When you feel lonely around the holidays, you’re not alone

Noemi J. Mullins

The winter holidays are not inherently romantic or sexy, but the season has been imbued by the pressure of being in a great romance. This time of year is filled with holiday rom-com, jewelry ads, and people asking if you see someone special.

Even if your relationship status is perfect, the next few weeks can be challenging if you are not committed. If you are feeling particularly lonely, there are some ways to cope.

There’s nothing wrong with wishing that you were in love.

There is a lot of pressure from society to have a partner, but there is also a cultural perception that wanting a significant other makes you “weak.” It’s okay to want someone with whom you can spend time. “Romantic relationships are a natural thing for most people to desire,” Jennifer Creson LMHC, a mental health counselor and owner of Protea Wellness, tells SELF. Despite what the culture tells us is expected, the desire for love and belonging is a natural human emotion.

It may feel like you must be cheerful and “choose yourself” to prove yourself to others or to make the best of your situation. Many articles and books on how to make the most of being single and embracing it are available. This can lead to feeling pressured to embrace and love your solitude. What about the moments you don’t like it? You’re not the only sibling in a group photo of “ugly” sweaters.

Dr. Creson says there is nothing wrong with wanting to be in a romantic relationship. “Judging ourselves for our wants and needs hurts us,” he adds. Putting excessive pressure on yourself to make the most of being single can be rooted in an optimization mindset that just isn’t sustainable–basically, know that you don’t have to treat every less-than-desirable thing that happens to you as an opportunity for self-improvement. Listen to your desires, and consider where they are coming from. Does your desire for a relationship stem from a more general need for affirmation or companionship? Consider other ways you can feel connected and loved without a romantic relationship. You may feel pressured to conform to what you think is “expected.” Take a breath and remind yourself that everyone has their timeline.

When your values and those of your family don’t match, you need to be aware.

You’re not the only one dreading visiting your family this holiday season. This is especially true if you are single and know that relatives will pressure you, in their clever way, to get married soon. This kind of comment can be very depressing, even if it is not something you usually feel. You can deflect the conversation by politely pointing out other “successes” which don’t necessarily relate to the relationship status. You may have achieved a personal goal or worked hard for a work-related 2022. Or you could coast through an otherwise challenging year. These are all accomplishments that deserve to be discussed at the dinner table.

You can also recognize that comments about your romantic life may not be about you but the person making them. “Families pressure us for various reasons, but the majority are fear-based,” says Dr. Creson. Fear for them or us. We don’t have to internalize our family’s fear.

“If our families are unhappy with where we are and want us to change, then that is their fault,” says Dr. Creson. If we choose to live a life not in line with our values to please others, we can feel lonely, resentful, and unsatisfied. We cannot choose our families, but we can separate our worth from their beliefs to make them more aligned with ours.

You won’t feel any better if you internalize their pressure, even if you agree with them and wish you were not single. Dr. Creson says shame won’t help us reach our goals if we want to be elsewhere. Guilt keeps us in a rut. Contrary to popular opinion, tough love does not usually motivate people.

Reach out to your friends and ask for their support.

It can feel as if you are the only one reaching out, says J.P. Brammer in his recent advice column !”Hola Papi!”. It’s better to get what you want rather than keep score and not reach out to others because you feel like you are in a negative situation. Sometimes what you need is companionship. Brammer sums it up nicely: “I only have a limited amount of time on earth, so I would rather fail at connecting than remain alone until I die.”

It is not a personal insult unless you make it one. Especially during this holiday season, friendships can easily get lost when many people are dealing with the difficulties of friends, family, and work or simply trying to spend less time on their phones.

Step back to examine the source of your feeling that you are burdening friends. Do you feel like you’re “too much?” because you reach out to your same friend daily with the same problem, or is it just the feeling that you are always “too much?” If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask your friend, who is always there to listen and hang out. If you reach out and check-in, which you should do! Creson advises that you should do this without expecting anything in return. She says to accept whatever response comes and not feel bad if your friend doesn’t want to do it. Ask another friend. They might be looking through their things.

Refuse to isolate actions.

Dr. Creson explains that loneliness can lead to the most intense attachment-based feelings we have ever experienced. We naturally try to avoid deep feelings of sadness and come up with creative ways to cope. “The ones who isolate us won’t help.”

According to Dr. Creson, “isolating behaviors” are sneaky and can vary depending on the person. Some people find comfort in visiting the local bar and catching up with an old flame. Others may find it only increases their loneliness. Creson warns those in this category to avoid letting their urges take over. They may temporarily feel better, but it will only make them more lonely. If you are in the first category, what should you do? Have fun!

Dr. Creson may list drinking as an activity that can be isolating, but only you will know what works for you. What you should do during these times of loneliness is what Dr. Creson calls “pro-relationship activities”–these can be done with others or just by yourself. Pro-relationship activities could include brunch with a buddy or write in your journal for the first time in 2022. There’s still plenty of time! You want to feel connected with others or a less-lonely version of yourself.

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