I’ve never been married, yet I find this time of year is always difficult. I can’t imagine what it is like for my favorite professor’s wife. He died last month, they were together for over 50 years. I pray for her so often. I think of people who have lost loved ones this year. Christmas isn’t a happy time for everyone. Many people have to face this holiday alone or missing someone they love. Maybe some of these tips can help someone?
People can be alone on Christmas for different reasons, such as the death of a loved one, living far from relatives or because of social isolation. If you have social anxiety disorder (SAD) and don’t have close relationships with family or friends, you might find yourself alone at Christmas. Below are some tips to help you deal with loneliness.
Handling the Holidays When You’re Alone
1. Volunteer – Volunteering during the holidays is a way to connect with others, boost your self-esteem, and bring joy to people less fortunate. Consider offering to help serve dinner at a soup kitchen, bring gifts to a children’s hospital, or visit lonely residents at a nursing home. If you feel nervous about doing these social activities, all the better; it’s a chance to test your boundaries and expand your social skills. In fact, research shows that practicing kindness may reduce your tendency to avoid social situations.
2. Accept Invitations Perhaps you are alone this year because you turned down invitations. Call those people back and say “yes.” This is often a problem for those with social anxiety—you turn down invitations only to regret it and feel lonely afterward.
3. Enjoy Solitude If being alone on Christmas is unavoidable, plan a day for yourself. Buy a new outfit online, cook your favorite foods, and plan a movie marathon. Or, cut through the cliches and do something offbeat like learning a new language or starting work on the novel that’s always been in your head. Christmas is a day to indulge in whatever makes you happy.
4. Host an Orphan Christmas You are not the only one alone during the holidays. Plan an “Orphan Christmas” for those who have no one to spend the holiday with, or join a group of people in similar circumstances. If you feel anxious about reaching out—consider that other people who are alone on Christmas may feel isolated, lonely, and nervous to call on you too.
5.Work If you enjoy your work, and you have the option to work on Christmas, spend the day being productive. This is a great choice if your job involves interacting with coworkers or customers; being at work will help you to feel less lonely. If you don’t have the option to work on Christmas, spend the day working around your home or on a project that you’ve put off for too long.
6. Host an Online Christmas Do you have online friends? Do you have long-distance relatives? Host an online Christmas by setting up a Skype chatroom or Facebook group. People can drop in and out as they please, and you don’t have to cook, clean or even get out of your pajamas. An added bonus, you’ll have a chance to practice your social skills as you welcome new people to the group and catch up with old friends.
7. Gratitude Christmas is the perfect day to take the time to appreciate what you have in life, be it good health, a place to live, or food on the table. One way to gain a better appreciation for the good things in your life is to get involved in volunteering, as mentioned previously. Having gratitude will also help you to move past anxiety, as you learn to live in the present moment and be mindful of your surroundings. One way to practice gratitude is to record three things you are grateful at the end of each day in a journal.
8. Look Forward Plan for a better future. If social anxiety has left you alone on Christmas, vow to visit your doctor in the new year and get a handle on your anxiety. If you’ve never been diagnosed, make a plan to share your concerns—you can even hand a typewritten letter to your doctor if that helps. Social anxiety tends to be overlooked or mistaken for other problems, particularly because people with the disorder are not good at sharing how they feel. For this reason, use whatever means necessary to impress upon your doctor the severity of your symptoms.
9. Mind Over Matter If you feel like you don’t know how to cope with being alone, ask yourself “What if I did know how to cope?” You have more power than you think over your thoughts and how they make you feel. Trying “acting as if” you are more socially confident than you feel until your mind catches up. While at first this will feel uncomfortable, over time it will become more natural.
10. Reach Out If you are feeling really down about being alone on Christmas and can’t pull yourself out of it, reach out for help. Call a friend, family member, or a helpline. You don’t need to be alone on this day of the year.
A Word From Verywell
While feeling socially isolated one day of the year may be common, finding yourself crippled by social anxiety more days than not may be a sign of a disorder. If you’ve not already consulted your doctor about severe social anxiety, be sure to make an appointment to discuss the possibility of a diagnosis and referral for treatment.
Caputo A. The Relationship Between Gratitude and Loneliness: The Potential Benefits of Gratitude for Promoting Social Bonds. Eur J Psychol. 2015;11(2):323-334. doi:10.5964/ejop.v11i2.826.
Trew JL, Alden LE. Kindness Reduces Avoidance Goals in Socially Anxious Individuals, Motivation and Emotion. 2015. doi: 10.1007/s11031-015-9499-5