Written by : Grow Therapy 

No Home for the Holidays

For better or worse, the holidays are family-centric, and many traditions center around being at home with your family. However, many people don’t have a family to go home to during the holidays or cannot logistically get home due to work obligations or financial constraints.

Either way, if you’re in one of these positions, the holiday season might leave you feeling isolated and longing for connection.

There’s a vast cultural emphasis on family gatherings during the holidays, which can intensify feelings of loneliness. It’s like the whole world is wrapped up in festive family cheer, and you’re on the outside looking in. The pressure to take part in the family joy can make it challenging for those who don’t have a picture-perfect family to go home to. Here are five pieces of advice for people who won’t be with family during the holidays:

1. Acknowledge and validate your feelings.

While you may feel pressure to be merry during the holiday season, forcing yourself to feel a certain way isn’t healthy. Everyone experiences the holidays differently, and it’s important to note how you feel.

“Acknowledge how you feel – the good, the bad, and the indifferent,” says Nakeya Gore, a licensed clinical social worker with Grow Therapy. “There’s something powerful about telling yourself the truth. Your truth may sound like, ‘The holidays are hard for me’ or ‘I feel lonely this time of year.’” Let yourself feel these emotions and remind yourself that whatever you feel is valid. You may find it helpful to journal and write your thoughts or vent to a trusted loved one.

2. Create new solo traditions.

Who said you need other people to create traditions? Solo traditions are just as valid and can be something you look forward to every year, no matter where you are or who you’re with. This may look like taking yourself out for your favorite meal and using the time to set goals related to personal growth, says Stacy Thiry, a licensed mental health counselor with Grow Therapy. Or, it can even be as simple as watching a favorite holiday movie, having a spa day, going for a hike, you name it. The best part of a solo tradition is that it can be anything you want– no compromise with other people is necessary.

3. Go on an adventure.

If you’ve got the travel bug, why not go on a solo trip? “Consider using the time off to explore a new city or environment,” Thiry says. “Travel can be an excellent way to stimulate the senses and distract from what could be loneliness during the holiday season.” Solo traveling is a great way to learn about yourself, experience new cultures, do whatever you want, and meet new people. You’ll likely meet other solo travelers doing their own thing this holiday season, which can offer you camaraderie.

4. Volunteer your time.

If you have extra free time that you’re looking to fill, consider volunteering, Thiry suggests. She recommends checking out opportunities offered by shelters, food banks, schools, churches, or other local organizations. Finding a cause you’re passionate about and giving back is a great way to spend the holidays. Whether you want to help walk dogs at a local animal shelter or give out food to underserved populations, you’re bound to find something that you enjoy that helps give you a sense of purpose.

And helping people releases feel-good hormones in your brain, like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, all of which can boost your mood. Volunteering also enables you to meet new people who are passionate about the same things as you, allowing you to create new social connections and find a sense of community.

5. Reach out to your social network.

Chances are, you are not the only one in your social or professional network who doesn’t have a family to go home to or can’t make it home for whatever reason. Thiry says this is an excellent chance to spend time with colleagues or friends who will also be staying in town. You may consider sending out a group text or email asking who will be sticking around for the holidays and then suggest having your own gathering.

Alternatively, you can set up virtual meetups with friends or family members out of town. Whether that means having a lengthy one-on-one FaceTime catch-up with a friend who lives out of state or hosting a small Zoom holiday party, you can have fun and feel that social connection even when you’re home alone.

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