Loneliness Is Coming to Town

5 ways to ease the holiday blues

Posted Dec 11, 2016

Source: Deborah J.Cohan

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Not. 

What happens when you are faced with a silent night that does not feel calm or bright? What if all you want for Christmas is to avoid loneliness or grief? How might you still cultivate comfort and joy?

Right after Halloween, we are immediately faced with a barrage of consumerism connected to the holidays—Christmas decorations, advertisements, restaurant promotions for parties, holiday office parties, gift swaps, holidays cards, cookie exchanges, etc. It can be overwhelming. This is even more true when someone faces loss, grief, and longing—the death of a loved one, a breakup or divorce, family living very far away, a family facing terminal illness, sons and daughters overseas for military reasons, employment or study abroad, etc.

A dear friend of mine who lost her son to suicide has shared with me that the last time she ever had a Christmas tree and decorated her house was in 2006. Sadly, her birthday is just days after Christmas, and she says she has not had a happy birthday since then. Her goal seems to be to simply make it through the season and to mitigate the loss for her other children. But, sometimes it’s an endurance contest.

The combination of these ideas is intended to soften the blow and make the weeks ahead more manageable:

1) Limit use of social media. The wonder and the problem with social media like Facebook and Instagram is that we are confronted with such a wild range of pictures and words—exciting news, tragic news and all the minutiae in between.  During the holidays, it can be difficult to open Facebook and Instagram and see all of our friends, acquaintances, and colleagues with families, enjoying gatherings that resemble a Pottery Barn catalog. Yet, it’s also difficult to see all the losses that so many others have sustained. It can be an electronic swirl of grief.

2) Give up the shoulds and think about the coulds. Perhaps, this is the year to ditch cards if they don’t bring you joy or if they just feel like one more tiring thing to add to an already exploding to-do list. Yesterday, I was at a store and saw this card that captures it pretty perfectly: “I spent a lot of time looking for the perfect card that would look great in your garbage.” What could you do instead that would enrich a depth of connection and help you feel replenished rather than depleted?  How might you be gentle with your self-expectations and lessen your load? Would calling one or two friends who live far away and talking over a leisurely cup of coffee or a glass of wine for an hour or more feel more nourishing and fun? Might skipping the office party and exercising or seeing a movie help you feel more relaxed? “No” can be a great answer to any should.

3) Get into nature. When we become untethered from technology, we have opportunities to connect to the world beyond ourselves and our work and relish in wonder, possibility, and hope.  We need to do that more.

4) Cultivate practices that increase self-reliance. Doing things to boost your emotional inner resources, energy and creativity go a long way in combating loneliness. For example, attend a yoga class, meditate, take a walk in the woods, set out to learn something new, create a meal you love, start a gratitude journal of things you are grateful for and ways you want to refresh yourself in the new year, etc.

5) Be kind to yourself. The holidays might feel like the longest, loneliest stretch of the year, but like all other weeks, it will soon be over. And the best thing is that these practices will last the whole year through.