Only the Lonely: Beat the Holiday Blues
The expectation of the holiday season doesn’t always match reality.
So, while it’s the time of year to be around friends and family, the pressure of the holidays can cause many to feel lonely.
“There’s tremendous pressure to be happy and social during the holidays,” says Tom Bollum, executive director of Live Well at Home by Eskaton, a home care service in Roseville. “All the commercials show togetherness, happy families, and decorated Christmas trees, but there’s usually a gap between the ideal and reality. Many people live far from family and miss seeing them during the holiday season. Or, they may have lost their spouse, and the holidays bring back many memories of joy, love, and laughter. You can feel lonely even when you’re in a room full of people. When the holiday blues arrive, remember you’re not alone.”
Ashlee Janzen, LMFT, in Roseville, says loneliness is very common, and your personality type might also have an effect on how you experience it. “If you’re an extrovert by nature and really need people around to energize and recharge you, the weight of loneliness can be heavier than for those who are more introverted and [tend to enjoy] their alone time,” she says. “It’s important to ask yourself where the feeling of loneliness is rooted. Is it truly loneliness? Are you grieving something? Are you experiencing symptoms more closely related to low mood or depression? Many people reach out to mental health professionals during or after the holidays because it brings up so much.”
If the feelings of loneliness fester and aren’t acknowledged, some people may start isolating themselves, which has a negative impact on physical health. “Sometimes we tend to isolate, even when there’s an opportunity to socialize,” says Linda Whiteside, program manager at Eskaton Senior Care and Services. “It’s proven that loneliness can increase the risk of certain health conditions, including heart disease and stroke, so it’s necessary to make an effort to reach out to others by getting involved in activities and organizations, even if it doesn’t come natural to us.”
Bollum shares a few recommendations on how to get through feeling lonely and finding ways to connect with others. “Pick up the phone and call an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. It’s harder to feel lonely when you’re strengthening bonds with others,” he says.
It’s also the season to give back. “Helping those who are less fortunate fills you with feelings of love and pride. Being part of something bigger than yourself brings you up in the process.”
And when you get invited to holiday parties, bring a plus one. “Taking a good friend to a holiday party will help you both feel less lonely, and it could change your feelings about the holidays,” he shares.
Loretta Parker, LMFT, in Sacramento, says the holidays are a great time to bond with your four-legged friends. “Connect with a non-human friend,” she recommends. “Go to a dog park, even if you don’t have a dog.” Parker also recommends going to a café for “some coffee and doing something creative like coloring or writing out holiday cards.”
Janzen says you can find like-minded people by getting more involved in your hobbies. “For those who love crafting, there are many holiday craft fairs in and around the region. Check your local calendar of events for specific dates,” she says. “Social networking groups, such as Meetup, can connect you with people in similar life stages or with similar interests who may also be looking to connect. Take a dance class or a yoga class; join a gym or water aerobics class. Classes are a great way to see the same people regularly and develop relationships.”
If you decide you need time alone to recharge and feel better, you can make that time special for yourself as well. “There are many things you can do alone if you’re not feeling social,” Parker says. “Watch your favorite movie while eating a bowl of popcorn or do something creative. Nowadays, you can learn just about anything through YouTube. Be your own chef, and try a new recipe. Take a bubble bath while drinking some bubbly. Listen to classical music. Get outside and take a walk. Have a cup of hot chocolate. Write in a journal.”
While loneliness can be an uncomfortable feeling, it’s OK to feel this way sometimes, Bollum says. “Seeing others enjoying the holiday season will bring back memories of family relationships, so re-think your expectations. Also, not every smiling face around you is happy on the inside. Everyone has lonely feelings—some people just mask it better than others and ‘fake it ‘til they make it’ in public,” he says. “If you’re feeling a lack of friendship or love in your life, shift your focus to what you do have: hobbies, pets, neighbors, family, etc. It’s hard to focus on what you’re lacking and feel gratitude for what you do have at the same time.”
By Kourtney Jason
GIVE WHERE YOU LIVE
Help ease your loneliness by donating time, money, or resources to the places below.
Sacramento Public Library
From adult literacy tutoring to assisting with special events and programs, or reading to children, there’s an opportunity for all.
City of Sacramento Volunteer Program
Assist with special events, animal care, gardening, tours, arts and crafts, child development, and more. cityofsacramento.org/hr/volunteer-opportunities
Food Bank of El Dorado County
Donate money, food, and vehicles; sponsor or host a food drive; or volunteer by helping with coordinating, sorting, or transporting food. foodbankedc.org
Run to Feed the Hungry
Join Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services in celebrating 26 years of Run to Feed the Hungry! Volunteer to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, support runners, and to raise awareness about food insecurity in our community. raceroster.com/events/2019/23510/volunteer-run-to-feed-the-hungry-2019
Twin Lakes Food Bank
Make monetary or food donations (they’re in most need of canned goods, packaged foods, and personal and baby care items); you can even volunteer and donate in memory of a loved one. twinlakesfoodbank.org
Loaves & Fishes
Help prepare, cook, and serve a daily noontime meal; write thank you letters, work as a teachers’ assistant, or help at the service desk in Friendship Park. Note: Interested participants must attend a two-hour volunteer orientation (held every Thursday at 10 a.m. by appointment only). sacloaves.org/to-volunteer
Meals on Wheels
Help with meal prep and delivery or volunteer as a driver; there’s an opportunity for all! mowsac.org/volunteer
Green Valley Community Church
Along with local outreach programs that provide food, clothes, resources and winter shelter, this church also runs a produce garden and Hope House—a transitional housing for women and children. Volunteer at any of their programs that suit your skills. greenvalley.church/volunteer
Upper Room Dining Hall
The Upper Room provides meals to all persons regardless of race, religion, gender, income, or age on a daily basis and is staffed and funded by volunteers and organizations throughout the community. Currently, they’re in need of volunteers to help cook and serve on weekdays. 530-621-7730