Navigating Loneliness During Holiday Season

Regardless of what you celebrate, social gatherings are often at the foundation of winter festivities. People have different socialization needs; nevertheless, it is common for people to experience isolation despite the joys often associated with the holiday season. While loneliness can have detrimental effects on our wellbeing, there are ways to prevent it as well as approaches to learn how to better manage it if it does arise.

Loneliness Causes

There are a plethora of reasons for the uptick of loneliness during the winter months. Not only is this time of year often dark and cold, which means less melatonin and serotonin production and exacerbated symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but individuals may also be more prone to social comparison due to the often unrealistic expectations of the holiday season. Seeing a plethora of families posting highlights from their celebrations on social media can further magnify feelings of isolation and detachment, especially if one already feels disconnected from their family or community due to a myriad of reasons. For example, people may live far away from their family and friends or be experiencing grief due to the loss of loved ones. Alternatively, individuals may also have other obligations that prevent them from engaging in social gatherings or they may not have been able to sustain relationships with family members due to other factors. It’s important to remember that loneliness can occur at any age for a multitude of reasons. Regardless of the cause, loneliness can impact us in ways we can’t always anticipate.

Loneliness Effects

Loneliness is associated with a variety of mental, physical, and emotional symptoms. Those that experience chronic feelings of loneliness are more likely to produce extra cortisol, the stress hormone, which can increase anxiety and depression symptoms. Loneliness is also correlated with higher rates of heart disease, weakened immune system, and other physiological ailments. In addition, loneliness can result in poorer brain function because it reduces cognitive ability and has been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Ultimately, chronic loneliness can lead to accelerated aging and earlier mortality.

Loneliness Solutions

Although loneliness has the potential to cause negative side effects, there are ways to navigate loneliness effectively, particularly during the holiday season. While social media can have an adverse impact on mental health, technology in general can be a tool that allows us to stay connected to our loved ones even from afar. It may be important to implement boundaries with technology usage, however, such as limiting scrolling on social media sites that invite social comparison. In addition, consider reaching out to others who may also be lonely during this season and trying to create plans, whether that means celebrating a holiday together or even just partaking in other winter festivities and traditions.

One of the lies that loneliness tells us is that we are alone in our experiences; nevertheless, feeling isolated or lonely are universal human experiences. In addition to cultivating connection, one can combat loneliness by caring for other aspects of wellbeing through healthy habits such as eating nutritious food, limiting alcohol intake, exercising regularly, getting quality sleep, and utilizing a light therapy sun lamp during the darker months. Lastly, if it feels impossible to shake feelings of loneliness, you don’t have to tackle it alone. Consider reaching out to a mental health professional to help provide support and resources to help guide you through bouts of isolation and disconnection

Shadow Work with the Shadow Self