Dealing With Loneliness on the Holidays During COVID-19

Ways to cope with loneliness during COVID-19

Verywell / Nez Riaz

The holidays are a time to celebrate and come together with friends and family, many of whom we do not see regularly. This holiday season between Thanksgiving and January has been drastically affected by the world pandemic. However, gathering with friends and family to celebrate the different holidays throughout this next year will also look a little different because of COVID-19.

Whether we are celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Easter, Independence Day, or other federal holidays, many of us gather and embrace one another. This year, however, has a different ring to it. This year many of us have been told to stay home and connect with family and friends virtually, something that most people never thought they would be doing in their wildest dreams.

Staying in by yourself on a holiday, regardless if it is a summer holiday or a Christmas holiday can feel lonely and can trigger feelings of sadness, anger, confusion, and frustration. It is hard to say when this pandemic will end and when we can gather with our loved ones safely once again. In the meantime, it can be helpful to adopt healthy coping skills that can help get us through these difficult times.

Keep in mind that you are not alone.

Although we can’t gather together in person with our loved ones during these times, it does not mean that we are alone. We can still connect thanks to virtual technology. We can call, email, and video chat with our loved ones regardless if they live down the street or on the other side of the globe.

We don’t have to wait for the holidays to connect, but we can schedule weekly or monthly virtual gatherings with our favorite people. Here are some fun ways to spend time with each other:

  • Virtual weekly dinner dates with loved ones
  • Virtual trivia game nights
  • Virtual creative arts and crafts sessions
  • Virtual weekend happy hours
  • Virtual yoga or group fitness classes 

It is important to keep in mind that we are all in this together, so then when we do feel alone, we can empathize with one another knowing that there are so many others who feel alone as well. 

Practice self-care.

As Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation." The term “self-care” is often overused in society. This term has become a pretty trendy idea, a buzzword if you will, especially given the impact this concept has had on the wellness industry.

The consumer side of self-care has many of us convinced that self-care equals regular spa days, wine in the bathtub, expensive vacations, or retail therapy. Self-care means that we are checking in with ourselves and making sure that we can meet our needs, knowing that our needs may differ each day.

Self-care may mean setting boundaries with others, or admitting that we cannot heal alone and we need help.

Self-care may mean cooking breakfast, reading a book, asking for alone time, or replacing toxic habits with healthy coping mechanisms. It may mean spending the day on the couch watching television, or going for a run. Self-care is not a one size fits all approach and it is a unique practice.

Practicing self-care every day can help us combat feelings of loneliness and depression. It can help us break down our own barriers to find happiness and it can be a self-soothing approach that we should not only practice during the holidays but all year. 

Practice gratitude.

Regardless if it is Christmas or Independence Day, taking time to account for the good things you do have in your life is important; whether it is a roof over your head, food in your fridge, gainful employment, or having friends and family who love you. If you are feeling alone or lack the feeling of love, then make an effort to recognize and appreciate the love you do have, whether it is from your neighbors, family, friends, or your dog.

Practicing gratitude also involves giving to others. Whether you are baking a cake, helping your neighbor grocery shop, buying a small gift for a friend, mailing a card to a loved one, or helping your neighbor with a roof leak, you are giving your time and skillset to others, which can help fill you with feelings of love and pride. By helping and giving to others, you are part of something larger than yourself, which can help cultivate feelings of gratitude. 

Get outside.

It is so easy to be alone in our homes during this pandemic, especially around the holidays. We can stay in bed or on the couch for hours, moping in our feelings, which can only make us feel more alone and isolated. Instead, get dressed and get into the outdoors.

Whether it is playing fetch with your dog, going for a hike, taking a bike ride, skiing with friends, or camping under the stars, spending time outdoors is healing and can allow you to connect with nature in a form of meditation. 

Keep your feelings in check.

Sometimes we can do all the things to combat loneliness. We can virtually connect with others, practice gratitude, help our neighbors, practice self-care, and run outside every day, but we can still be battling feelings of loneliness and depression. It is important to recognize any negative underlying feelings and reach out for help.

Feeling withdrawn or disconnected, not enjoying things you used to enjoy, lack of motivation, sleep problems, poor appetite, difficulty concentrating and making decisions, irritability, or fatigue, are all feelings we should recognize and seek help if these feelings begin to take over our lives.

Whether it is talking to a friend or working through these feelings with a therapist, it is important to recognize when we should seek help. 

As we come into the New Year, we may have feelings of uncertainty about our current world and this pandemic, however, holidays will come and go throughout the year and we must take the proper precautions to make sure we are safe, happy, and healthy. We must continue to have hope, to check in with ourselves and our loved ones, and to be thankful for each new day. 

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