Alone for the Holidays

“The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude.” – Voltaire

As the song says, Christmas is ‘the most wonderful time of the year’.  But, what about when it’s not?  Seasonal ads, and the hype associated with this time of year, leads us to think that the only way to attain true holiday happiness is to be spending it surrounded by family and friends.  The reality, however, is not about whom you spend the holidays with, but rather what your attitude is about this time of year.  Being alone does not have to mean being lonely.

One of the reasons that challenges with anxiety and depression peak during the holiday season is the expectation that we spend it with others.  This presumption can create agony and distress for many of us.  Let’s face it…some of us just prefer solitude, or near-solitude.  We honor and cherish our privacy and, given the choice, would rather get lost in the serenity of ourselves than be surrounded by others.   For those of us who are loners long periods of time having to be spent in the company of others, especially large groups of others, can be overwhelming and disruptive to our sense of peace and well-being.  However, our culture, our world, is an extremely sociable one, and as such those that choose aloneness are often looked upon as damaged and in need of pity, or feared as a societal oddity.  It is this most fundamental misperception, that loners are necessarily lonely, that creates the undue stress and demands on folks who prefer the tranquility and peaceful harmony of their aloneness.  Loners prefer being alone.  It is the lonely who actually go and search out social contact.

OK, that being said, the truth of the matter is the majority of folks who are depressed and anxious around the holidays in fact feel that way for the precise opposite reason.  They are alone, and they do not want to be.  They are lonely.  They experience anguish and desolation at the thought of having to spend the holidays without the company of others.  The reason(s) they are alone are varied, their loved ones have moved or passed away, severe illness has prevented them from traveling to see you, the list goes on and on.  No matter what the reason, the angst of loneliness and isolation for those cherishing the closeness of others can run deep, especially around the holidays.

The first step to enjoying a peaceful holiday season alone is to recognize and accept the fact that no one else is responsible for making your days ‘merry and bright’.  It is up to you to do something to make it what you want it to be.  Here are some tips that might help.

  • Decorate your house or apartment.  Even if no one else is going to see it, make the effort to spruce up your living environment with holiday cheer.  Bring the holidays into your home.  One of the challenges of spending the holidays alone is the feeling that you have been excluded.  Be certain you are not excluding yourself.
  • Spoil yourself.  A lot of movies debut in December, and many of the theaters in town are open Christmas Day.  Go see a show, or maybe two.  Catch one of the outdoor festivals taking place.  Or, just get in the car and drive around enjoying the holiday lights and decorations.  Whatever it is, indulge yourself.  And,
  • Indulge others as well.  Go and volunteer to help out at one of the homeless shelters, or one of the many senior centers, here in town.  Boosting the spirits of others is a tried and true method of boosting our own.
  • Catch up on some of those things you have wanted to do forever, but have just not gotten around to.  That book you have been dying to read, or that movie you have wanted to rent for how long now.
  • Plan something special, really special.  A treat for yourself.  Do not worry that it may not be of a ‘holiday festive’ nature, just make certain it is something you really want to do and have to look forward to.
  • Make plans for your own special holiday meal.  If you choose to eat at home, crack open a nice bottle of champagne with your dinner.  You can also check with one of our many local upscale supermarkets to see what sort of distinctive holiday meals they are preparing.  If you prefer to go out there are always restaurants open.  And, you can dine around others in doing so.  The tricky part is finding the open ones.  So, either make the calls or get on the internet to check which of our local eateries are open.
  • Be proactive and pick up the phone and call other people you know who might also be alone for the holidays and arrange for a special shared holiday meal.  Do not assume that everyone else you know is busy throughout the holidays.  They may be sitting home alone thinking the same of you.  Even if they have other commitments, they may relish the opportunity to escape from one or more of them and spend time with you.
  • Be open to accepting other’s invitations.  Do not create some make believe family gathering in order to avoid embarrassment.  Be candid and direct and say you do not have any plans.  In doing so, someone will likely issue a sincere invitation for you to join them at their holiday gathering.
  • Get away for awhile.  Go and do the local thing.  Book a room in one of our wonderful beachfront inns.  Play tourist and enjoy much of what it is that Santa Barbara has to offer.  Or, just enjoy room service and relax.
  • Consider some canine company.  Although maybe a bit of an unusual idea, why not call a friend and ask if you can sit their dogs.  Especially if you have a friend who is going out of town for the holidays and is in need of caring for their dog.  By doing so you may well be doing them and yourself a huge favor.

Some of us are alone, or nearly alone, today because it is what we choose.  Others are not at all alone but wish they were.  Yet others are alone, completely alone and isolated, and wish with all their hearts they were not.  If you know anyone in this last group pick up the phone and give them a call.  Or, better yet, get in the car and visit them.  Doing so would truly be a mitzvah, a grand deed performed for the benefit of others, at this religious holidays time of year.

So, enjoy your own company.  There are plenty of things you can do and enjoy on your own during the holiday season. Do what it is you take pleasure in but never seem to be able to find the time to do.  Stay positive, and avoid getting into a negative frame of mind.  And, most of all, remember that it is just a day.  Now go and make it a happy one, and use your common sense to cope, thus helping ensure a healthy mind and healthy future.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS!