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Managing alone time and loneliness during the holidays

man dressed warm, alone in bus at night

For many, the holidays are filled with friends, family and constant celebration. People put socialization on overdrive and seem to take no breaks. However, for others, the holidays can feel lonelier than any other time of year.

Not everyone has close friends and family to spend their time with during these cold few months. Some may have it reserved for extra alone time, and not by their own choice. Taking more time for yourself during the holidays is not unhealthy on its own, but doing so too much can lead to negative emotions and feelings of isolation.


Balancing alone time during the holidays

There is a difference in taking some alone time to avoid being around others. “Taking some time alone is kind of like taking a break at halftime of a football game,” says Megan Williams, Director of Suicide Prevention for Centerstone. “You’ve been chatting with people, trying to keep the conversation going for a couple of hours, and you need to take a 15-minute break to step away and recharge your batteries.”

Alone time can be healthy as it provides time to focus on yourself and what makes you happy. There are several ways you can celebrate on your own:

  • Start a new tradition! Try creating a new holiday tradition for yourself, such as baking a holiday treat or watching a new holiday movie.
  • Rediscover an old talent. Pick up that dusty old guitar, put on those dance shoes, or do anything else that makes you feel like yourself.
  • Do something out of the house. Go explore that museum you’ve heard so much about or, if weather permits, spend some time out in nature.
  • Write letters and make phone calls. You may just be alone for the holidays because you’re loved ones are too far to see this year. Spend some time talking to them on the phone or writing to them to stay connected. Even one short call can be uplifting.

While having meaningful alone time is good for the soul, it is important to know your limits and when you need to recharge socially. All people, whether introverted or extroverted, need some level of socialization to be healthy.

Being alone can become unhealthy when alone time turns into avoidance or prolonged isolation. Feelings of anxiety and loneliness can cause us to avoid social interaction altogether as a coping mechanism. This isolation can lead to depressive symptoms, which end up further increasing feelings of loneliness – it’s a cycle.

Other ways to cope with holiday loneliness

One of the best ways to cope with holiday loneliness is seeking out time with people. “If being around others could alleviate any loneliness you feel, seek social interactions out,” says Megan Williams. “You can always take a break or limit those interactions as you see fit to ensure good self-care.”

If you don’t have loved ones nearby, this may take more initiative on your part.

  • Look for volunteer opportunities. There are plenty of ways to help others, and opportunities only increase during the holiday season. Volunteering allows you to make a positive difference while socializing without all the pressure.
  • Say yes. Accept invitations from friends and coworkers to do things, even if they’re not people you usually spend much time with. You don’t have to say yes to everything, but putting yourself out there in this way can help you feel less isolated.

If you’re feeling sad and lonely, try to not exacerbate these feelings by comparing your plans to others’. Stay off social media – it’s only a “highlight reel” of someone’s life and can make you feel small in comparison. Practice healthy coping strategies, and remind yourself what is best for you, even if that’s spending some extra time on self-care.

If the holidays have you experiencing increased mental health challenges, Centerstone is here to help. You can call us at 1-877-HOPE123 (877-467-3123) to get connected with care.


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