Christmas is over and as New Year’s Eve and the new year in general approaches thousands travel to spend time with their loved ones. People share a meal and conversation with family, couples share laughter and enjoy each other’s company while exchanging gifts, but what about the widow with no children or the single man estranged from his family? In my profession, I have been able to meet so many different people and privelaged to hear their stories, some of which include isolation and being alone during the holidays due to loss weather that mean death or distance. For those dealing with mental health issues or sobriety, the holidays can be triggering. What can we do to decrease feelings of isolation or possibility of relapse? Or as someone who has a friend who usually alone during the holidays what can we do to support our friend?
1. As a clinician who practices psychodynamic therapy (explains personality in terms of conscious and unconscious desires and beliefs), I believe bringing awareness to feelings of isolation and sadness during the holidays is key. By bringing the unconscious to the conscious, we break down a major barrier to understanding ourselves. A lot of people sweep uncomfortable emotions and feelings under the rug, which in theory can be like putting a bandaide on a wound. It will cover up the surface, however in time will deteriorate because no real attention went to managing the wound inside. Just like physical ailments, our emotions and feelings should be addressed and recognized.
2. After acknowledging and bringing this to our awareness, taking steps to prevent feelings of isolation such as planning things to do on your own can help with this. Maybe taking a trip somewhere if you enjoy traveling? Or asking a friend to dinner? Sometimes budget doesn’t allow trips or friends are with their family, what do we do then? Physical exercise - like going hiking on a holiday can feel great because you’re not isolated in doors and in bed, but instead you are outdoors getting the endorphins of physical activity. On a Christmas that I once spent alone, I went hiking at Runyon Canyon a popular hiking destination in the Los Angeles area and another great thing is the parking availability and no traffic!
3. Regardless if you found the above helpful or not, it is important to seek professional mental health help if you are feeling extremely low. You can reach out to a local therapist and request to meet on a day close to the holidays to develop coping strategies and have the support from a specialist. If you are feeling hopeless or suicidal, the national suicide prevention/crisis line is open 24/7 all year round where you can call and talk to a trained specialist. The number is: 800-273-TALK (8255).
Just know, you are not alone and these feelings won’t last forever. The holidays can be a hard time to get through, but the support is out there.
Thanks for talking out with me,