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Holidays are traditionally a time for friends and family to gather and celebrate. For some, it’s the only time of year when they get to see their family and many look forward to it all through the year. The holiday season looks different this year and a lot of us are experiencing increased loneliness. It may be difficult or impossible for you to visit loved ones due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Maybe you’ve decided to be alone this year to help reduce the spread of the virus.

For some, this may be our first holiday season alone. Others may have experienced this before, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult this time around. Some people may be apart from their family for reasons that have nothing to do with the pandemic. This could include situations of estrangement, where you have taken the deliberate decision to reduce or remove all contact with family members.

The holiday season is a common trigger for loneliness. People who may have been completely content being alone throughout the year may begin feeling sad, isolated and lonely as the year comes to a close. Here are a few things to consider as you try to manage these feelings.

Take Care of Yourself

It’s important to take care of yourself when you are feeling lonely. Consider the ways that you can be a friend to yourself during this time. Self-care is especially important when dealing with loneliness. This is because we may have a tendency to neglect our own needs when we are feeling alone. Take the time to ensure you are having sufficient and healthy meals and getting enough sleep. It may sound simple, but ensure that you are drinking enough water, too. Take the time to keep your environment clean and comfortable. These basic acts of self-care are examples of showing up for yourself and reaffirming your relationship with yourself.

Be Extra Kind and Gentle

Loneliness can trigger thoughts of self-pity or worthlessness. Practicing acts of kindness towards yourself can help to counteract these feelings. Taking the time to tell yourself reassuring words can be very effective during difficult times. Maybe you have a favorite phrase or saying that you can repeat to yourself when these feelings arise. Consider creating a playlist of songs that make you happy. You can have the playlist ready to go for when the feelings of loneliness arise. Maybe you can create a list of favorite movies to watch when you feel alone. What other ways can you show kindness to yourself? Think of something that you would want a friend or loved one to do for you and do it for yourself. Doing things to make yourself happy helps to remind you that you are self-sufficient.

Reach Out When You Can

Sometimes, we double down on our loneliness by withdrawing from loved ones. We may feel lonely, but still find ourselves sabotaging relationships. This turns into a cycle as our actions confirm our feelings of loneliness. This may manifest in many ways such as not returning calls or texts from friends and family, even though we crave connection. Try to push through these feelings of isolation and reach out to loved ones to maintain contact. A quick phone call can do so much and only takes a bit of effort and time. Remember that the best way to have a friend is to be a friend. Consider that your loved ones may be feeling lonely too. Who can you reach out to today?

Remember to Be Grateful

There are many benefits to practicing gratitude. A great way to counteract loneliness is to feel appreciation for all the good in your life. This is because loneliness is a feeling of lack, while gratitude is a feeling of abundance. Take the time to step outside of your loneliness and examine the positive things in your life. Though you may be lonely in the moment, you still have people in your life that you appreciate. You still have things in your life that you appreciate. What fills you with joy? Is it your work, hobbies, a passion project or a pet? Can you recall a happy day from your past that you feel grateful for? Being grateful for the past and present reminds us that there are good things to come in the future.

Manage Holiday Expectations

As a society, we have come to have great expectations of the holiday season. Holiday movies show us grand gestures and extravagant gifts. Social media may cause us to compare our holiday to someone else’s. You may feel like your holiday is inadequate if it doesn’t match up to expectations you have created for yourself. This year, it’s more important than ever to manage holiday expectations. The pandemic has created challenges for everyone and it may simply not be possible to have the holiday that you want. Consider how you can learn to be content with your current circumstances by accepting that this holiday season won’t be “perfect” – and that’s okay. How can you make the best of what you have and perhaps create new traditions on your own?

Speaking with a therapist can help you to manage feelings of isolation and loneliness this holiday season and as the pandemic continues. Click here to schedule a free consultation to get matched with a therapist who meets your needs.