What are you doing for the holidays? You may have heard this question before from a colleague, a peer, or even in passing as the holidays are starting to come in full swing. As a society, we often associate this time of the year with gatherings and traditions with our loved ones. However, this question can dredge up anxiety for those of us who are spending the holidays alone – physically or emotionally.

So let’s start with this first tip: there is no one way to celebrate the holidays. Spending them alone is the perfect way to reflect and discover what may be best for you during the holiday season. But how do we deal with the feelings of anxiety and loneliness that comes around during the holidays? 

Acknowledge Your Feelings 

With the added pressure of in-person gatherings becoming more prevalent, or seeing social media images of the “ideal” holiday season, it is natural to feel sad or unproductive if you find yourself needing to spend time away from your loved ones. However, it is important to acknowledge those feelings and use healthy coping mechanisms to relieve your anxiety. For example, you can write in a journal, listen to music, or even just speak them outloud to yourself and or others. No matter if you are feeling joy or sadness, motivation or exhaustion, remember that it is okay to take a moment and move on with your day after giving yourself space to feel and reflect. 

Redefine your holiday traditions 

After reflection, think of things that would make you happy during the holidays. It can be a horror movie marathon instead of the classic Christmas movies, switching out the holiday ham for some sushi rolls, or if getting into the holiday spirit is something you don’t feel like doing, use this time to heal and rest so that you are prepared for the days ahead. It could be reading a book, or binging a show that has been on your watchlist for ages, or even finding time for a new hobby. Discover something you enjoy and remember this time as the year “I did something for myself.” 

Reach out 

If you are feeling alone, this may be the best time to reach out to your loved ones or your local community. You can schedule a zoom call with your family, or check in with a friend you may have not talked to in a while, or even volunteer at a holiday meal or gift drive. Sharing your time may be helpful for you to process your own emotions and have that sense of togetherness and connection you may be looking for. 

Practice gratitude 

If you find yourself struggling to try something new or reach out to others, try writing in a journal and reflect on what you are thankful for this year. It could be a letter to yourself, a list of hobbies you enjoy, or even a drawing of your favorite things. Let your creativity flow, and remind yourself that with all the victories, big or small, there is a lot to appreciate this year which can allow you to set goals for your future self. 

The holiday season can become overwhelming for many, so for those who can’t spend it with your loved ones, who aren’t in the space emotionally to see others, or to those who’s anxiety and depression can worsen this time of the year: take a breath and remember your thoughts are not a reflection of you. And if these tips don’t work for you, try contacting a therapist here at Pacific CBT who could also help you process your emotions and develop actionable items that work for you this holiday season.

About the Author: Ashley Carreon currently works as a Behavior Therapist in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis.  She received a Bachelor’s degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and a minor in Psychology from University of California, Davis. Ashley is interested in understanding intersectionality in mental health, and is planning to pursue a Master’s degree.

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