Staying Connected During Christmas
Christmas is around the corner. It can be difficult, in normal circumstances, to cope with the complex emotions that the holidays bring up. This year, we are facing a more isolated holiday due to Coronavirus (COVID-19). That greater sense of isolation is going to make any loneliness we are already feeling more intense. I'm sure you can relate to this message I got recently:
"I already deal with a lot of loneliness because I struggle with depression and anxiety. Coping with COVID has been really hard because I want to keep my family safe, so I can't go see my parents and grandparents for Christmas. But I feel like my loneliness is only going to get worse as we continue to see the virus surging. Is there anything I can do to make things better for myself or my family?"
I feel this person's pain because I'm experiencing it with them. I miss my family and friends so much this year. But I know keeping my distance is the only way I know I can do my part to keep my loved ones safe. But there are some things we can do when we feel lonely to keep the loneliness from overwhelming us and putting our minds in a dark place. I hope these suggestions give you a greater sense of peace as you navigate this challenging holiday season.
Acknowledge and Express Tough Feelings
Loneliness happens in a cycle for many people, which can make it seem like it's getting worse and worse. If you feel alone and isolated:
- You may think that no one else can understand how you feel.
- You may not want to burden someone you care about by expressing painful thoughts and feelings.
- So you may continue to stuff loneliness inside.
The longer you contain those feelings without expressing them, the more challenging they may become to discuss. In turn, the cycle repeats. Because if it's hard for you to explain how you feel, you may feel even more strongly that others won't understand you, either.
To break the cycle, acknowledge your feelings. Express them to someone you care about. Speaking about your feelings can make them more manageable, especially because the person you talk to is probably feeling similar things. If it's hard to put these feelings into words, writing them down in a journal or diary could help. This is a good first step to relieve some of the burden of loneliness.
Find Ways to Connect
Not being able to be together in person is tough. But there are ways you can connect to make Christmas special. Talk to your family about creative ways you can give and receive love this holiday season. Many people are putting a new spin on family traditions as a way of showing love and maintaining some sense of normalcy. Looking for ideas? You could try things like:
- Having a Video Chat on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day To Sing Carols, Open Gifts, or Share Special Messages
- Sending Personalized or Homemade Cards or Gifts in Time for Christmas
- Making Family Recipes for Yourself and Your Housemates
- Schedule Safe Drop-Offs and Socially-Distanced "Drive-By" Greetings
You will still feel some loneliness not being able to be together for Christmas. But doing the best you can to show love and gratitude for your family during an unusual Christmas will be a reminder that your bonds are strong, and that your love for one another can encourage you during this tough time.
Choose Family Who Make You Feel Loved
If you have a strained or toxic relationship with your parents or family members, you may struggle in the years when you can get together in person. But you might still feel lonely and conflicted about not being able to see people you're used to seeing, even if being with them is often uncomfortable for you.
In those moments, I want to remind you that you don't have to feel guilted into participating in toxic relationships, even during the holiday season. You can and should choose friends, and even family, who make you feel loved and affirmed. This is particularly important if you have challenging relationships with your biological family. Reaching out to people who encourage you and make you feel less alone should be a top priority as you cope with the holidays in the wake of the Coronavirus.
Do Little Things That Bring You Joy
We all have little things about life that bring us joy. And in the age of COVID-19, it is important to take joy, hope, humor, and happiness where you can find them. It is a good way to take care of yourself, to make sure you're not constantly plugged into a stressful news cycle. And even video chats can be exhausting after a while. We all need alone time to recharge. Here are some things you could do during those times to make alone time more peaceful, and less isolating:
- Watch Your Favorite Christmas Movies
- Listen to Your Favorite Christmas Music
- Drink Some Tea or Hot Chocolate
- Read a Favorite Book
- Make a Craft or Do a Project You Find Relaxing
- Journal About Things You're Grateful for or People Who Are Special to You
When I feel more content in my time to myself, it can help me to feel less depressed, anxious, or upset about being alone.
It also helps me to remember that I'm not alone, even when I am by myself. God is always with me. He comforts me in times of prayer, meditation, or reading verses that encourage me. God is always near, if you are seeking Him. Christmas is a wonderful time to reflect on how God came to earth as a baby specifically to bring us joy. He can and will comfort you in your moments of loneliness.
"Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)
Give Yourself a Gift
This Christmas, give yourself a gift. You may be eyeing something special you've been wanting for a while. And getting something special for yourself can be wonderful, when you can afford it. But you don't have to spend money to give yourself a gift. You can make time to give yourself rest or cook your favorite meal. And there are gifts we give ourselves that we can't see or touch, but that are some of the most meaningful things we can do during a painful time. You can be patient with yourself, rather than feeling frustrated. You can give yourself grace, rather than beating yourself up. And you can allow yourself to be hopeful for the future, even though the present is a struggle.
Reach Out for Support
I am really proud of you for recognizing how difficult loneliness is to overcome. And I want you to know that many people are feeling the way you are feeling this holiday season. We are all learning, one day at a time, to cope with life as the Coronavirus spreads. I know that no matter how hard you try to do the right thing, or think about things in the right way, loneliness can be overwhelming. If that's how you're feeling right now, you can reach out for support.
Our HopeCoaches offer mentoring via chat and email whenever you're feeling lonely because of social distancing. Talk to a HopeCoach today about feeling lonely, how to stay connected, and how to find greater peace. We are here for you, and we are hopeful we can all get through this difficult season together.
Photo by Olya Kobruseva