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Overcoming Loneliness During the Holidays

Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistDecember 16, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

The holiday season is supposed to be a loving time of feeling connected with family, friends, and even humanity at large. Unfortunately, this expectation can be such a contrast with people’s real lives that they often feel especially lonely and sad.

Though you cannot rearrange your life to match the fantasy of a perfect holiday, you can feel better by learning to approach this season differently. So, if you struggle with loneliness more during the holidays, consider the following suggestions:

Set realistic expectations. Though you probably know in your head that the world is not a Norman Rockwell painting, your heart may be holding onto the wish for a perfect holiday. When life fails to live up to this, you feel emotionally deflated and especially lonely. Instead of replaying this painful drama, it can help to be consciously aware of the realities of your life – both the good and the bad. Then choose to pursue the good (with your life’s limitations in mind). Think about where you can realistically expect to find love, connection, and enjoyment. Then do your part to make it happen.

Remind yourself that you are not alone in feeling unimportant and lonely. Many people feel this way. While thinking about this won’t magically erase your loneliness, it can help you to realize that you are not alone in feeling lonely; that your loneliness makes you very much a part of the “community” of all humans.

Show yourself compassion. Choose to see yourself as a person, just like any other person. And just as you would show compassion for someone else who feels lonely, choose to have self-compassion. When you are self-critical for feeling alone and lonely, tell yourself to stop pursuing these thoughts. Attend, instead, to how painful it is to feel lonely. Then simply say to yourself the same compassionate words you would offer someone else. You can offer words of caring and support, as well as encouragement to reach out socially.

Make plans to connect with others. Though you might feel like hiding in bed under the covers or zoning out to some movie on television, doing that will only make you feel worse. Instead, think about the kinds of activities you would ordinarily enjoy doing with others. Then follow through on trying to make them happen – even though you won’t necessarily enjoy them. You might call and make plans with friends or family. Or, you might join a group activity, or even volunteer to help others. By taking these actions, you allow for the possibility of enjoying them and might at least keep yourself from falling into a deeper emotional hole.

The important thing is to not let yourself get swallowed up by your loneliness, making your days ever darker. While life and your relationships might not be perfect – or anywhere close to it – you can find ways to feel better by connecting with others. Choose to reach out and then build on those connections. By allowing yourself to feel the positives that connecting with others can offer, you are creating a light to help you through the loneliness of the holiday season.

Entries for the Relationships blog are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.

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About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

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