This holiday season is going to be quite lonely for many. With new lockdown orders, and in some areas curfews, many aren’t comfortable traveling or attending social gatherings. I have seen a number of posts and comments by friends and friends of friends about spending the holidays alone, which can be quite depressing.
We’ve already seen an increase in anxiety, depression, loneliness and isolation since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Suicide rates have also been on the rise. Cook County, Illinois and Fresno, California are just two major cities who have reported and increase in suicides this year with a 13% in Cook County so far compared with the same period last year. In Fresno, suicides were 70% higher in June than in the same month last year. The National Alliance on Mental Illness HelpLine has seen a 65% increase in calls and emails since March, according to the organization.
According to the CDC, elevated levels of adverse mental health conditions, substance use, and suicidal ideation were reported by adults in the United States in June 2020. The prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder was approximately three times those reported in the second quarter of 2019 (25.5% versus 8.1%), and prevalence of depressive disorder was approximately four times that reported in the second quarter of 2019 (24.3% versus 6.5%).
Combine this with the stress, uncertainty, and hostility surrounding the recent elections, in addition to the emphasis on families and being with others this time of year, the holidays can be an especially lonely and trying time, even for those who are typically okay being alone. However, because of the fear and cautionary measures being put forth, those of us who truly enjoy the traditional gatherings around the turkey are now having to hunker down with our pets, Netfix and UberEats on Thanksgiving eve. This can be especially trying if you’re single and live alone.
It doesn’t have to all doom and gloom though. Here are some things you can do to make the most of the holidays if you’ve decided to brave the ‘Rona storm and spend the holidays solo:
- Consider have a people over (less than 5). I know that’s counterintuitive to the whole quarantine concept, but humans are social creatures by nature. We need community and time with family and friends for festivity and fellowship. Personally, I see no problem with responsibly entertaining a select group of friends who you’ve frequently hung out with during the past few months. Staying sane is just as important as staying safe during this time.
- Decorate. I love holiday decorations. I’ve been single for longer than I care to say, and decorating for the holidays always puts me in a festive mood. There’s a positive energy that comes from putting up the lights, the holiday scents, and the sounds of the season.
- Give back. You may not be attending a big gathering, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a dish for a neighbor, or a family in need. Or, reach out to a local nonprofit and see if they have any volunteer opportunities. (Side note: Paw Prints in the Sand is always looking for enthusiastic volunteers).
- Get outside. Go for a hike, walk, run, or a scenic drive. See if there are any outdoor tourism options such as a local garden or park.
- Pamper yourself. Take a hot bath with candles, give yourself a facial or a mani/pedi — or both; watch a movie marathon or read a book.
- Celebrate virtually. Connect with family and friends via Zoom, Skype, or Facebook Messenger. Share your meal together virtually then play some virtual games. Do a gratitude activity where everyone writes down the things for which they are grateful and shares them.
- Practice gratitude. It’s important to practice gratitude every day and not just during the holidays. Make a concerted effort to focus on the blessings in your life — friends, family, pets, neighbors and anything else you truly value. If you maintain a gratitude journal, go back and read some of your entries to help remind you of all you have.
- Learn a new hobby or craft. When the lockdowns first began in March, I learned how to do flower arrangements and make candles. Hobbies can help reduce stress levels and keep you grounded in the present. They can restore your energy and allow you to explore and express your creative side.
- Adjust your expectations. The reason why holidays feel more lonely is because our society puts such high expectations on this time of year. The absence of a romantic partner or family close by can make this time of year even more challenging. This is especially difficult now when we’re all supposed to be going to parties, exchanging gifts and enjoying time with loved ones, and those activities are now canceled. Rather than focusing on what you think the holidays are supposed to be, get real with what they are. It’s totally fine to do any of the above and still have an enjoyable holiday season.
The holidays can be a lonely time, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel isolated and alone. Stay focused on acknowledging and meeting your needs, have an attitude of gratitude, be responsibly social if you comfortable doing so, and next thing you know, it’ll be all over.
Namaste and happy holidays.