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Alone During The Holidays? Therapists Share Advice For Those Struggling This Season

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Due to a number of different factors, many people this year will find themselves alone during the holidays. Whether you have to be apart from friends and family due to health regulations, have recently gotten out of a relationship, or are otherwise without someone to celebrate with in person, you may be struggling this season especially. Not being able to take part in your usual traditions and see familiar faces — on top of all the other stressors that might be overwhelming you these days — can certainly give you a case of the holiday blues, but what if you could reframe the narrative?

"Holidays definitely trigger feelings of grief and loneliness in people who have experienced a loss — even for those who were doing relatively well in September or October," says Rachel Thomasian, licensed therapist at Playa Vista Counseling and author of BreakUp & BreakOut. "It's hard not to think of what you were doing and who you were with during the holidays the previous year."

If you're newly single, a particular trigger might be seeing couples spending the holidays the way you used to — and with so much else that's happened this year, those feelings are likely to be exacerbated. "These triggers seem to be magnified this year in light of Covid because our usual coping mechanisms as well as our connections with our support systems have been greatly reduced if not eliminated," Thomasian explains. "Typically, if we have contact with our friends and family it helps buffer some of the loneliness, but having those gone makes us feel more alone literally and figuratively."

But no matter how differently your holiday is looking this year, you can still make it a celebration — and create new traditions all your own. Ahead, Thomasian breaks down some of the self-care rituals and other activities you can try to make spending this season alone feel a lot more, well, lonely.

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Alone During The Holidays: Find Your Support System

Your friends and family may not be able to gather as usual, but that doesn't mean you can't still feel like you're celebrating together. "Call a few friends or loved ones the morning of the holiday to start the day to help you feel connected and be reminded of your support system," suggests Thomasian. You can even host a virtual event that can help you keep some of your traditions (like preparing and eating certain dishes, opening gifts, etc) going.

Alone During The Holidays: Make Your Own Plans

"Plan in advance to do something special on the day of," says Thomasian, "Even if you think you're going to be fine, sometimes the holidays can be triggering in ways we don't expect, and you don't want to be caught off guard when it's too late." Some suggestions? Take an online class with a friend, try out a new culinary project, or create a thought-out meal for yourself.

Alone During The Holidays: Get Moving

While you're planning out your day, Thomasian suggests setting aside some time for a little physical activity. "Move your body," she says. "Plan to take a yoga class or go for a walk, this will set you up for better mood throughout the day."

Alone During The Holidays: Give Back To Others

Thomasian also advises connecting with a charitable organization in some way. "You'll be surprised at how much giving to someone in need can feed your soul this time of year," she says. Some ideas for socially distant ways to give back include donating to a local food bank, sending gifts to families in need, or writing holiday cards to give to the sick or elderly.

Alone During The Holidays: Try Some Self-Reflection

Make the most of your alone time by taking part in some constructive self-reflection. "Take some time to connect with your thoughts, this is a great time to journal and reflect on the positives of the year," Thomasian says.