Combating Depression & Loneliness over the Holidays
Many people will spend the holidays alone. COVID has made large gatherings iffy. Often, essential workers cannot get off to spend the time with their family or to travel home for the holidays. Virtual gatherings have become the norm. And for many, the emotional toll of the holidays just make being around people uncomfortable.
Are you going to be alone this holiday season? Do you dread it? Or is it kind of a relief to not have to live up to anyone else’s expectations?
Here are some things you can do to ward of the depression and take the sting out of being alone this holiday season:
Know that there is no normal and you are not alone. Traditional holidays may look a little different this year for everyone. With the limits on gatherings, the challenges of travel and the fear, many will spend the holidays very differently than they have in years past. You are not alone in being alone. For now, recognize that and give yourself some time and space to grieve but also know that different is not always bad. Look at this as an opportunity to try something new.
Plan and prepare your day in advance. Buy your favorite food. Rent your favorite movies. Buy yourself a new comfy set of pajamas or a new blanket to wrap up in. Give yourself permission to just enjoy the day.
Plan an outing either by yourself or with someone else who may be alone this holiday. You can go on a hike, a run, a bike ride. Getting out of the house and into nature can do wonders for your mood.
Host a potluck with others who cannot go see their families or do not have anyone. Sometimes we find the most cherished connections are made with complete strangers as we bond over similar circumstances.
Help others. There are lots of organizations who need help - soup kitchens, food banks, Angel trees, animal shelters and many more. Reach out and see if they need any help on your days off. Getting out of your own head and focusing on others is one of the best ways to change your perspective.
Pick up the phone. Putting yourself out there can be hard. But make a list of those closest to you and make it a priority to call them and wish them a happy holiday. If the nerves get the best of you and you do not want to stumble over a “happy holidays” call, think of memory you share and bring that up during the call. Those calls can help you feel connected and help ward off the depression that is so apt to wash over us during the holiday season.
It is okay to be selfish over the holidays. It is okay to say no. It is okay to say I need help. While you may be alone, there are many things you can do to feel less lonely. The key is to plan for them. And give yourself grace.
When the feelings start to overwhelm or the dread overshadows your day, do not hesitate to reach out to professional counselor. Many offer online sessions with little notice and may have additional suggestions for helping you cope with the loneliness and depression around the holidays.
If you or a loved one are struggling with loneliness or depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
About the Author
Neeley R. Hughey,PhD, LMHC, is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP) and Certified Life with over 20 years of experience specializing in CPTSD, PTSD, Trauma, Depression and Anxiety.
Call 321.757.4015 to make an appointment with Neeley.