Tips for Spending the Holidays Alone in 2020
The holidays are here, and for many people, that means last-minute gift shopping, home-cooked meals and bidding farewell to the challenging year that was 2020. Typically, the season is a time for friends and family, a moment to gather and reconnect with loved ones.
However, as with much of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has deeply affected the holidays, complicating plans or eliminating them entirely. Many people are spending the holidays alone this year because of the virus. While for some this may have little effect, others will find being alone during the holidays to be lonely and challenging – particularly if they are already struggling with their mental or emotional health.
If this is a situation that you find yourself facing, the following tips can help. These recommendations come from contributors and clinical leaders of Pathlight Mood and Anxiety Center and the Eating Recovery Center, and provide valuable ideas for making a solitary holiday season feel much more enjoyable.
Feel Your Feelings
"Isolation is a big trigger for my PTSD. Quarantine has been difficult for my mental health because so much of my healing has centered on connecting with people and finding a chosen family. This year, I am spending the holidays alone because of the virus surge in Chicago. I am having real feelings and triggers. Making room for myself to show up and be uncomfortable has been a huge milestone in my mental health journey.
I feel my feelings to the best of my ability. I know this time will pass, and I am using the skill 'cope ahead' to sit in the reality that it is just another day. I have made plans to Facetime and connect with the most important people in my life and support system. We are dressing in nice clothes and making our favorite dishes. I am also ending the night with a 12-step support meeting and my favorite facemask. I do not believe these self-care practices are going to make the uncomfortable feelings and grief go away. They do help me make room for them and make them bearable."
Eric Dorsa; LGBTQ Advocate, Actor, Comedian and Drag Queen
Remember the Things You Love
"I find that writing down all the things you love doing during this time of year (obviously sans family), and crossing something off every day, can be helpful. Some examples of this can include making hot cocoa, creating DIY gifts, ordering funny ornaments, decorating a small tree, making cookies, singing carols, etc."
Lindsey Hall; Award-Winning Eating Disorder Recovery Speaker and Writer
Pause, Breathe and Reach Out for Support
"Consider pauses throughout the day for breathing exercises, body scans or other relaxation activities or for simply checking in with yourself to see how you are feeling and what you need in that moment. Lastly, reach out for support; whether it be a crisis or support line, a virtual support group, a doctor or mental health professional, or a friend or family member."
Maryrose Bauschka, MD; Psychiatrist, Pathlight Behavioral Health, Chicago
Know You’re Not Alone
"If you are nursing feelings of being left out or missing family and friends, or you just don’t like the holidays, there are a number of ways to cope.
Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Connect with others in a non-holiday manner; play games, chat with them or watch a movie together.
2. Take some time to engage in self-care or a hobby you enjoy.
3. Volunteer; it releases endorphins and it helps you and the people you’re volunteering for.
4. Above all, try to connect with someone.
Whatever you’re feeling or experiencing this holiday season – you are not alone! The details might be different, but someone out there gets it. Stay safe out there."
Leah Young, LCPC; Clinical Manager of Addiction Recovery and Comprehensive Help Integrated Services at Pathlight Mood and Anxiety Center
If you are in need of support this holiday season, we are here to help! Find a list of eating disorder resources here or mental health resources here, including support groups, virtual events, podcasts, blogs and more.