5 Tips for Getting Through the Holidays Alone

2020 has been a doozy. As we near the end of this year, we are faced with real concerns about the health of our communities and nation. We are being told not to travel, and not to spend time with family outside of our immediate household. Unfortunately, for many people this means spending the holidays alone. For some this may be just fine, but for others this may lead to sadness and loneliness. And, if you add substance use or mental health issues on top of that, it can feel incredibly depressing. If you will be spending the holidays alone this season and are concerned about how it will affect your mental health, here are some tips for how to reduce feelings of sadness, loneliness, and depression.

  1. Create a holiday schedule

    Creating a schedule may not seem like something you want to do for the holidays when you’re supposed to be relaxing, but creating a schedule can reduce boredom which can trigger loneliness and depression. This schedule is not a “to do” schedule, this is more of a “wellness” schedule. The types of things I would add to this daily schedule are exercise, time spent outside, phone or video contact with family and friends, meditation, reading, and other hobbies that you can do alone. If you’re in recovery, schedule meetings and time to talk with your fellowship. Having a schedule of things you have already planned for yourself will help reduce feelings of boredom, which we know leads to negative thinking.

  2. Schedule phone and video time with friends and family

    Go ahead and schedule calls/Face time with friends and family ahead of time. The holidays can be hectic, and so last minute planning doesn’t always work well. Reach out to family and friends now, and explain to them how you want to make sure you have scheduled time to connect because you’re concerned about feeling lonely or depressed. If you have a sponsor or a recovery support system, schedule times to connect with them as well.

  3. Practice gratitude

    Research shows us that practicing gratitude can change our brain chemistry and lead to us feeling happier. Even though you might be alone over the holidays, you still have a lot to be grateful for. Spend time each morning focusing on what you are grateful for. Make a list, or even journal about what you are grateful for and refer back to that list throughout the day if you notice depression creeping in.

  4. Rethink your expectations

    Many of us have expectations of what the holidays “should” be like. However, those expectations could get us into trouble. If you’ll be spending the holidays alone this year, rethink your expectations of this holiday season. Instead of expecting to see certain people or experience certain things, be realistic with yourself and remind yourself of why this holiday season is going to be different. It can also help to think of the things that you will enjoy doing alone, like watching your favorite holiday movies or finishing that book you haven’t had time to read.

  5. Re-create traditions

    Many of us have our favorite foods, music, movies, etc during the holidays. Just because you might not be seeing people in person, it doesn’t mean you still can’t re-create the things that make it feel like the holidays. If you have favorite traditions for the holidays, go ahead and plan out now how you can re-create those for yourself.

I hope these tips are helpful if you’ll be spending the holidays alone. Stay well and healthy and reach out anytime!