Holidays don’t have to feel lonely. Skyland Trail CBT Recovery Track Assistant Director, Nicole Casey, shares tips on ways to stay connected over the holidays.
Plan in advance and get a few things on the calendar so you have something to look forward to.
1. Plan ahead and reach out.
If this is your first holiday away from your loved ones or in a new city, make plans in advance. Holiday schedules can fill up quickly, so it’s helpful to get something on the calendar sooner rather than later to have something to look forward to. Reach out to the people you know and see if you can make plans to see a movie or go to dinner together. You don’t have to wait for someone else to invite you. Your home also doesn’t have to be perfect to host!
2. Plan for difficult days.
If there are days that you think may be especially difficult for you because of a recent loss or other association, be sure you have an activity planned for that day, or at least a planned “check in” with a friend or relative by phone, facetime, or zoom. Aim for balance, rather than over or under-scheduling. A restorative activity like taking a bath, walking outside, or making a cup of tea may also feel soothing on a difficult day.
3. Research group holiday activities.
If you are a member of a group or organization, find out what holiday activities they have planned and join in. Sign up for the potluck, the holiday cookie swap, or tacky sweater leg day at the gym. There is usually more going on than we realize. Even if you’re not a member of a particular group, there may be fun events in the broader community that feel fulfilling (a holiday light display, caroling, a play at the theatre, etc.).
4. Join a new group.
If you’re not a member of a group, find one using sites like meetup.com or identify a faith community with social opportunities. Hiking groups, board game nights, knitting groups, book clubs, etc. are great ways to cultivate hobbies as well as enjoy a sense of community. It can feel a bit scary to attend something like this for the first time, and putting yourself out there can pay off.
5. Volunteer to help others.
Another way to combat loneliness during the holidays is to volunteer in the community. Organizations like Points of Light’s HandsOnNetwork match individuals and groups with local nonprofits to meet needs and build community. Serving and remembering the needs of others can help to bring a sense of connection, meaning, and gratitude. Volunteering may even turn in to a yearly tradition for you.
6. Know how to ask for help in a crisis.
Especially for people who experience symptoms of mental illness, isolation can lead to serious thoughts of self-harm or suicide. If you or someone you know are experiencing these thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988. Knowing when to reach out for help when you are struggling to cope on your own is a sign of strength and courage.