It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! The air is brisk and malls are bustling with holiday shoppers. Recipes are circulating to help you make the best holiday meals. Pinterest has lots of good gift-giving ideas and folks are busy planning their annual holiday gatherings with friends and family.
In spite of the hustle and bustle, many people, however, struggle to get in the spirit of things. According to a 2006 survey conducted for the American Psychological Association, one in four Americans reports experiencing loneliness during the holiday season.
In the chaos of the season, it is easy to forget about those who will find themselves alone, some by choice and others due to being away from family and friends. While some may want to be by themselves, others crave the opportunity to be with friends and family.
Jenny Richards’ husband passed away four days before Christmas. That first year she had her entire family with her during the Christmas season, but the following year she was alone for the holidays.
“I love the season and realized that I couldn’t depend on relatives to make my holidays what I wanted them to be,” says Richards. “Through the years I have learned that there are options out there to celebrate with others. I don’t have to go through the holidays alone. I find the different celebrations at my church to be very uplifting and comforting.
“There have been many years where I invited people into my home to celebrate or I have accepted an invitation to be with someone else’s family. There is nothing better than a home-cooked meal! I have also spent time volunteering. I found that helping somebody else through the holidays helps them as much as it helps me.”
If you're struggling with loneliness this holiday season, the first step to dealing with it is to acknowledge and accept your circumstances. Next, determine a plan of action, which could include giving yourself the following gifts:
Treat yourself to something special.
Guard against anticipating the worst. Even entertaining the thought of a rough time can actually make the season more difficult.
Reach out to someone you know in a similar circumstance and plan a celebration.
Give the gift of time by serving meals, delivering gifts or visiting shut-ins.
Start a new tradition.
Give people the opportunity to include you in their celebration. There are many times when friends don’t realize you will be alone.
Make the day special for you. Rent a good movie you haven’t had time to watch, splurge and eat your favorite food, read a good book or take a hike.
Ask for help. If you are having a particularly difficult time dealing with loneliness, seek professional help.
By planning ahead and applying these simple suggestions, you may find a special joy this holiday season that you never imagined possible.
“Don’t let loneliness overshadow your holidays,” Richards says. “No matter what you are going through, there is always someone worse off. Reach out to others and find ways to connect with people. Engage life!”