Curing Holiday Loneliness 7 ways to help make your holiday season bearable. BY SHARON M. RIVKIN
Turn that frown upside down by taking control of your loneliness.
“ Use the holiday season, not as a day of sadness and regret, but rather as a way to nurture yourself and give to yourself.”
The holidays often create a lot of shoulds that can heighten stress and facilitate sadness and depression if one doesn’t live up to the expectations that have been created for this time of the year: "You should spend time with your family." "You should be attending a lot of holiday festivities." "You should be happy and engaging because, after all, it is the holidays!" These shoulds also create the assumption that it’s a bad thing to be alone. But what if you are lonely? Perhaps your husband or wife is in the military and can't be home. Maybe they have a job here that forces them to work on the holidays. Is it possible to enjoy the holidays, feel good about yourself, and not buy into society’s expectations? Yes, because it’s the conclusion you draw about loneliness that could be the problem.
This year, try something different and instead of putting a negative connotation on being alone, think of something positive about it, and draw a different conclusion for yourself and about yourself. The following seven tips can help you begin to change your picture of loneliness:
1. Value yourself. Value who you are, what you’ve done in your life, and where you are in the moment. Maybe it’s not where you thought you’d be, but wherever you are and whatever has happened, you still have worth. Even if you are lonely, it doesn’t mean your life has been for naught. Make a list of all the things that you like about yourself, that make you worthwhile, and include items that you are grateful for.
2. Love yourself. It’s been said so many times, in so many different ways, that if we don’t love ourselves, how can we really love another person, and how can we really accept love from another person? Use the holiday season, not as a day of sadness and regret, but rather as a way to nurture yourself and give to yourself. It’s a good message to give your psyche: "I am loved by me." How do you start loving yourself? Write or say; "I am loved by me." And don’t just say this sentence once or twice; say it minimally once a day for the entire year! After time, you’ll start to believe what you’re saying.
3. Treat yourself. Write yourself a holiday card, buy yourself a special treat, or take yourself somewhere special. And it’s okay to be by yourself. You deserve it.
4. Don't accept unrealistic expectations. Don't accept that we need to be happy during the holiday season only make us feel guilty and bad when we actually experience loneliness and sadness. Understand that we are all very vulnerable around the holidays and our emotions are heightened. To help, pick out a few inspirational books or stories that appeal to you. If you have a spiritual practice, now’s the perfect time to take advantage of that. Loneliness can often be remedied with perspective—seeing a bigger picture through spiritual teachings may help you.
5. Connect with your support system. Now’s the time to connect with friends and any family members that you’re in touch with during the year. Maybe you also have a friend who is in a similar situation. Talk about getting together during the holidays and celebrating it together in your own special way. There’s no rulebook that says you have to be around family for the holidays.
6. Think outside the box. What have you always wanted to do? Maybe this is the time to start something new. If you’ve always wanted to go to the beach during the holidays, ask yourself, "What would it be like if I went there all by myself?”…and then do it!
7. Help others. Finally, a strong remedy for loneliness is taking the focus off of yourself and helping others. This is an excellent way to give back, which makes you feel better about yourself. Do you have an elderly neighbor who is alone and needs shopping done? Is there a soup kitchen in your community? What about the Red Cross, the homeless or battered women’s shelters? There are so many places that could use helping hands during the holidays and throughout the year.
If your loneliness is debilitating, however, it may be time to take stronger actions, such as seeking professional help. Whether it’s getting professional help to understand the roots of your loneliness or changing your thinking about how you define loneliness, don’t let another holiday season go by without addressing some of your patterns that aren’t working for you. Remember a remedy is within your reach!
Also known as the "last ditch effort therapist," Sharon M. Rivkin, therapist and conflict resolution/affairs expert, is the author of "Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy" and developer of the First Argument Technique, a 3-step system that helps couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. Her work has been featured in Oprah Magazine, Reader's Digest, Time.com, Yahoo!News.com, WebMD.com, and DrLaura.com. Sharon has appeared on TV, was quoted on The Insider TV show, and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. She has also appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio and is the "Resident Shrink" on Coach Ron Tunick's radio show, The Business of Life, on KKZZ 1400AM. For more information, visit www.sharonrivkin.com.