Loneliness during the holidays is a silent epidemic. For those without the picture-perfect family, or no family at all, the holiday season can be very triggering. People feel like they are on the ‘outside looking in,’ as images of happy families and jolly holiday celebrations abound, leading to feelings of isolation and hopelessness. No wonder we overspend as a way to fill that hole, using gift-shopping and holiday deals as an excuse to spend way beyond our means.
In fact, a recent study found that loneliness often leads to overspending during the holiday season, including both impulsive and compulsive spending. The research also found that the stress of family functions and other holiday events can cause people to overspend.
Before you burn up that credit card trying to cope with these very real, painful feelings, consider these 5 tips for dealing with loneliness and depression over the holiday season:
Look for opportunities to connect. Chances are that there are many like-minded singles or people who are dealing with troubled family situations just like you. Find ways to connect with people who may be grappling with similar situations such as by joining a support group or even volunteering at a local community organization.
Beware of drinking too much. Alcohol might soothe sadness or anxiety but only in the moment. It will drive you further away from your inner world and cause crushing feelings of despair and disconnect the following day. Stay aware and attune to the sadness or fear you are experiencing. What does it have to teach you? Where do you feel it in your body? Bring awareness to it. Notice it. Stay curious.
Prioritize self-care. We feel pressure to accept every invitation and be present for every family event, yet if doing so harms us, then it is not a wise or loving choice,” says the relationship therapist. “It’s okay to turn down events where you know you will be triggered, whether it’s because a toxic relative will be there, or because you know going stag to a couples-focused holiday party will only make you more depressed. Listen to your intuition and do what will feel most healing and meaningful to you.
Meditate while at a party. If a party is getting overwhelming, excuse yourself. Go to the bathroom and run out to your car quickly. You can also go outside, weather permitting. Sit and close your eyes for 5 minutes while repeating a soothing mantra that is meaningful to you, a mantra that will help connect you back to your source.
Do a gratitude reboot. Numerous studies have supported the amazing impact that gratitude can have your own well-being. Commit to doing a gratitude reboot for the next 30 days in which you express gratitude in whatever situation causes me stress or anger. For example, if your plane is delayed during your holiday travel, then you can be grateful that you get to listen to a podcast, or that the operators caught a malfunction and fixed it so your travel could be as safe as possible. If your uncle angers you with his political beliefs, you can feel grateful that you are each allowed to have your opinion and express it freely in this country. The more you practice this, the easier it gets, and soon gratitude becomes part of your personal story rather than something you have to work at every day.
Check your energy. If your spending is coming from a place of bitterness or anger (“I deserve a bottle of wine/new sweater/concert tickets after putting up with my family drama”), it’s going to be joyless. You won’t be able to enjoy the things you are spending money on, because your mind won’t be present and your purchases will be driven by self-loathing rather than self-love.
Check out this open-hearted meditation if you are feeling blocked or overwhelmed over the holidays.