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December 1, 2021

Find your Own Path to Combat Loneliness during the Holidays

Stacey J. Drubner, JD, LICSW, MPH

If you go on social media or watch the Hallmark Channel, you might think the Holidays are great for everyone and include only perfect experiences. In real life, the Holiday Season is more of a mixed bag, ranging from happy to “can’t wait for January 2nd.”

Some people are quite comfortable with or even prefer solitude at the Holidays. Many others struggle with loneliness for reasons such as:

•  Distance from loved ones
•  Estrangement from family
•  Being single
•  Grieving a loss
•  Having to work
•  Feeling alone even when surrounded by others

Whatever your situation, there may be things you can do to make it easier to get through the Holidays and position yourself for a hopeful beginning to the New Year. Consider taking some control by identifying what is helpful and productive for you. While you may not be able to completely address your loneliness, or change the circumstances leading to being lonely, even a small pivot may help you get through the next month.

Be realistic but be kind to yourself

•  Realize that you are not the only one – lots of people experience loneliness at the Holidays.
•  Remember, this is a finite time period.
•  There is not one way to “be” during the Holidays. Traditions vary based on religion (if there is one), family culture and personal desire.
•  Release yourself from having to fit into a mold of what you think society expects.

Consider getting a jump start on next year. You don’t need to wait for January 1

•  Get organized in your home. Clean out closets.
•  Start a new routine for healthy eating, exercise or mindfulness.
•  Try a new hobby

Take care of yourself

•  Engage in activities that fulfill you.
•  Try not to completely abandon healthy lifestyle goals. Exercise, sleep and a good diet can actually support better coping.
•  These EAP Wellness Resources offer some ideas for self-care.
•  If you are feeling down, try not to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. Chances are, drinking will inevitably make you feel worse.

Take the attention off you

•  Focus on what brings you gratitude. Go one step further and reach out to say, “thank you”.
•  Volunteer in your community. It can be rewarding, gets you out of the house and provides social connection.

Here are some local volunteer resources:
Mass Non-profit Resources 
Boston Cares 
Community Servings 
Reward Volunteers Coop 

Just because you feel lonely doesn’t mean you have to be alone

•  Take a chance and reach out to a friend, co-worker or other person in your community.
They may be willing to include you in their celebration or meet otherwise.
•  If you are generally looking for new friendships, try Meetup.
•  Set up time to meet family virtually.
•  Consider if this might be the year to work towards mending a rift with a family member or friend.
•  EAP Loneliness Resources

If you are grieving during the Holidays, this can increase feelings of loneliness

•  Consider this guidance from the Hospice Foundation
•  Mass General Brigham EAP Grief Resources

Try to differentiate between situational loneliness and conditions such as depression

If at any time you feel that you can benefit from outside help, don’t hesitate to reach out. It’s OK not to be OK at the Holidays or anytime. Remember even if you feel lonely, you are not alone.

•  Contact the EAP at 1-866-724-4327 or request an appointment via the website.
•  Get spiritual support in your community or at MGB.
•  Preventing and Destigmatizing Suicide: A Message from Newton-Wellesley Hospital and Salem Hospital – YouTube
•  Samaritans – Suicide Prevention
Helpline: 877-870-4673
•  If you are concerned about a co-worker or friend, don’t hesitate to let them know you care.
The “R U OK?” program has some guidance about how to approach a friend in need.

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