Being alone at Christmas can seem daunting. But there are ways to make it easier.
The funny thing about challenging experiences is that our resistance can cause more upset than the actual experience itself. Think of a work presentation, where we waste days panicking, or trying to get a colleague to take over. Then we do the 20-minute presentation and it ends up not being that hard.
Christmas alone can be similar. There is denial, where we joke with friends about it, or even lie about the situation. And last-minute panic, looking at overpriced Caribbean vacations or considering getting back with your ex.
It’s the moment we finally say, “this is really happening, I am really spending Christmas alone,” that there is some sort of relief.
A fast track to acceptance is a tactic used by coaches, who ask clients, "What is the worst thing that could happen here?”
So what is the worst thing that could actually happen if you spend Christmas alone? Write out the facts, and you might find they are not half as serious as the foreboding feeling you’ve been wallowing in.
Physically spending Christmas alone is usually not the problem. It’s the mental torture we create around it, particularly if we are hooked on comparing.
This looks like comparing this Christmas to others, or to our fantasy of what Christmas should be like, or our (often false) ideas of the ‘perfect’ Christmas people we know seem to have.
Mindfulness can be a great tool here, pulling you into the present.
Each time you catch yourself 'comparison shopping', breathe deeply and notice three things around you right now that are actually going okay. You are in a warm house, you are wearing comfortable clothes, there is a nice cup of tea in front of you… they don’t have to be big things.
Doing things exactly how you would with your family if you were with them might seem a good idea. But it can also leave us feeling more lonely.
If that might be the case for you, what about creating your own ritual? A Christmas meditation? A holiday recipe you’ve always wanted to try but your family wouldn’t eat? Volunteering at a local hospice?
Considering making one of these new rituals a form of exercise. Whether it’s a long walk in nature or dancing around the living room to carols, it’s a proven mood booster.
Often hard on yourself? Then give yourself the gift of some self-compassion. Now is not the time to beat yourself up over eating sugar or watching too much TV.
Imagine that you are talking to a friend who is going thorugh Christmas alone. How would you encourage them to get through? Try to be that nice to yourself.
While it is definitely not the time to pick on yourself for bad habits, it is the time to be diligent that those habits are not actually making things harder than they need to be.
Binge watching some television is one thing. Binge drinking is quite another. Alcohol is a depressant that can send you spiralling into an even lower mood the next day.
Be honest about what brings you down, whether it’s alcohol or texting an ex, and do your utmost to not sabotage yourself with such habits.
But be wise about it. Calling your friend who is having a romantic Christmas with a new partner, maybe not.
If you feel you can’t call friends over the holiday, then try to get numbers of help lines, or source online forums or Facebook groups you can turn to if needs be. Better to have such things to hand just in case.
If you are really worried, consider booking a talk therapy session. Not all therapists celebrate Christmas, and with an online session you can talk from the comfort of your living room.
Need some support this holiday season? Give yourself the gift of therapy by booking a therapist you like now, and make next year different to this one.