Man walking in snow

"Reaching out and staying in contact is crucial."

No matter what traditions you follow, the holidays can be a difficult time for some. With more time to ourselves, shorter days, and colder weather limiting our activities, loneliness can begin to creep in as our routines have been disrupted and we are home more. This year is especially tough, as we battle through restrictions on travel and social interaction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to recognize these added difficulties, and take steps so we can avoid feeling alone.  

Here are some tips for dealing with loneliness this holiday season:

Adjust Your Expectations

Simply put, the holidays this year are going to be different. Under usual circumstances the holidays can often stress, rather than benefit, our mental health. We stress about getting work done before the holidays, about organizing get togethers, buying gifts, and sometimes set unrealistic expectations about what we ‘should’ accomplish during our holiday break.

  • This year, try to keep your focus more internal and look at the holidays as a chance to personally unwind and relax in whatever setting you find yourself. For example, if you’re unable to get together with friends and family for an annual dinner, pick one of your favourite recipes from that meal and make that.
  • Whether we spend the holidays with loved ones, with people we sometimes struggle to get along with, or alone – try to take some steps to recreate the holiday experience and share them with those you are able to spend time with (virtually or otherwise).

Take time for yourself

Without motivation to enjoy the holidays of our own accord and with less people organizing plans for us, don’t get lost waiting for plans to build themselves around you. Instead, proactively plan individual activities you would like to do over the holidays.

Here are a few examples:

  • Going outside and enjoying the sights of winter
  • Walking to your favourite shop and getting a warm drink
  • Gathering ingredients and trying new recipes
  • Giving back to those in need (e.g. volunteering, or donating to a local charity)
  • Enjoying some favourite holiday movies or catching up on any movies or shows you missed during the year. 

Connect (virtually) with others

Whether or not we can see those we care for in-person during this holiday season, reaching out and connecting with them in other ways is a great step to negate feelings of loneliness. Texts, phone calls, or family video calls can help us feel close to those we love, regardless of restrictions that may be keeping us physically apart. 

  • This is a crucial step, even though you may not be able to meet in person, it is important to reach out in the ways you still can.
  • If you are getting tired of video chats and texts, there are lots of creative ways to connect virtually like Houseparty, Netflix Party, or online games.

If you’re going through a difficult time and need to talk with someone, crisis phone lines and online chat services can help you to connect with others in a safe and constructive manner. These resources are detailed in our post, Getting mental health support during COVID-19.

Try to stay productive

Without the normal hustle and bustle of the holiday season, you might find yourself with extra time on your hands. Investing this time productively, rather than falling into distracting habits can be a great way to set up a routine which benefits your mental health.

Some ideas to get you going:

  • Watching a documentary series or reading informative blogs, rather than more mindlessly browsing social media or other pop culture sources 
  • Picking up a new hobby you’ve been wanting to try or think you’d enjoy, like a DIY project
  • Reading a new book or rereading one of your favourites
  • Catching up on projects you’ve been putting off

Keep friends and family posted on your what you’re doing, as a way to touch base, keep in contact, and get other ideas for things you can do.

Remember, you are not alone

Wherever we find ourselves this unprecedented holiday season, battling loneliness is something many of us face. Understanding there are others who share these feelings and experiences can help remind you that you are not alone. This is a once in a lifetime holiday season filled with new stresses and difficulties, but we’ll get through it together. 

Written by the HeadsUpGuys Team - Combining lived experience, clinical practice, and research expertise. Reviewed and approved by Dr. John Ogrodniczuk - Professor and Director of the Psychotherapy Program at the Department of Psychiatry, The University of British Columbia.
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