Loneliness and Isolation During the Holidays

It is hard to understand the wonder and excitement others feel during the holiday season when all you feel is lonely. If this is how you feel, please continue reading. These feelings are not to be taken lightly. At the very least, you need to understand why you may feel this way.

Although we often think that it is lonely widowers who experience the holidays as less than joyful because of living alone and missing a spouse/partner, younger people are equally at risk. In this time of online support, the feelings of family, friends and face to face social engagement may be missing; causing loneliness to set in.

Things get pretty gloomy when you just can’t seem to feel content. It is especially hard when offers by friends to connect just make you want to dig deeper and isolate further. It is a cycle of wanting to be social, but avoiding it and not understanding why.

Part of why is that Covid changed how and where people have face to face interactions. Some coffee shops, libraries, and shopping centers are still closed to sit-down-and-visit areas. This limits social interaction for some. Social media posts are always happy and focus on how easy and wonderful life is, making anything less feel awful. Our work lives, in general, can be all-encompassing and there just seems to be less time for being with others. With all of these reasons for not being social, it’s no wonder isolation, as bad as it feels, might seem like the best choice. The holidays can be hard!

In addition to the external issues causing isolation, the holiday blues can drive you to pull away and be less social. Memories of hurtful holidays, times of trauma, lost loved ones and financial worries can intensify stress and loneliness.

Sometimes, even being around others on the holiday intensifies loneliness. When relationships are shaky or arguments occur and expectations are set too high, you can certainly feel like you just don’t fit in. It can also hurt when feelings of loneliness are discounted because you have friends and a family who are with you during the holidays.

So you know that the holidays are tough and you know that feelings of loneliness and isolating from others are a part of your holiday experience, what can you do? Here are some suggestions that may help get you through the rough spots:

  1. Start with the basics: eat well, exercise, drink water, refrain from too much alcohol (which is a depressant), and engage in meditation or faith-based readings or gatherings.
  2. Make mental lists of difficult people that you know you must see, but cause negative feelings to arise. Can you shorten the time you spend with them? Can you plan for benign conversations like movies, books, or community evens? Can you stay away from hot topics like politics or family gossip?
  3. There are some people who just seem to be like fresh air. Who are these people? Are they available to help you “catch your breath”? Even a phone call can help.
  4. Engage in your community. It is well known that giving lifts spirits and moods. Who in your community can use some support during the holidays? Be that support. Try food banks, hospitals or shelters (pets or people!).
  5. Do something that you enjoy (and don’t feel guilty about it).

If you find that you just can’t seem to shake feelings of loneliness and you find yourself pulling away from others, maybe the holidays have exacerbated a more long standing condition like depression or anxiety. Please don’t think you have to go at it alone. Your behavioral health team at Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital is here to help. One call to (844) 580-5000 will help you schedule a level of care assessment. Free and confidential, this assessment will point you to the level of support that you need. Just call. You are not alone. We can do this together.