If you feel lonely and disconnected during the holidays, you're not the only one! The holidays can be a stressful and isolating time, which is often amplified by all the forced cheer and high-pressure happiness in the air. The capitalistic messaging around thriving relationships, perfect holiday parties, and flawless family bonding can trigger even more feelings of loneliness – but this sentiment is more common than you may think. According to a 2022 survey, 55% of Americans experience the holiday blues.
Here are a few ways you can use the holiday season to reclaim your time and recalibrate in a way that is sincere to you:
Switch off social media
According to a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, being bombarded with other people’s highlight reels can lead to depressive symptoms and severe feelings of isolation. Although social comparison is nothing new, the constant stream of everyone’s happy gatherings and expensive gifts can be exhausting. Take this time to log off, forget the world, and focus on your self-care: read a good book, learn a new recipe, devote time to exercise, ask yourself what little moments in a day will make you happy.
Manage your expectations
Cultural influences tell us that holidays have to be a certain way for them to be considered successful – but what if we throw out that notion and redefine the “holiday spirit”? That could mean taking a trip alone, or it could mean normalizing doing absolutely nothing. According to Very Well Mind, having unrealistic expectations can contribute to increased feelings of anxiety, dissatisfaction and difficulty coping with symptoms. So try this before the holidays come roaring at you this year: write down your own expectations for this time. What do you want? Perhaps that means less family time, ditching rituals that no longer serve you or creating new ones that actually bring joy.
Tap in to your creativity
Every individual has different needs, from financial to social, and the stress of this season can exacerbate them. Take stock of your situation and use your creativity. If you are dealing with financial stress this holiday, like 70% of Americans are, make it a gift-free one – tell your friends and family that this year it’s exclusively homemade cards or a phone call. Remember that every holiday is a new year with new needs. Take a moment to update old blueprints that may be outdated, and make them relevant for your year ahead. See if you can make this holiday about filling you up instead of fulfilling obligations.
Talk to a therapist
There are countless triggers around the holidays. Everything from being in a room full of flowing alcohol while battling addiction to concerns around body image while surrounded by food to navigating tense family relationships. Speaking to an expert and preparing yourself for what’s to come in a safe way is a crucial way to step into the holidays with a sense of power and confidence amidst the anxiety.