“Happy Holidays!” This phrase is thrown around all throughout the holiday season, and yet for many people, the holidays are the least happy time of the year. Holiday loneliness often shows up for people in many different situations, causing feelings of hopelessness and sadness. 

These feelings of loneliness during the holidays are unfortunately more common than you may think – nearly a third of people “say they have felt lonely during the holiday season sometime during the past five years.” Maybe you feel anxious about showing up at a holiday Christmas party without a significant other. Perhaps your family lives too far away for you to visit, and you find yourself wondering what to do on Christmas day. Or if you do go home for the holidays you’re reminded that your relationship with your family isn’t what you want it to be. As you scroll through your social media feeds, you become increasingly sad or disappointed by comparison —  it seems like everyone else is happy and in the festive spirit. 

Holiday loneliness feels as though you are surrounded by happiness in other people, and their joy exacerbates your experience of loneliness.

It’s all too easy to give into the negative self-talk that can crop up during these periods of holiday loneliness. 

  • They don’t really care if I show up to the party or not, so I’ll just cancel and stay home and watch Netflix. 
  • I’m not going to bother traveling home just to get stuck in the middle of another family argument. Why put in the effort just to get hurt?
  • Everyone else has somewhere to go, but there’s nowhere that I belong.
  • I don’t have a loved one to share in the specialness of this season with. I’m always going to be alone.

When these thought patterns pop up, it can deeply impact our self-esteem. We turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as retreating away from friends and declining social events. We tend to find anything we can to distract ourselves, such as scrolling on our phones, drinking, or watching TV. We protect ourselves from more hurt by keeping conversations with friends and family surface-level.

So, how do you move forward instead of staying stuck in holiday loneliness? 

  • Identify and acknowledge how you feel.

Name the emotions that are present in your loneliness. Using a tool like the feelings wheel can be helpful to identify your emotions. As you acknowledge those feelings, you’ll be able to understand yourself better and pay more attention to what triggers your  loneliness. It will allow you to accept how you are feeling, rather than being controlled by it. 

  • Grieve your unmet expectations.

If you feel disappointed that your relationships aren’t what you want them to be, it’s important to grieve that loss. Consider journaling about what it means to grieve your unmet expectations–that your family will never be the family you want them to be, or that you thought you’d be in a relationship by now. Listen to what your body is telling you, and notice if you experience tension in your muscles, a clenched jaw, or a headache. Allow yourself to notice the grief and to name what you wish you could have. 

  • Connect with those around you.

Chances are, you do have people in your life who are feeling just as lonely as you. Instead of waiting for people to come to you, consider asking yourself the question: what activities can I invite people to join me? Consider also finding a good friend or two to open up to – share how you’re feeling. Being able to talk to a trusted friend not only helps get things off your chest, but  it also allows them to know how to better support you during this season.

Holiday loneliness can feel defeating when you get lost in expectations and feel overly aware of what you’re missing out on, but it loses much of its power when you acknowledge your emotions, name your grief, and lean into connection. If you need extra support in this process, we’re here to help. Contact us today to schedule a session. 

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