If you’re not feeling particularly festive this year, you’re far from alone. Even without the added stress of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the holidays can be a time of loneliness for many people. To avoid putting your newfound sobriety at risk, it’s important to have a plan to minimize the negative effects of loneliness on your mental health.
Honor Your Feelings
Feeling lonely because your relationships with friends and family are still strained due to past addiction-related behavior is completely normal. It’s also normal to be upset if your travel plans are canceled over coronavirus fears or if your budget requires you to scale back your celebration this year.
Your experiences are valid, even if others around you are dealing with their own holiday struggles. Writing about your feelings in your journal, talking to your 12-Step sponsor, or sharing your thoughts with your counselor can help you better understand what’s bothering you and provide a more balanced perspective.
Consider Taking a Break from Social Media
Social media is both a blessing and a curse. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media networks make it easier to keep in touch with loved ones, but they can also amplify feelings of loneliness and isolation when it seems like everyone is having fun without you. If your time on social media is negatively affecting your mental health, plan a digital detox for a day or two to see if your mood improves.
Keep in mind that most people generally only share the “best” parts of their lives on social media. They may look happy in photos or videos, but it’s a safe bet that they still have their own struggles to deal with. What you see when you scroll through updates on your phone isn’t an accurate representation of their day-to-day reality.
Use Technology to Bridge the Gap
While socializing virtually isn’t quite the same as spending time together in person, technology can sometimes help you feel less lonely throughout the holiday season. For example, getting together to open Christmas gifts or watch your favorite holiday movie via Zoom can help you nurture social connections while avoiding the risk of coronavirus infection. Our Staying Connected While Staying Safe at Home post has more ideas to help you keep in touch with those you care about.
Virtual holiday celebrations can also be a great opportunity to bring together people who normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to socialize with each other due to geographic restrictions. Invite a few friends to each bring someone new to your virtual Christmas party, and you may end up expanding your social circle in ways you never anticipated.
Create New Traditions
Recovery is a time of new beginnings, so this is the perfect opportunity to create new holiday traditions. For example, getting in touch with your crafty side by making handmade holiday decorations is a fun way to pass the time while giving your home a more festive atmosphere.
Acts of kindness can also become cherished traditions that ease feelings of loneliness while reminding you of the holiday spirit. For example, you could bake your favorite cookies to share with your neighbors or pick up a few gifts to donate to a local toy drive.
Look at Solitude as an Opportunity for Self-Care
Being alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Solitude can provide an opportunity for personal growth and reflection free from outside influences and the expectations of others. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy for us to forget that there’s a real value in taking time to rest and recharge your batteries.
Be kind to yourself throughout the holiday season by making self-care a priority. Regular exercise, sufficient sleep, healthy meals, and stress-relieving hobbies can help you boost your mood and stay on track with your recovery goals.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
When you find that loneliness is triggering cravings that are difficult to manage, remember that asking for help when you need it is a sign of strength and courage. Everyone needs help sometimes—even those who first appear to have everything figured out.
At St. Joseph Institute for Addiction, we’re here 24/7 to provide the resources you need to build a life free from the burdens of substance abuse. Our full continuum of care includes services at our Pennsylvania residential addiction treatment center as well as a relapse prevention and continuing care program designed to ease the transition back to independent living. Let us help you continue moving forward with your recovery.