Spending the holidays alone has great potential to conjure up a lot of sadness, in spite of or even because of the cultural expectation that we’re all supposed to be joyfully connected with loved ones on that special day. If you’re alone for the holidays, and you know this tends to make you depressed and lonely, here are some things you can do to take care of yourself this year.
Give to Your Community by Volunteering
While serving meals to the homeless in a charity dining room is an option, it’s certainly not your only option. And volunteering on the exact holiday date is not your only opportunity to be of service to others. Think outside the box: volunteers are often needed in hospitals, organizations giving holiday parties for disadvantaged children, and even pet adoption centers.
If you have musical talent, consider providing entertainment for residents of assisted living centers or group homes.
You can also organize a “giving circle” at work or with friends and family. Host a drive to collect warm holiday clothing for adults, or invite your friends who are parents of young children to donate old toys and out-grown clothing items and kid gear, such as car seats, play pens and baby carriers.
Do What You Love
Create your own film festival – the best movies of the year, those slated for Oscar nominations, are usually released toward the end of the year, and most large movie theaters stay open on holiday days.
Attend a church service, especially if the church goes out of its way to celebrate with choral music or activities focused on children in the congregation.
Treat yourself! Curl up with that good book you haven’t had time to read. Find a local restaurant that is open on the holiday, and take yourself out for a holiday meal. Hint: restaurants in large hotels are open every day of the year and may even offer a special holiday meal.
If you enjoy entertaining, play host to friends or coworkers who are spending their holiday solo. Organize a pot luck supper and a gift exchange.
Be Responsible for Your Feelings
Being “lonely” and being “alone” are two very different things. Often our self-pity buttons get pressed simply because we have unrealistic expectations or because we make up that everyone else is having a great time and then make comparisons.
Keep in mind that loneliness is very often a pattern of feeling states set up early in childhood. In spite of how it may seem, feeling lonely is not necessarily the result of simply being alone. While circumstances can be triggering, where we go emotionally once we’re triggered is definitely a choice. When self-pity beckons, recognize that feeling blue is a pattern that can often be altered by taking responsibility and breaking the behavior patterns that lead to that state. Once you own that your feelings are self-generated, it’s much easier feel empowered to do something to counteract them.
Whatever you do, don’t wait until the day is upon you.
Instead, have a plan!