News • 13 Dec 2021
10 tips to cope with loneliness during the holidays
If you’re spending Christmas alone or missing loved ones, it’s really important to keep yourself mentally healthy. Here are our top 10 tips to cope with loneliness during the holidays.
As we enter the holiday season, it’s important to remember that whilst some people may see it as a joyous occasion, others may feel an increased sense of loneliness which can negatively impact on mental health.
Some may be dealing with grief or loss, and this is often exasperated by the holiday season.
If you’re spending Christmas alone or missing loved ones, it’s really important to keep yourself mentally healthy.
We’ve listed some strategies to help cope with loneliness during the holiday season:
1. Stay socially connected
If you’re feeling isolated, this may be the last thing you feel like doing. But it’s so important to combat loneliness, even if it’s just picking up the phone more often or sending a few more messages to some people in your network. This might be family, friends, neighbours, or someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.
2. Keep active
It’s been proven that unless you are a wheelchair user, sitting or lying down for long periods of the day increases the risks of negative health outcomes. There are many studies that show a link between sitting and heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Not only does staying active help to combat these health conditions, it is also linked with better mental health and emotional wellbeing. The good news is that you don’t have to start marathon training to stay active! The best way to stay active is to add in more incidental exercise into your day, this can be as easy as walking to nearby places instead of driving, or using the stairs instead of the lift. If you need a bit of extra motivation, why not arrange a walk with someone you know? This helps to combat loneliness whilst keeping fit and healthy.
3. Eat well
Just like other organs in your body, your brain needs the right mix of nutrients to function well. Those who live alone can find it difficult to find the motivation to cook, and can easily be drawn to fast food as it’s cheap and readily available. Making food that’s quick to throw together, cheap, and nutritious is easier than you think. Some of our favourites are Lean in 15 recipes that only take 15 minutes to make and are designed by health and nutrition expert, Joe Wicks. If you don’t fancy eating alone, you could invite someone you know over for dinner and show off your new found cooking skills.
4. Do something you're good at
Everyone has strengths, yes we mean everyone! Remember that a strength doesn’t mean being the best at something, it might just mean that it’s something you understand or enjoy doing. When you’re feeling down and lonely, it can sometimes be hard to identify those strengths. Write them down at a time when you’re feeling up to it so that you can remind yourself of these strengths when you’re at a low point. From this list, decide on some activities that play to your strengths, hobbies and interests. It might be that you love bowling, fishing, are good at art, or enjoy gardening. Whatever it is, arrange some activities in advance to play to these strengths, and write them in your diary so that you stick to the plan. Invite someone you know, or if you’re feeling up to it, attend a group session where you can meet new people. You’ll find the sense of achievement you feel afterwards is well worth it.
5. Care for others
You don’t need to buy expensive gifts to show someone that you care about them. Just being present and nurturing existing relationships lets people know you’re thinking of them, and can make people feel valued and lift their mood. What’s even better is that this can have a rebounding impact of lifting your own mood and making you feel less lonely.
6. Get enough sleep
Making sure you’re getting an appropriate amount of sleep, or improving your sleep hygiene (habits around your bedtime routine) is crucial for good mental and physical health. Not getting enough sleep has been proven to have both short-term and long-term negative impacts on your health, such as poor memory, mood swings, and behaviour problems. In the longer term, it can even weaken your immune system, give you high blood pressure, and put you at higher risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. Healthline recommends that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, so try to ensure you get the right amount. If you struggle to sleep, you can try improving your sleep habits with small changes like limiting screen time before bed, sticking set times to wake up and go to sleep, getting out for a walk in the daylight (morning is best), and dimming the lights in the lead up to your bed-time.
7. Express gratitude
When you’re feeling low and lonely, it can be hard to find things to be grateful for, but there’s always something! When you’re feeling up to it, write a list about things in your life that you’re grateful for. This might be for food, having a home, a pet, friends and family, or simply for the beautiful nature outside. Reflecting on what you do have rather than won’t you don’t have, is a great way to shift to a positive mindset.
8. Cut back on alcohol
Whilst alcohol can make you feel relaxed and more confident in the short-term, longer term heavy drinking can contribute to depression and anxiety. It can also have a negative impact on your physical health such as high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease, and cancer. Sometimes alcohol can feel like the social norm, and peer pressure can lead you to feel that there’s a choice between being social or staying at home and feeling lonely. But this isn’t the case: you can socialise whilst having non-alcoholic drinks. By reducing your alcohol intake or cutting it out, you’re likely to see an improvement in your mood, get better sleep, and feel like you have more energy.
9. Create a plan
For some people who are grieving or just very lonely around the holiday season, there may be a specific day such as Christmas Day that’s going to be especially triggering and cause those lonely feelings to surface. If you know or suspect that this might happen to you, now is the time to come up with a plan to combat this. Your plan might involve various meet ups or scheduling calls with people you know, going out for walks, attending events, being prepared with ingredients to cook or bake, or having a song playlist ready to lift your mood.
10. Ask for help
If all else fails, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone needs a helping hand sometimes, and there are plenty of support services ready to help you. Here are some useful numbers to contact if you’re in crisis:
Mental Health Support Line (MH CALL) 1300 64 22 55
Lifeline - 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline (5 - 25 yrs) - 1800 551 800