Handling Holiday Season Loneliness

By Bianca Lambert | Published: 2:00 AM Nov 23 2020
Look Handling Holiday Season Loneliness

By Bianca Lambert

It’s safe to assume that I am not the only person who will be spending the holidays alone this year. With that in mind, I reached out to Dr Gail Saltz, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine and host of the Personology podcast; and Dr Nikole Benders-Hadi, a licensed therapist and the medical director of behavioural health at Doctor On Demand, to seek out their guidance on how to cope with loneliness this holiday season. 

It’s normal 

Feeling lonely or melancholy during this time of the year isn’t abnormal. So if you find yourself feeling less enthusiastic as the holidays grow near, Dr Benders-Hadi said these feelings aren’t uncommon. “Many people feel more lonely during the holidays since this time of year may bring back memories of time spent with family members they have lost, or feelings of sadness around the status of relationships they have with family or friends,” she tells. “There is so much pressure to get into the holiday spirit that if you are not feeling joyous, this time of year can be very difficult.” Since we aren’t alone in having these feelings during the holidays, how do we navigate them? Our experts have a few tips. 

Connect virtually

Both experts agree that virtual connections can be beneficial. “Virtual connections can absolutely create a positive sense of community,” Benders-Hadi said. “Similar to how many individuals find it easier to connect to healthcare professionals from the comfort of their own home, the same rings true for developing new friendships and connections. When connecting virtually, the reach of your community is also so much more widespread across the nation and even the world, so you have the ability to learn and experience things you may never have had the opportunity to otherwise.”

While virtual connections offer an opportunity to open up your world, Saltz said, don’t be afraid to connect one on one. “You need to pump up the emotional content of the conversation when it’s virtual,” she explained. “Be kinder, express more positive feelings, and listen to them more.”

Fill your time with a new hobby, but don’t isolate

When we went into quarantine, I was the new hobby queen until I got fatigued. After talking with my therapist, I soon realised that those activities made me feel busy, but still left me feeling alone. If you’re going to pick up a new hobby, bring those you love in on it. “It’s actually more helpful to reach out to others and try to have more intimate, valuable conversations with them,” Saltz said. “That will make you feel better than a solo activity.”

If you’re unable to go home for the holidays, try booking an online cooking experience with Airbnb (I love them) or schedule a time with a group of your family members to learn a sacred holiday recipe like sweet potato pie or mac and cheese. This way, you’re still a part of your family traditions, but now in a new way.

Be supportive of others

Everyone will be dealing with something different this holiday season, including loss. If you don’t know what to say to someone who is grieving, our mental health experts have sound advice. “If you know someone coping with the loss of a loved one this holiday season, reach out to let them know you care,” Benders-Hadi advised. “It can be easy to get caught up in negative thinking and grief around this time of the year, so showing that person you are thinking of them can go a long way. A simple phone call or a small gesture are great ways to display kindness to someone struggling.” Saltz added that normalising a loved one’s grief is also important. “Express that you understand it is sad, rather than saying things like, ‘Don’t be sad.’ Reminisce with them of happy times with that lost one, be supportive, and be present.”

Plan moments to look forward to

COVID-19 has changed how we live and plan to spend time with our family and friends, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun reminiscing about old times while being hopeful about the future. “If you can’t be with those you love this holiday season, get together on a video call and share a laugh or some memories from afar. You can even start making plans for what you will do when you can see each other again. Having something to look forward to can help ease stress in these uncertain times, even if you have to do so with flexible travel dates,” said Benders-Hadi.  

I hate to say this is the; new normal’ because, let’s face it, none of what we’re experiencing right now is normal. But, I hope one or all of these expert tips helps remind you, you aren’t alone


By Bianca Lambert | Published: 2:00 AM Nov 23 2020

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