The holidays may be merry and bright, but that might not match what you feel inside—and that’s okay.
‘Tis the season for togetherness, spending time with family, friends, and maybe even coworkers as you celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year.” Despite that, the holidays may not beckon the most wonderful feelings and may leave you feeling lonely instead of jolly.
If you’re not going home for the holidays, being away from loved ones and trying to find people to celebrate with can cause emotional distress. If you are with loved ones, there may be a different kind of anguish—whether it be tied to seasonal depression, grief over those that have passed, or guilt over not being as excited for parties or celebrations as others around you. Regardless of whether you spend the holidays alone or with others, you may experience emotional distance, isolation, and as a result, feelings of loneliness.
While those feelings are valid, you deserve to feel good, and to feel like you’re a part of the festivities with people you enjoy, or enjoying time by yourself. Here are some tips to get you in the holiday spirit—or at the very least, lift your spirits so you can enjoy the holiday season:
1. Distraction is Key
Picking up a new TV series, opening a book you’ve been meaning to read, or watching your favorite movie will do wonders to not only comfort you, but provide relief over things that get you down in the dumps. Even though the reprieve may be temporary, you can push yourself to do a range of activities to combat the intrusive thoughts. If you’re having trouble engaging in the more lowkey, entertainment-driven options, try something more task-driven like baking, playing video games, or working out—maybe even to holiday music if you’re up to it, but only if that’ll get you in the mood, not worsen your mood.
2. Start a New Personal Project
Accomplishing a task may be a nice serotonin spike, but there’s something to be said about the journey to complete it that’s just as rewarding. If you’re feeling festive, get gifting—whether that be through mapping out a list of what to get loved ones, shopping for said items, or wrapping your purchases if you’ve already secured them. If you want to focus on just yourself for the time being, do something that’ll bring you short-term gratification and long-term joy. For example, you can deep clean your room and re-arrange furniture so your old space feels brand new; or you can create a vision board to manifest your intentions for the new year. Be as tactical or as creative as you wish. But whatever you do, make sure it’s something you enjoy so it feels less like a chore and more like a fun activity.
3. Reach Out
Strengthening connections with family and friends will help you feel more connected to the important people in your life—and in turn, remind yourself that you have people to turn to, that care about you as much as you care about them. Initiate a conversation over the phone or make plans to meet and catch up while doing something festive, or, completely ordinary. And if loved ones aren’t meeting your emotional needs for whatever reason, or if you feel like you need a stronger support system, you can always rely on a licensed professional. If you’ve been thinking of starting therapy but haven’t done so yet, while it’s a personal choice—rest assured, the benefits make it worth it.
4. Cultivate Gratitude
It’s hard to take stock of the positives when your thoughts are decking the halls of your mind with negatives. That’s why processing feelings in a journal helps, but to go beyond that simple step – try making a list of the things you’re grateful for. That way you’ll have tangible evidence of all the good in your life on paper and can reference it when you’re feeling blue at any point during the holiday season, or even beyond it.
5. Limit Social Media Use (or Avoid it Completely)
It’s known that social media seriously impacts and impairs mental health. Even so, you may not be able to help comparing yourself to what you’re seeing on everyone’s highlight reel. And if you’re away from loved ones this year, seeing those surrounded by their family and friends may add even more hurt on top of the pain you’re already nursing. Take a break from scrolling through your feed. Stay offline and focus on what you can do in the present to make the most of the company you have—even if it means spending some quality time with your own self.
Doing good makes you feel good, right? Look into supporting a local charity by way of donating food, clothes, books, or whatever items or monetary contributions that can help serve your community. Or if you feel comfortable with volunteering in person, try turning to a nearby church, school, charity, or organization to offer your services, based on your interests and comfort level. Not sure where to start? Check out LiveYourDream’s online volunteer and activist network for ways you can take action and enact positive change locally and globally.
7. Treat Yourself
Splurge on a special holiday meal, whether you buy ingredients to cook a family favorite recipe you can’t have in person this year or order from a local restaurant that makes the dish just as good, if not better. Browse nearby shops or online stores with the intent to purchase something nice for yourself, even if it’s more of a “nice to have” than a “need to have.” On the flip side, if you’re trying to save, you can still make it a point to do something in your area that makes you happy—with or without companions—that won’t break the bank, such as visiting an ice-skating rink, bookstore, zoo, park, or pet store. The options are endless, but one thing is for certain: you make the most out of the holidays however you can, by treating yourself like the treasure you are, because you are one.
Whatever you decide to do in an attempt to feel better, remember that like the holidays — feelings are also temporary and will pass. Hang in there!
Christina Colon is a creative writer, storyteller, and strategist based in NJ/NY. She loves a good book, podcast, show, or city spot – preferably paired with iced coffee. She’s deeply passionate about amplifying the voices of Latinx/BIPOC communities, and empowering women to live their best lives, personally and professionally.