Upon reading the title of this article, you might've immediately thought that it was a shout-out to all singles this holiday season. Eh. Not quite. For one thing, that got covered last year (check out "A Single Girl's Guide To Getting Through The Holiday Season"). Second, we all know that 2020 wasn't your typical year—not by a long shot—and so, I wanted to approach feeling lonely from a bit of a different angle this time; especially after recently reading a New York Times piece entitled, "Combating an Epidemic of Loneliness". One of the things that it mentioned was while human beings cannot go more than three minutes without air, three days without water and three weeks without food, interestingly enough, we also cannot go more than three weeks without some form of companionship. And y'all, we've been officially quarantining since March. And as you well know, it is now…December.
Something that I've found myself saying, pretty much on repeat, ever since the summer is, while 2020 was a trip-and-a-half, 2021 is also sure to have its own customized bullshishery between the evictions, financial struggles and mental health side effects that will come from having to endure so much from these past several months (and this current administration) alone. Knowing this can bring on a different kind of loneliness—whether you share your living space with someone or not.
So, as we're literally just days away from Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, if something just doesn't feel quite right within, first, know that you aren't alone (again, not by a long shot) and second, here are some suggestions that can hopefully make this holiday season just a little bit easier to endure.
What Are Some Telling Signs That You’re Battling Loneliness?
Something that I get for the "little friends" in my life is a feelings chart. Unfortunately, a lot of us didn't grow up with parents who weren't emotionally intelligent enough to even know what they were feeling, so they couldn't really teach us emotion-related words beyond happy, sad and angry (didn't know how to model any others appropriately either). So, as adults, some of us really struggle with discerning which emotion we're experiencing at any given time. That's why I think it's important to share what some signs of loneliness actually are. Not to patronize you; just for clarity's sake.
People who are lonely tend to struggle with sleeping soundly at night. Constantly being online rather than interacting with people you have a "real" relationship with can trigger loneliness. If you make mountains out of molehills, that can be a sign of overthinking which can result from feeling isolated and lonely. A weakened immune system can be a sign of loneliness. Constantly binge-watching television is a sign of loneliness. Did you know that being around negative individuals can also make you feel lonely (which is how married folks can feel lonely)? Interestingly enough, shying away from intimacy—physical or emotional—is also a sign of loneliness (many people see it as a way of protecting themselves from further relational disappointment).
Another reason why it's so important to know these kinds of things is so you don't assume that feeling depressed is the only indication of loneliness. It absolutely is not. If you notice that you're going through any of the things that I just shared, and you can't connect these instances to any specific instance, it very well could be that you are dealing with loneliness—the feeling that comes over you when you feel like you are lacking in some level of sympathy, support or companionship.
Figure Out If It’s About the Holidays or Something Deeper
Now that we've touched on some not-so-surface signs of loneliness, it's important to spend some time figuring out what's causing it for you specifically. Again, if you said it's simply PTSD from dealing with 2020, I would totally get that. Plus, there is something that is literally known as "holiday depression". Whether it's the changes in the seasons and time (which can trigger seasonal depression); watching all of the Christmas Hallmark movies where everyone seems boo'ed up and full of Christmas cheer; reflecting on past memories—good or bad—with loved ones; having a hard time keeping up with your coins; thinking back on what you wanted to accomplish over the past year and quite possibly didn't—again, it makes perfect sense why this may be the time of year when you feel lower than the rest of it.
Another spin is having a few days off around Christmas and New Year's Day may cause you to slow down enough to actually feel what you've been ignoring for the past several months. This is why it's important to make some time to really process what the source of your loneliness actually is. What I mean by that is, even if you feel isolated, detached or like no one really "sees you" or "gets you" right now, what initially got you to feeling that way? Journaling is something that can help you in this area. There is something else that you can do as well. This brings me to my next point.
Let Someone Know What’s Going On
The times in my life when I've felt lonely, it's weird. While I was feeling like no one had my back, I also didn't want to reach out to people who I knew, deep down, actually did. That's the thing about loneliness—from an emotional standpoint, it tends to encourage you to remain in the state that you are in which ultimately only makes matters worse in the long run.
Sometimes, when you feel like you're out here, all alone, loneliness will tell you that reaching out to someone else—especially during the holiday season—is selfish and inconsiderate. Don't let it lie to you like that. People who truly care about you don't take days off, and while they may be more preoccupied than usual, that doesn't mean that you don't matter to them or that they don't want to help you if you need it.
So, whether it's an emotionally safe family member, friend or reputable life coach, counselor or therapist, if you just can't seem to "shake" what you're going through, don't hesitate to let someone know that. Sometimes, just having someone sympathize or even empathize with your situation can help to get you on the path to getting out of the rut that you are in.
Whatever Makes You Feel Better? DO THAT.
While it's kind of another article for another time, there is a fine line between doing things that will mask your loneliness (like going on shopping sprees you can't afford, drinking or smoking a lot of weed or engaging in reckless sex or even sex that serves as nothing more than a temporary distraction) vs. doing things that will help you to feel less lonely. Still, when it comes to Column B, there are beneficial ways to make holiday season depression a lot easier to bear. Today, I'll list 10 of 'em.
Pamper yourself. It reminds you that you are important and deserve self-care.
Get off social media and actually connect with a human. OK, there is still a pandemic going on; however, meeting up with someone to go on a winter walk or setting up an appointment to watch a favorite throwback movie with a friend over Zoom (so that you can share the same screen) can get you past being on IG or Twitter all day long. It can make it easier to have personal conversations too.
Take some real time off from work (at least 3-4 days). You would think that getting off of the grid and being quiet would only make you feel lonelier but actually, overworking yourself can cause you to feel overwhelmed which can put more pressure on you which can actually make you feel worse. So yeah, time off is also a helpful tip for overcoming feelings of loneliness.
Do some minor house upgrades. Purchase some items for your home that are in your favorite color. Get some soy-scented candles that can help to lighten your mood (citrus, jasmine, peppermint, vanilla, cinnamon, lavender and cedarwood are all beneficial). Invest in some new bedding (so that you can sleep better). Get a couple of plants (they are proven to improve your mood and increase productivity and creativity). Buy things that will encourage you to be more active like new cooking utensils or some arts and crafts.
Pray and meditate. Sometimes, remembering that there is a power higher than you, can take the pressure off of feeling like you have to do everything—including figuring out how to feel better—alone.
Switch up your diet a bit. It's pretty common that when we're in a bad mood, our diet pretty much sucks. Sugary drinks like sodas and even a lot of fruit juice can cause our energy levels to skyrocket and then instantly crash. Anything from a white grain (like bagels, doughnuts or even white bread or white pasta) are carbs that turn into sugar (and ultimately do what I already said about sugary drinks). Baked goods are made from refined sugars and saturated oils which can result in emotional roller coaster rides. Margarine contains processed saturated fats which can cause your blood sugar levels (and your moods) to be all over the place. Fast food can ultimately make you feel sluggish and lethargic. So, what in the world can you eat that will give you a bit of a pick me up instead? Good question. Articles on our platform like "In A Bad Mood? These Foods Will Lift Your Spirits!" and "Eating Well: 10 Foods That Can Improve Your Mental Health" can help to get you back on track.
Get a pet. Sometimes, being responsible for something else can help to make you feel more necessary and valuable. Pets are great at offering unconditional love too.
Treat yourself this holiday. Something else that can trigger feelings of loneliness around this time of year is feeling like you have to think so much about everyone around you that your own needs end up taking the backburner. Release this toxic mindset because it's totally untrue. There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting a few Christmas gifts for yourself in order to put a bit of a smile on your face. In fact, I encourage it.
Have sex. Not "needy sex". What I'm saying is that if you're in an exclusive relationship, sex can also lift your spirits, de-stress you and, ladies, giving head (until completion) is like taking the ultimate multivitamin. It really can't be said enough.
Create a sleep routine. Loneliness that results in sleepless nights that only lead to you feeling worse the next day can be a bit of a vicious cycle. That's why it's not a good idea to wait until you "feel like going to bed" before turning in at night. It's important to actually cultivate a sleep routine. Soak in the tube. Get offline. Sip some herbal tea. Read a book. Go to bed at the same time. Get naked (so that you don't overheat). RELAX. A good 6-8 hours of rest is a miracle resolution for loneliness that isn't praised nearly enough.
Remember That This Too Shall Pass
While I'd be lying to you if I came up with a timeframe for how long bouts of loneliness tend to last, what I will say is getting a ballpark idea depends on what's triggering it in the first place. If it's a break-up, it kind of depends on how long the relationship was (and if you're dealing with it or denying it); however, a couple of months does tend to turn the "wound" into a "scab". If it's due to seasonal depression, you should feel more like yourself come spring. If it's because you're hormonally all over the place, altering your diet and making an appointment to see your doctor can definitely help. If it's because of the holidays, well, those will be over in just a few days. If you are disappointed in yourself—using this time to think about what you love about you and writing down some goals for what you'd like to achieve next year can be helpful.
You know the main thing that you need to do, though? Remember that this feeling won't last forever. Like I once heard Dylan McKay's mom say on an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210, "Even despair exhausts itself." It might not feel like it right now but be gentle with yourself, be forgiving of yourself, be compassionate towards yourself. Feeling lonely is nothing to feel ashamed about or be scared of. You feel like you're not getting support so again, reach out for some. And yes, remember sis, that like all seasons of life, this too shall pass.
Now get yourself a cup of hot cocoa, snuggle under a cable knit blanket and call a friend. I'm pretty sure they would be happy to hear from you. Especially since it's the holiday season.
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