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Simple Ways to Cope with Loneliness, Negativity, and Sadness over the Holidays

Updated: Dec 22, 2023

During the holiday season, we usually spend time with family and friends and reflect on the year that has passed. For many of us, this is a wonderful time of celebration where we are filled with feelings of joy and love. For others, this time of year can be challenging and filled with sadness, loneliness, and negativity. The holidays can leave us with expectations about what we should be doing and who we should spend time with. For those of us who don’t have family or friends to celebrate with, have difficult relationships with our families, or have childhood trauma that has left us feeling negative, this time of year can feel very hard.

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Loneliness and sadness might manifest as fatigue, anxiety, tension, isolation, melancholy, frustration, having no initiative or drive, procrastination, lacking self- confidence, finding it harder to make decisions, having less patience with family members, feeling empty or experiencing anhedonia (when things that once brought joy no longer do). Loneliness can also cause physical symptoms like headaches, tight shoulders, the feeling of a knot in your stomach, or an increase in self-medicating with food, alcohol, or drugs.

To help you cope with this difficult season, here are some tips to overcome holiday loneliness and sadness:

Remember that Feelings Come and Go

Despite being surrounded by peace, love, and joy, remember that it is perfectly fine to feel sad and lonely during this time of year. It’s important to remember that your feelings are temporary, and they come and go like waves. We can be present and mindful of the thoughts we are having and can acknowledge our feelings of loneliness without buying into the idea that we are alone. So, go ahead and feel your feelings but remember that they aren’t here to stay and try to understand how they’re impacting you. This can help you put things into perspective so you can challenge unhelpful thoughts.

Be Good to Yourself 

My favourite saying is to “Give yourself some grace”. It can be so easy for us to feel empathy and compassion for others, but we have a hard time extending it to ourselves. Taking special care of yourself during this time might not completely erase your feelings, but it can help you feel better. Practicing self-care can look different for everyone. Take some time to reflect on what you need and be purposeful about engaging in these behaviours. This could look like a hike in the woods, taking a hot bath, reading a good book, or relaxing with a hot drink.

Avoid the Holiday Expectation Trap 

While they may seem trivial, the barrage of holiday pics on Instagram, festive displays at the store and seasonal movies on TV are setting you up for disappointment. They create unrealistic expectations of what the holidays “should” be like, not what they’re really like. Instead, practice mindfulness, try being present, and avoid comparing yourself to others that you see on social media. Remember that families come in different forms! 

Plan Something You Look Forward To

Rather than focusing on how you think this holiday season should be, shifting your focus to what you want it to be can help lower your stress and unhappiness. How do you want to spend this holiday season? What would make it a low-stress, enjoyable, pleasant time for you? Is this the year that you honour your desires and create new traditions and memories that line up with what you truly want (and need)? Start with these easy questions: What brings you joy? What would your ideal day look like? How can you create a day that incorporates as much of this as possible? Start here and allow your holiday expectations to transform!

Thinking about starting therapy? Click here to book a free virtual consultation with one of our therapists!

______________ Written by Sarah Moore, MSW Intern

Woman with blond hair, blue eyes smiling at the camera

Sarah Moore is our MSW Intern, completing her Masters of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University. Sarah has experience in supporting individuals through trauma, self-esteem, anxiety, relationship issues, life stressors, etc. She is currently accepting new clients.

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