Advice for Spending the Holidays Alone

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Christmas Tree Bulb
Image via Mybestdesktops.com

Everyone who has moved out of their parent’s house knows how hard it is to suddenly be alone. You may have gone off to school, started a job or an internship across the country/world, or can’t afford to travel to see family, but in any case you know how it feels. Being alone or away from family during the holidays can be a nerve-wracking and anxiety-inducing experience, but you may have no other choice.

That being said, the very first thing you need to acknowledge is that you’re not alone. Though that may sound contradictory, thousands of individuals across the world experience some type of loneliness. Psychologists Anytime Anywhere quotes,

 According to a recent national survey, 25% of all adults experience painful loneliness at least every few weeks, and the incidence among adolescents and college students is even higher. 

The list below should act as a jumping-off point for you. If you can think of anything else that would make you happier, pursue it. But if you run out of ideas, be sure to revisit the article to be further inspired.

Independent, not Isolated

Image via ambergristoday.com
Most would agree that small groups of close friends are better than larger groups. Image via ambergristoday.com

I had the privilege to interview Dr. Jack Jensen, the director of the psychological services at the University of Utah and therapist  who primarily meets with college students, ages 18-25. Dr. Jensen mentioned that,

Students come in all the time because they don’t feel like they fit in, or they’re socially shy or socially awkward.

Some students who find themselves alone often may not fit in the categories of being “shy” or “alone”, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t experience a world of anxiety because of their social circumstances. When you finally come to terms with being alone, it’s important to take action.

For those who often find themselves solitary, taking action can be one of the hardest things to do. Sometimes the challenge isn’t interacting with people or doing things, but the thought of doing it beforehand.

Ironically, action is the key to conquering the feelings of lethargy and loneliness. If you are lonely but also know others who need a friend, be the strong one and reach out to them. Doing things in a group can be much more healing than doing things alone.

Treat Yourself to Relaxation

Image via feelslikehome.eu
Taking it easy is different for everyone. Perhaps you like to draw, play sports, go for walks, read, or cook. Image via feelslikehome.eu

Relaxing or pursuing a hobby while alone can relieve a lot of the stress and anxiety you may feel while not actively interacting with others. As we invest our time in work and school we often will neglect our hobbies or things that help us release some of the pressure. It’s important to remember to make time for these things, so that we won’t be wound up so tightly.

If you’re working for the holidays try to find and dedicate time to those things that relieve stress. Schedule them on your phone, calendar, or in your planner, but be sure to make them as much of a priority as work or school.

Get Connected

 

Meeting, shaking hands, introduce
Whether it’s a few miles away or across the globe, there are always going to be opportunities to meet new people. Surprisingly, this will usually help reduce stress and anxiety. Image via Constantcontacts.com

Even if you’re not an extremely social individual, multiple resources have suggested that seeking friendships with individuals who have similar interests can lessen or prevent certain symptoms of loneliness. If you find a hard time putting yourself out there, try joining clubs, religious activities, participating in community activities, or volunteering.

Dr. Jensen emphasized the importance of creating social relations outside of your close friends and family and saying,

Social support is a key factor regardless if you’re away from home or at home, we all need a social support system.

Though some individuals may not nurture these relations as much as they do with their loved ones, having acquaintances with similar interests may be a valuable resource to rely on when the holidays roll around.

You may be surprised by the number of individuals who are in the same situation as you are.

Understand Your Feelings

Image via trekearth.com
Introspection may occur when you’re alone whether you realize it or not. Like a survival instinct, it helps you digest certain experiences and feelings that may occur.  Image via trekearth.com

Most often it’s helpful to know what exactly you’re feeling when you’re experiencing low points in your life. Try to pinpoint if you’re feeling frustrated, sad, lonely, numb, empty, angry, or depressed, as self identification is vital when experiencing difficult times. This can be done through cognitive self examining. For example: exploring the roots of your thoughts and feelings.

After doing so, it’s helpful to try to backtrack where these feelings may stem from.

When getting down to the root cause, you may be able to find a practical and useful outlet for these passionate feelings.

Rely on Your Ward Family

Image via understandingmormonism.com
As members of the Church, we are encouraged to seek out and be willing to help that are enduring certain trials. Image via understandingmormonism.com

As the holidays are approaching, try your best to make appearances at ward functions, such as chili cook-offs, Trunk or Treats, Thanksgiving and Christmas get-togethers, and New Year’s activities.

Some individuals feel as though they don’t quite fit in their ward family and become easily frustrated. Elder Robert D. Hales reminds all members what it means to be a part of a ward family,

We all belong to a community of Saints, we all need each other, and we are all working toward the same goal. Any one of us could isolate ourselves from this ward family on the basis of our differences. But we must not shut ourselves out or isolate ourselves from opportunities because of the differences we perceive in ourselves.

As you attend church and related activities, try to interact with those in your ward and exchange holiday plans. If they seem friendly, ask them if they’d be willing to accommodate one more person, or talk to your bishop about the issue at hand.

Exercise

Image via just-like.net
Exercising is a great way to distract yourself while being productive. It can also nourish self reflection. Image via just-like.net

Over the years multiple sources have proven that exercising can help manage feelings of depression, stress and anxiety which may come from feeling lonely. Don’t limit yourself to conventional exercises.

Try a variety of activities such as swimming, pilates, kickboxing, gymnastics, martial arts, spinning, or yoga.

President Thomas S. Monson reminds us that, 

“Nutritious meals, regular exercise, and appropriate sleep are necessary for a strong body, just as consistent scripture study and prayer strengthen the mind and spirit”

Exercising will also help you keep busy, as movement will allow you to keep your mind occupied as your brain releases endorphins. As you focus your energy on the action, your brain doesn’t have room to focus on your isolation.

Write or Call Your Family

Image via sheknows.com
Over the years, your family has put up with a lot from you, and no one knows you better. You mean as much to them as they mean to you. Image via sheknows.com

When you moved out perhaps you realized that you were neglecting your family and friends back home. But if you’re close with your family, calling or writing them can be the most helpful thing you can do for yourself, especially over the holidays.

No one understands you better than your family and they may be able to help you get through the holidays. Call them, Skype them, or write them a letter. You may notice that you’ll feel better afterwards.

Take Advantage of Church Resources

Scripture Study
The Church offers so many incredible resources for those who crave that spiritual high. Image via blog.nephi.org

Most people look forward to the holidays as it usually means that their time isn’t spent working. You may find yourself having copious amounts of free time but not knowing how to use it productively. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has created many resources for people across the globe. The best part? It’s all free.

Make good use of it by checking out LDS.org, reading General Conference talks and Church magazines, or preparing for your next talk or Sunday School lesson.

Other resources that often go overlooked are Preach My Gospel and Institute lessons. You don’t have to be a missionary or enrolled in Institute to take advantage of the incredible Church assets.

Invest in a Pet

Image via genevieveelaine.com

Many who suffer from chronic loneliness will purchase a therapy animal of some sort, such as a cat, a dog, a rabbit, or any other type of animal. If you find yourself feeling lonely more often than not, consider buying a therapy animal.

SarahBeth White, a journalist for Evancarmichael.com writes, 

Many cities have foster programs for animals in shelters that are underfunded and understaffed. You can open your heart and your home to an animal who may be on “death row”.   

Explain your situation to your doctor to find out what course of action may be right for you. If you live in an apartment or rented house, ask your doctor for an official note to present to your landlord or register your animal online as an ESA, approving the presence of the animal.

Work From Home or Reschedule

Image via leapforwardnow.com
One of the biggest benefits of working from home is that you can spend large amounts of time with your family and loved ones. Image via leapforwardnow.com

If you have to work during the holidays, try asking your boss if you can work from home, or make up the work you’re missing during another time. If you don’t have that option, the holidays can always be rescheduled. Most don’t think about this concept, but it’s such a simple and easy thing to do!

Lynze Wardle Lenio, a writer for The Muse gives some excellent advice,

It doesn’t matter what or when you choose to celebrate. By finding a time when you can experience the holidays—be it with family, friends, or even by yourself—you’ll feel a little less like you missed out on all fun.

Put your traditions temporarily on hold and talk to your family, friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, fiances, whoever! See if they’d be willing to celebrate the holiday on a different day that works for you.

Consider Therapy

Image via psychiatry.org

The problem with feeling lonely is that it can remain even after people return from the holiday break. If you find yourself experiencing enduring loneliness, talk to your doctor about the possible therapies that may work for you as there may be a bigger problem being neglected.

You Are Not Alone

Hands, Christ, Atonement.
Christ knows the full extent of feeling alone as he endured all possible sensations and experiences of everyone on Earth who has ever felt that way. Image via christusstatue.com

No, this isn’t some fantastical concept that exists only in fiction. You are not alone. President Hinckley reminds us of Christ’s loneliness as He faced His death for the Atonement,

The price of adherence to conscience is loneliness. The price of adherence to principle is loneliness. I think it is inescapable. The Savior of the world was a Man who walked in loneliness.

Out of the world’s entire population throughout history, Jesus Christ has been the only individual who has ever been truly alone. Through true empathy, He’s aware of feelings such as rejection, regret, loneliness, and emotional aches.

If you must endure the holidays unaccompanied, remember the words of Elder Holland during the October 2013 General Conference,

If the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.

Coping with a solitary lifestyle on a daily basis can be no easy task. You may have glanced through the list above and didn’t find anything that you haven’t tried. Trust me, I know how frustrating that can be. If you have any further suggestions, please leave comments below explaining what has been beneficial to you.

And above everything else, remember that you’re never alone.

Natalie New is a writer and intern for LDS.net and a current English student at BYU-Idaho. She was born and raised in an LDS home and has attending two Mormon universities up to this point. Natalie has also held a variety of Church callings and has had unique experiences, giving her a unique outlook on life. You can contact Natalie via email.