Experts Reveal How To Cope When The Holidays Feel Like The Loneliest Time Of Year

by Julia Guerra

You know how, sometimes, you can be surrounded by a sea of people, and still feel completely alone? For some, that pretty much sums up the holiday season in a nutshell. Holidays are assumed to be joyful, but some people, no matter how hard they try to have themselves a merry little Christmahanakwanzika, can’t help feeling lonesome. If this scenario sounds all too familiar around this time of year, the good news is, you’re not alone, and experts have shared their best tips for combating loneliness during the holidays to help you navigate your emotions if the most wonderful time of the year doesn’t feel so fabulous.

In 2017, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) conducted a survey to figure out what feelings people tend to associate with the holidays. According to the questionnaire's results, 67 percent of adults 18 years old and over feel warm, happy feelings like love, joy, and excitement around the holiday season, though a significant 31 percent of respondents admitted to feeling lonely this time of year. Heartbreaking as it may be, the most common reasons why some people might experience these types of emotions around the holiday season definitely make sense.

For example, if you’ve recently lost a loved one, cut ties with an SO, or you aren’t able to catch a flight home for whatever reason, Lisa Olivera, a licensed marriage and family therapist, explains that going through the motions of the holidays with so strong an absence “can be painful and heighten feelings associated with grief and loss.”

If you, or someone you know, experiences loneliness around this time of year, know this: You are definitely not alone in these difficult times, your feelings are valid, and it is going to get better. Allow yourself to feel lonely when these emotions surface, and when you feel ready to do so, try to give these expert-approved tips for combating loneliness a try.

Talk About What You're Feeling With Someone You Trust

Who is your confidante? Who's that one person, or those few people, whom you know, no matter what, will always be there for you, even among the hustle and bustle of the holiday season? Whether it's your best friend, sister, aunt, or even a therapist, instead of internalizing your emotions and sitting with them by yourself, let this person or these people know how you're feeling.

"When we choose to let ourselves be seen and share our feelings with those we trust, we often realize we in fact aren’t alone, which can be supportive and comforting during this time," Olivera tells Elite Daily. "Even having one person you feel comfortable expressing yourself honestly and genuinely with can create a greater sense of connection."

Honor And Accept The Emotions You're Experiencing

Contrary to popular belief, it's totally OK to not be in the holiday spirit. One of the worst things you can do is suppress your true emotions and try to play up false ones, says Olivera. It's not fair to you, and it's not fair to those around you.

So, if you start to experience loneliness around the holidays, Olivera recommends being not only mindful of your emotions, but to also honor them and recognize a) your limits, and b) when you need to ask for comfort or support. "If you can become aware of the sensations, feelings, and thoughts that come up for you around loneliness," she tells Elite Daily, "you are better able to shift, change, and move those feelings from a place of self-compassion."

Consider Avoiding Social Media

I can almost guarantee that anyone feeling holly and jolly this holiday season is likely posting about it on social media, but it probably isn't going to make you feel any better to compare where you're at emotionally to where everyone else seems to be at this time of year.

And, more specifically, if the reason behind your loneliness happens to be due to a recent breakup, Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist, relationship coach, and the creator of the Your Happiness Hypothesis Method, says you definitely don't want to fall into the black hole of scrolling.

"Try to avoid stalking your ex on social networks," Silva tells Elite Daily. "This only stagnates your growth because it occupies your brain with thoughts about your ex's activities and whereabouts, instead of mentally preparing yourself for a better relationship and a more realized version of yourself."

Be A Rock For Someone Experiencing The Same Thing

They say misery loves company, right? Well, loneliness does, too, but instead of feeding off each other's emotions, why not build each other up? If nothing else, the AARP's survey results show you aren't alone in what you're going through, and if you know someone, like an acquaintance or co-worker, who's experiencing something similar, reach out and offer to be a shoulder they can lean on.

"Think about how you can become a support network for other people around you, maybe your co-workers who are far from their families, elderly neighbors who have trouble getting out and about, local exchange students," Helena Plater-Zyberk, co-founder of Supportiv, tells Elite Daily. "Flip your perspective and see how you can spend time with them so they're not lonely. This gives you purpose, something self-fulfilling that fills any void you feel in your own life."

Reserve Time For Yourself

Being alone for the holidays doesn't have to feel lonely, so the minute you start experiencing these emotions, try to think of ways you can turn a negative into a positive. For instance, Plater-Zyberk suggests doing something for yourself that you've been meaning to tackle all year, such as organizing your music, making a photo album, even just running little errands or fixing up your living space.

The goal, she says, is to do things that "will boost your self-confidence and self-worth."