For some of us, the holiday season can be a time of loneliness rather than joy. This may be because we are reminded of the loss of a loved one (see coping with grief over the holiday season) or a relationship breakdown or perhaps because we live far away from family.

If you’re a key worker, your shifts may mean you are unable or too busy, tired or overwhelmed to attend all of the social events that usually take place over the festive period. This can lead to feelings of isolation and being left out.

You don’t have to be alone to feel lonely. Some of us may have strained relationships with our families or feel emotional distance from them. Constant adverts and social media posts featuring happy, smiling couples and families can make us feel even more lonely.

The following advice may help.

1) Try to shift your expectations

A big part of why many of us feel lonelier at this time of year is the high expectations that society places on the festive period. Films, adverts and social media posts can lead to unrealistic expectations of what this time of year “should” be like.

Avoid comparing yourself to what you see on social media. Remind yourself that people tend to only share the “highlights” on social media. You may want to limit the time you spend on it each day or avoid it entirely.

Instead of focusing on what you think your celebrations should be like, think about what you actually want it to be like. Ask yourself what brings you joy and what your ideal day would look like. You may want to invent your own traditions.

This article might help if you’re spending this holiday season alone this year.

2) Make time for self-care

Looking after yourself can help you to feel better and enjoy the time you spend alone more. Make a list of self-care activities that make you feel good, for example taking a relaxing bath with essential oils, listening to your favourite music, reading a good book, or going for a walk.

Try to do at least one of these every day to help boost your mood and take your mind off feeling lonely.

3) Connect with others

It’s harder to feel lonely when you’re actively connecting with others. Make an effort to say hello to neighbours, talk to a colleague about their weekend or write holiday cards this year. The festive period is also a good opportunity to reach out to old friends. Why not send them a “Happy Holidays” text and arrange a catch up?

Is there someone in your life who may also be finding this time difficult? A friend who lives alone or a colleague going through a break up, for example. Sending a text, email or card can really make someone’s day and can help you both feel less alone.

4) Get involved in your community

Find out what’s on in your area and get involved. Whether it is Christmas carols, crafting workshops or local markets, getting out and about and doing something can help relieve loneliness.

5) Give to others

Helping others can make us feel more connected, in turn helping us feel less lonely. If you have the time, volunteering is a great way to do this. Search for opportunities on Do-it.org or on the websites of charities close to your heart. Befriending services like Silverline and Age UK are especially important over this time of year.

Even if you can’t volunteer, simple, unexpected acts of kindness during this season can really brighten someone’s day and make you feel good as well. You could…

  • Donate to a food bank
  • Give a generous tip to a friendly customer service worker like a waiter or barista
  • Buy a homeless person a sandwich and a hot drink
  • Drop off an unexpected gift on a friend’s doorstep
  • Help someone who’s struggling with their luggage on public transport
  • Pay for a stranger’s coffee
  • Donate pet food to a local shelter
  • Offer to wrap gifts for others
  • Give up your seat to someone on busy public transport
  • Let someone else go in front of you in a queue
  • Bake cookies for your neighbours or work colleagues
  • Buy your friend chocolate (or a drink in the pub!) when they’re feeling down…and listen thoughtfully if they need to vent
  • Give genuine compliments

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Updated on: 21/04/2022