5 Therapist-Approved Ways To Cope With Loneliness This Holiday Season

By Anika Nayak

The annual winter holidays are a joyous time to gather with family and friends, eat delicious meals, and reflect on the past year. However, celebrations may look a little different this year due to the prolonging coronavirus pandemic. In order to stay safe and prevent transmission of the virus, many individuals will be staying home instead of gathering with their loved ones––like any usual year. 

If you are staying home this year, understand that you’re not alone. 2020 has been a year of isolation for most people and many are experiencing loneliness as a result. To help you cope during this difficult time of year, Kristin Meekhof, a licensed therapist and author of A Widow’s Guide to Healing provides her tips on how to combat feelings of loneliness this holiday season.

1. Acknowledge Your Feelings

“It is important to acknowledge feelings because by naming them we can gain an understanding of why we are feeling uneasy. It is difficult to calm ourselves down when we can’t identify what we’re feeling,” says Meekhof. In order to calm down, she recommends asking yourself, ‘How am I feeling?’, followed by a reflection of what you believe caused the feeling. Through this exercise, you are accepting how you feel instead of bottling up your emotions. 

2. Stay Connected

You probably won’t be able to host a family feast in-person, but the festivities can still go on virtually. Share a meal over Zoom with your loved ones or watch a holiday movie on Netflix together––the options are endless. “Our minds and bodies are designed to interact with people, but the pandemic has created barriers to doing this, so it is important to only gather following social distancing protocols,” says Meekhof. “I recently shared a meal outside with my friend. We each brought blankets and our own food, but found ourselves laughing at the irony of sitting in 30 degree temperatures during a pandemic. We’ve been through a lot together and as friends we said ‘this is just another meal to remember.’” 

3. Practice Gratitude 

“Gratitude gives you a sense that there are things going well in your day and provides a spirit of optimism. Try to purposefully look for things that are good, however small they may be, and take note of them by taking a picture, writing things down. If you’re thankful for a person or something they did, tell them how their actions helped you,” explains Meekhof. A helpful practice may be filling a gratitude jar with one thing you are thankful for each day. (We love this gratitude jar from BroglieBox––perfect for yourself or as a gift to a loved one!)

4. Give Back

COVID-19 has taken a hard hit on small businesses, nonprofits, and frontline workers. Spend some time volunteering or donating to a local nonprofit in your community. Some ways to help include making meals and dropping them off to a frontline worker as a way to thank them for their services or buying extra items at a grocery store and dropping them off at a food pantry. “Giving back connects you with someone or a purpose beyond yourself. It provides meaning to your actions and when you feel you’re tied to someone or a charity you tend to feel less alone,” says Meekhof. 

5. Cultivate Hope

“Cultivating hope means you know and believe you have the resilience to get through a difficult time. Giving back, practicing gratitude and safely connecting with other people are ways to cultivate hope. Often doing it with small actions, like calling someone or dropping off a meal brightens your day as well as the person receiving it,” says Meekhof. “Last week, a stranger in a drive-thru at Starbucks paid for my coffee, and I paid it for the person behind me. This sounds small but knowing strangers help others reminds us good things still happen.” 2020 has been a stressful year, to say the least. But 2021 is looking bright, so cultivate hope that maybe you’ll get to spend the holidays with your loved ones next year.