Unless you answer to the name Scrooge, you probably think of the holidays
as a time for surrounding yourself with family and friends.
But what if—because of a move, a divorce or some other circumstance—you
were separated from your loved ones? What if you faced the holidays alone?
At best, you may feel at loose ends; at worst, you may feel "impossibly
lonely" and even distraught, says psychologist Larry Kubiak, PhD,
a member of the
American Psychological Association.
"You can be on your own for the rest of the year and still manage,"
Dr. Kubiak says. "But the holidays almost mandate togetherness. If
you are apart or estranged from your loved ones, your sense of isolation
can become very intense."
Your challenge, Dr. Kubiak says, is to try to weather these feelings. And
while that's easier said than done, there are concrete steps you can
take to feel less alone. Among them, according to Dr. Kubiak:
- Challenge negative thoughts. Human nature being what it is, it's all
too easy to start with this thought, "I'm alone and isolated
this holiday season," and drift to this one, "All of my holidays
will be like this." Should a thought like this second one surface,
tell yourself, "Next year will be different. I have the power to
change my circumstances."
- Reach out. Host a get-together for your co-workers. Knock on the door of
a neighbor and suggest a holiday outing. Contact local clubs, religious
groups or community centers; they may be sponsoring activities that appeal
to you. Moreover, the connections you make will enrich you beyond the holidays.
- Volunteer. Lend a hand at a homeless shelter, hospital or nursing home.
Shop for special presents for a family in need. By helping others, you
will also help yourself. "Volunteering makes most people count their
blessings," Dr. Kubiak says.
- Make your holiday special even if you celebrate by yourself. Sit down to
a festive meal—or treat yourself to a meal out. Go to a movie or
rent one. Buy yourself a present and use it. Use the day to do exclusively
what you enjoy.
- Allow yourself to mourn, if you're alone because of the death of a
loved one. Grief needs an outlet, no matter what the season. Consider
also that it might comfort you to honor your loved one with a special
gesture—for instance, by lighting a candle in his or her memory.
- Be wary of false comforts. Turning to alcohol or other drugs won't
cure your loneliness. Chances are, doing so will add to your problems.
- Finally, if your loneliness becomes so intense that you're having trouble
eating, sleeping, concentrating or enjoying activities that once gave
you pleasure, talk to your doctor. These are possible warning signs of
depression, which can—and should—be treated.