The Holidays: The Loneliest Time of Year

It makes me feel worse
When people around me are full of cheer
It makes me wonder
What it’ll take for me to love this time of year

• Song: Sad Holiday. Lyrics and vocals by Niki DeMar

The holiday season can be rough for many of us at the best of times. Let alone at the worst of times we’re living in now.

Loneliness. Grief. Anger. Sadness. Grudges. All sorts of emotions can bubble up and smack us around the face during the ‘happiest time of the year’.

We miss loved ones – even more so this year. We feel lonely – even more so this year. We wish we weren’t so pushed into the ‘you must have a happy time’ frame of mind – even more so when many of us don’t have much to be happy about. We wish we weren’t expected to be happy when we simply aren’t. We wish we didn’t feel guilty for it.

Those feelings are only exacerbated when we hear ‘make this year extra special’. Because you know what? Many of us can’t.

Epidemic or not, some of us spend the holidays alone, some have for years, perhaps because of illness or because there are no loved ones to visit, others because they don’t celebrate or because this year they have to shield from their loved ones for the protection of themselves or others. Still, plenty of us do get to spend it with family, yet might feel more alone than ever.

Whatever your reason for struggling during the holiday season, the mental impact is great. We all know the songs, the films, the pressure to make the ‘special’ time of year exactly that. For those of us in circumstances where we don’t feel up to celebrating it’s rough. Very rough.

I’ve been there too. I often struggle during the holidays, for different reasons. For one, I never get to spend the holidays with all my loved ones, because most live far away or abroad. This means that I miss people. It’s only emphasised when others around me do get to be together. It can leave you sad, heartbroken and lonely.

Even though it is completely fine to struggle while knowing there are so many of us in the same boat, we still live in an environment that tells us differently. It means we still have to deal with other people’s cheer while feeling miserable ourselves.

Therefore, I have gathered below some of the things that help me get through as best as I can.

To begin with, when feeling especially low, I am always careful with my social media intake. Instagram, with its pictures of happy-looking people (I deliberately word it like that), can do much harm when you are feeling vulnerable. I know it all too well. This is why I often turn to Twitter, where a chat is easier to have and in my experience people are more honest about how their day is actually going.

If possible, treat a holiday like any other day. Record shows you normally watch and put them on so you can avoid the special programming. Eat like you normally do. Sleep like you normally do. Holding onto your routine can truly help.

Reaching out can be hard when you think others are having a good time. But it is important to do so nonetheless. Even when others are in company, people are always willing to send you a kind word back. Trust me, be honest. Tell someone you are struggling! Just one person being kind and understanding to you can make a whole lot of difference.

One of the ways you can reach out during Christmas time is by joining Sarah Millican’s #JoinIn campaign. It is a space on Twitter where people struggling during Christmas can go and have a chat. You don’t even have to speak or tweet yourself, you can just have a look, read others’ messages and see that you’re not alone in feeling like this. It has helped me tremendously to see the kindness of strangers in the same boat during especially rough years.

Most important of all: be kind to yourself when you are feeling low. You are allowed to feel sad, you are allowed to feel lonely and to feel the guilt attached to this. Don’t chastise yourself for your feelings. You are allowed to feel exactly how you feel!

And remember: you are not alone in feeling like this! Many, many dread the holidays, even if most of us don’t dare to admit it.

Do you have any tips to get through the holiday season? Please leave them in the comments below so they might help others!

x Sandra


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