Tips for Managing Loneliness
Do you feel sad or lonely? Show compassion to your emotions, so you can understand and soothe them. If you are missing someone or something special in your life, feeling sad — even deeply — is normal. You can feel sad without being consumed with sadness.
Recognize the pain you are going through. Give yourself some time to feel whatever you feel. Then actively give yourself permission to do more self-care over the next six weeks.
Take time to consider why you feel as you do. Sadness usually has a reasonable cause. For example, you may feel disappointed about work, or about a relationship that is not going well.
Self-care for sadness can include holding disappointment kindly until it passes, sharing your feelings with a trusted friend, or getting support from therapy to help you make sense of what’s happening.
You may need to manage feelings about relationships. An important relationship may not be how you want it to be.
Yet, you need not be ashamed if a relationship is suffering.
Our culture is quick to shame and blame those who don’t have their ‘act together.’ All relationships have rough spots. Some run their course sooner than expected. That is why good self-care is important especially now. It helps guide self-talk toward accepting yourself as you are. A moment of self-compassion helps you avoid unhealthy habits such as beating up on yourself or becoming isolated when you feel down.
How to Ease Holiday Loneliness with Self-Compassion
How do you hold pain with compassion, rather than get stuck in it?
- Spend time thinking through your feelings. Talk yourself through what has happened and why you might reasonably feel the way you do: “This has been a rough year. I can understand where this feeling comes from. I am going through a really hard time.”
- Give yourself the same compassion you would offer a friend. You might say to yourself, for example: “If I don’t want to go to all of these activities that’s okay. I’ll just choose one.” For a relationship that isn’t as good as you want it to be, you can have a truce. “If things aren’t perfect between us today, it’s alright for now; I accept us the way we are.” (Your personal safety always comes first. You need no one’s permission to opt out of plans where you do not feel physically or emotionally safe.)
- Allow sad feelings to exist alongside moments of fun. We may experience different feelings at the same time. It is possible to feel sad, and enjoy people and events anyway. Sadness is an important part of dealing with loss or disappointment. But grief does not have to wipe out the chance to have fun – in fact you can still be sad about one thing, and have fun doing something else without letting sadness stop you.
It is normal, when you are sad, to feel like curling up on the couch for a day. But if you’re curling up for two months, that’s a sign that something important needs attention, and that it’s time to ask for help.
When to Get Help to Handle Holiday Stress
It is important to know the difference between sadness and depression, because you will need to respond differently to each one. Sadness allows you to function. You can feel sad and still show up for your favorite charity or see a friend for coffee. But if you stay locked in your house and you’re not seeing anyone, it may be time to address this with a skilled therapist.
Sadness will likely heal by itself in time. Depression may not lift on its own. Getting a careful diagnosis and support in therapy is likely to be very important to long-term change for the better.
Remember that everyone experiences stress in their own way, and putting their best foot forward as well as they can. Judging how you feel inside by how others look outside is not a fair comparison.
There is no perfect family or perfect holiday gathering – and they don’t need to be perfect for you to enjoy yourself. By actively choosing something fun for yourself, you can create your own rituals or habits to look forward to year after year.
Young, K. (2009, November 28). An adult child abuse survivor’s guide to the holidays [blog post]. Retrieved from https://drkathleenyoung.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/an-adult-child-abuse-survivors-guide-to-the-holidays/
Mayo Clinic staff. (2017, September 16). Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544
Neff, K. (2011). Self-compassion: The proven power of being kind to yourself. New York, NY: William Morrow.