Home Alone…on Christmas Day
Imagine the following picture:
It is snowing outside. A large and happy family is sitting in a beautifully decorated living room. The lights on the Christmas tree are illuminating the smiling faces while colorful presents are being given away. Christmas music is playing and the joy of being together can be felt in the air. The most beautiful season. The celebration of love.
And now, let’s picture a different scene:
You are sitting at the kitchen table. No festive food, no hot chocolate – just some pizza leftovers. No candlelight. The TV is on and there is a film that seem not to have caught your attention. No one is there. Not even a pet. And again, it’s Christmas. The saddest time of the year. The time that reminds you that you are absolutely alone in this world.
Christmas is a highly socially and emotionally charged holiday. It is the most important time of the year for many people. For years now we are constantly confronted with the idea of “perfect Christmas” – a feel-good atmosphere, beautiful presents, good food and quality time with the whole family.
In films and media families and friends fall into each other’s arms and celebrate happily.
Negative feelings seem to be out of place, since Christmas is praised as a blissful and joyful holiday. People expect to be happy at Christmas. Society demands that. But there is no button you can press to make the joy start automatically.
So let’s take a look at the Christmas season from the perspective of lonely people.
Being alone is not the same as being lonely. A person is considered lonely if he/she finds being alone unpleasant or painful, if he/she feels isolated and as if they belong nowhere. There can be several reasons why a person might feel lonely, such as Illness, blows of fate, moving to a foreign city or just a lack of close relationships to family or friends.
Loneliness can affect anyone.
Christmas can be a particularly lonely time for older people who live alone and who may have no relatives or friends to spend the holidays with. For people who have recently lost a loved one. For all who feel as if they don’t belong at the place where they currently are.
Younger people can be lonely, because of little free time in which to meet new people or because of unemployment or moving to a foreign city.
Loneliness and isolation are something that people rarely want to talk about during the festive season. They’d rather prefer to avoid the topic by trying to cheer the other person up or just change the subject. But people do feel lonely. Even on Christmas day.
If someone is unwell when they should be well, negative feelings are intensified. “I should be fine,” they often think. This mechanism is particularly strong at Christmas, and the feelings such as loneliness, not having anyone to give presents to or receive from, become especially visible to oneself. People believe that everyone else is having a good time and is engaged in a loving family relationship – something that might not necessarily be a fact but the sense is a real burden.
Christmas is so strongly associated with family and friends that it can be difficult for those on their own to avoid feeling lonely or sad at this time.
The season makes it worse.
Winter hits us emotionally more or less. We are exposed to less light during the dark season, and bright light helps to prevent or reduce depression. The darkness together with the cold and wet weather can cause the “winter blues” and intensify gloomy thoughts. Depressive symptoms, such as lack of motivation, joy or desire to do whatever we used to love, can become stronger during the festive season.
For people who feel lonely anyway, loneliness becomes even more pronounced at this time. Sadness and negative feelings can be experienced even stronger when the memories of previous Christmas times come back – times that might have been spent with family or friends.
Silent night – lonely night.
With whom should I spend the holiday? How can I prevent feeling down home alone?
We humans are social beings and need contact with other people in order to ensure our well-being. Therefore, loneliness is a problem for both our mental and physical health. It can exacerbate chronic illnesses or evoke unfamiliar unpleasant sensations such as tiredness, irritability, feeling empty, depression, problems falling asleep or sleeping through the night. Thoughts around questions like “Why are others happy and I’m not?”, “Who wants my company?”, “Will I ever be loved again?” can occur. All this emotional charge can lead to a crisis-like state.
What can help?
Knowing and understanding ourselves and our inner reality can help us go easier through negative experiences. What is actually behind the feeling of loneliness? Is it possible that we have high expectations of ourselves? Do we keep comparing with others and want to be as lucky, popular, successful as they are? Neglecting and rejecting ourselves and relying strongly on the encouragement of others is the first step towards isolation.
If you are alone at Christmas, you can still prepare for the holidays – keep busy and plan enjoyable activities – reading books, going to the cinema, baking biscuits, decorating the Christmas tree.
Try to be realistic about your expectations and question your own demands. What is your idea of a “perfect Christmas”? Does it really exist? What is really important for you about the holiday and why?
Think about the most unusual way you can spend this Christmas. It might be fun trying it!
It does not always have to be the same or as the celebration of others. Your Christmas can be completely individual and also completely different. The main thing is that you feel good about it!
What else can you do?
- Talk to your acquaintances about their plans for Christmas – you can find an opportunity to join a celebration you find pleasant.
- Get in contact with a long-forgotten friend – you may be surprised how nice the revival of such relationships might feel.
- If you cannot think of anyone to go out with, it is still better to go somewhere where there are other people, for example to a Christmas market, a concert or to the cinema. Being around people is always better, even though it often may cost some effort to initiate it. The most important message is – it doesn’t get better if you just stay in bed.
- Hobbies or sports should not be neglected at Christmas time, because they can recharge your batteries and give you support and balance. Even a long walk outside can do you good.
- Keep Christmas eating simple – it doesn’t always have to be a five-course meal with a lot of alcohol. In fact, traditional Christmas food and drink can be excessive and even affect your mood in a negative way. Try to eat healthy instead so that you remain active.
- Go out for some physical exercises or sports – you will not only remain active but fresh air and light will boost your well-being.
- Do some volunteering – many Christmas charity events (also online) need volunteers for the time. Helping others, being involved in social interactions and the feeling of being part of something bigger is good for your mental health.
We all experience times when we feel lonely, unloved, helpless. Talking honestly about it, even admitting that we don’t feel well at the moment, can help. Opening up to other people can alleviate the feeling of loneliness. Seeking a professional help is also a possible option.
Have in mind that sometimes solitude can be very healing, for example if one wants to rethink one’s life or a relationship has just fallen apart. Being alone can help to reorganize oneself and open up to something new.