Loneliness During the Holidays: Coping Strategies for Connection

Asma Rehman, LPC

Do you struggle with loneliness during the holidays?

A sad looking man istting in front of an unlit Christmas tree in a dark room.The holiday season is a fun time of year for lots of people, but it can also be a time of loneliness. Seeing everyone celebrating with their loved ones can be hard to deal with when you’re feeling lonely. Many people struggle with loneliness during the holiday season, even when there’s a lot going on.

Even if you’re surrounded by people, you can feel lonely. That’s because loneliness doesn’t actually mean you are alone – just that you feel alone. One definition is, “loneliness is actually a state of mind [that] causes people to feel empty, alone, and unwanted.” The holidays can highlight the connections that you have or don’t have, and that reminder can be painful during an overwhelming time of year.

 

Why is it difficult to cope with loneliness?

Loneliness is hard to deal with because, like all negative emotions, it feels uncomfortable to experience. We’re only human, and we do what we can to avoid feeling distressing emotions like loneliness. During the holidays, it seems like there’s always something to do, buy, or plan for, and the heightened emotions of the season can make loneliness feel even more upsetting.

Loneliness didn’t start with the pandemic, but the social connections that held many people together did suffer during the pandemic years, leaving more people feeling lonely than ever.

The US Surgeon General even recently issued a report on how prevalent loneliness is currently. According to this report, social isolation increases the risk of premature A woman walking through an outdoor square lit up with holiday lights.death by 29%. Having social connections can be an important factor in health and wellness, and not having social connections can increase the risk for disorders like anxiety, depression, heart disease, and even dementia.

It’s not as simple as realizing you’re lonely and then deciding to increase your social connections with others. Putting yourself out there can also feel uncomfortable or scary. You might feel like everyone else has something going on during the holidays, and you’re just a burden. Remember that there are people who care about you and don’t want you to feel this way.

Navigating Holiday Loneliness: 5 Coping Strategies for Connection

Join something

One of the best ways to cope with loneliness is to join something, even though it sounds like the last thing you probably want to do. When you’re feeling lonely, it’s easy to assume that no one wants to hang out with you, that you’re a burden, or that there’s nothing special about you. Joining something can help you find evidence that those upsetting thoughts aren’t true. Try joining a club, taking a class, volunteering for a cause, cleaning up your neighborhood, or asking someone you care about what kinds of activities keep them busy.

Tell others how you’re feeling

It’s painful to feel like you’re alone or that no one wants you around. Feeling lonely during the holidays can bring up feelings of shame. The best way to fight shame is by talking about it to someone who cares about you. It might feel impossible to talk about it, but you’re not the only person who feels this way. You might even find that other people in your life are dealing with similar struggles, and you can find ways to connect over that.

Expand your support system

We all need a support system to lean on during hard times. It’s possible to expand your support system so that you have more places to turn to when you’re struggling with loneliness. Therapy or a support group can be a helpful way to grow your support system without having to make any new friends. Therapy can be particularly helpful during times when your usual support system is unavailable – like during a busy holiday season, for example.

A sad looking woman in a brightly lit room with Christmas decorations. Connect online

It’s 2023, so connecting with people in person isn’t the only option we have anymore. There’s nothing wrong with having online friends and relationships – in fact, it’s one of the benefits of being alive right now.  If you’re not feeling connected to the people in your offline life, see what options are available to you to connect with others online. Try joining a social media group for a hobby or interest of yours and building from there.

Treat yourself like you’d treat someone you love

Imagine someone you care about coming to you to talk about feeling lonely during the holidays. You’d probably treat them really well, listen to what their concerns are, and reassure them that you love them and care about them. So why not treat yourself the same way? Be nice to yourself, give yourself the benefit of the doubt, and care for yourself like you’d care for a friend.

Are you looking for more support during the holiday season? Our Houston therapists have appointments available now. Contact us today to get started!

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