might find you are able to coast through lonely moments.
Reach out to others
Feeling lonely during the holidays is never easy, and reaching out to others can often seem difficult or scary. But it’s important to talk to people in your life at this time of year and let them know how you’re feeling.
You can do this in whatever way makes you feel comfortable. It might be as simple as a text message, a phone call, or a message on social media. Or you might want to catch up with a friend or family member one-on-one.
You can also jump online and connect with an online community for support. The SANE Forums are operating over the holiday period and are a great way to connect with others living with or caring for a loved one with mental illness.
There are also a number of great online and telephone services such as Beyond Blue and Lifeline that are available if you need someone to talk to. And if you are struggling with persistent sadness and loneliness, it’s always a good idea to seek professional help from a GP, psychologist or counsellor.