When you’re single, it can feel like everyone is coupled up. And that can be especially difficult during the holidays when party invites roll in, love seems to be in the air — and saccharine couples are splashed in jewelry commercials and harrowing Hallmark-esque stories.
Naturally, you might feel lonely, and avoid going out. But while ending a relationship can be painful, you can still enjoy yourself.
Below, Terri Orbuch, Ph.D, a relationship expert and author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship, offers valuable tips for having a good holiday season.
Attending Parties and Events
If you used to attend events with your ex, going by yourself can feel uncomfortable. And you might be shy — which is completely common. “Studies show that 80 percent of us occasionally experience shyness in social situations,” Orbuch said.
She suggested the following strategies to overcome shyness:
- Focus on your positive qualities. “Shy people are preoccupied with themselves and their perceived inadequacies,” Orbuch said. But dwelling on your supposed shortcomings only sinks your mood and makes you even more shy. Try to “keep a positive frame of mind,” Orbuch suggested.
- Forget perfection. Shy people often set soaring expectations for themselves in social situations. They assume that any words they utter must be witty, clever and perfect, Orbuch said. Instead, “Remember, you don’t have to be interesting all the time — you just need to be interested.”
- Plan ahead. “People are less likely to feel timid and reserved when they’re on familiar turf interacting with people they know,” Orbuch said. Invite a loved one to go with you to a holiday celebration, she said. Arrive early so you get comfortable with your surroundings, she added.
- Rehearse. Practice a few phrases you’ll say to people at the party or event, or even role-play with your friends, Orbuch said. “Learn how to actively listen to others and initiate conversations.”
Getting Over the Loss and Loneliness
According to Orbuch, it’s common to have memories of your ex and to experience a kind of grief over the loss of your relationship. She suggested these tips for coping with the loss and any loneliness:
- Determine your triggers. Maybe you and your ex had a tradition of going to the same restaurant every Thanksgiving. Or you used to buy a Christmas tree at the same place. Or you’d light your Hanukkah candles together. If these kinds of events trigger negative emotions for you, switch things up, Orbuch said. Decorate your house differently, create new traditions and toss anything that reminds you of your ex, she said.
- Find a community. Hang out with friends and family, Orbuch said. Her other suggestions included joining a gym that offers group classes, going out with co-workers, or finding a class at your community college.
- Volunteer. “Put the focus on others and what you can do for them,” Orbuch said.
- Write an honest letter to your ex. “Putting your feelings on paper will help to defuse your emotions and reduce the likelihood of difficult memories popping up,” Orbuch said. Then put the letter away (don’t send it). “This exercise is for you.”
- Flip your thoughts. Remember that your thoughts are not facts. So try pinpointing and revising negative ruminations. For instance, you might revise, “I’m a loser and I feel unattractive. Who’s going to ask me out?” to “I finally have an opportunity to get to know myself and my own interests better,” Orbuch said.
- Focus on your interests. Engage in activities that make you happy and excited, Orbuch said. “Perhaps when you were in a relationship, you always wanted to learn golf, but never had the time. Or maybe you wanted to go on that literary tour of Dublin, but your partner wasn’t interested in the least,” she said.
- Appreciate your loved ones. The holidays are a time to express your love for all the special people in your life. “Rejoice and appreciate the other important people who make you happy,” Orbuch said.
You still might feel raw after your breakup. But while healing takes time, it will happen. Practice self-compassion, seek out new adventures and appreciate what you do have in your life.