Loneliness is something that everyone experiences, yet it is considered a faux pas to discuss it. Despite the world being more connected than ever with the help of technology, people are lonely, especially during the festive period.
Loneliness is defined as the state of distress or discomfort that results when one perceives a gap between one’s desires for social connection and actual experiences of it.
Research shows that loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It is even considered an epidemic and can be particularly difficult during the holidays.
The first step to help overcome loneliness is to talk about it. Everyone struggles with this very real problem, but we all experience it differently.
Explore stories of loneliness and coping mechanisms from all over the world.
For more support and resources, check out this article on HealthLine. They show research and offer resources that can help.
This includes outreach programs, ways to connect with others through volunteering, advice on adopting a pet as well as various mental health resources.
I love the holidays. Come mid-November, Christmassy melodies begin to be hummed, and I say to myself, “Ah, Christmas is here! Time to feel happy for no reason. Yay!”
And, even though I feel lonely most holidays, for one reason or another, I do try to make the best of it because loneliness should not be treated as an enemy, but as an opportunity, for you to get to know and pamper the ‘new’ you.
I like to look back into my life, my achievements, my struggles, how am I different from that person from the year before. Then, I Mari Kondo my house and feelings, tallying those things and thoughts which bring me joy and saying goodbye to those which I no longer need.
It isn’t an easy process. But, after a good cry, a holiday movie (or marathon) and some holiday treats, it all makes me remember that there is a new year to come. New experiences to be lived and that whatever is gone has just made space for the new. And that is the present loneliness gives me during the holidays, an opportunity to be excited about the future.
Being a Marine wife, you might think my loneliest times were when my husband was training or deployed. Those times weren’t exactly fun but I found true loneliness this last summer.
Not only due to the isolation of the pandemic but because I don’t fit into a neat little political box. I have different views and opinions based on each individual issue. But when you can’t be labelled a liberal or a conservative, people automatically think you’re wrong and you get called all kinds of colourful names.
The divisiveness of the United States has been growing steadily since President Obama took office if not earlier.
This summer, the extremism was such that I found myself biting my tongue in every conversation, researching for hours to make sure I had the facts and not some biased bit of drivel, and most of all, hiding who I am because it could cause an argument.
This was the loneliest I’ve ever been. And as doors were slammed in my face and locks were clicked home, I discovered something really important.
It’s not the people who demand you act a certain way who are your friends or even your family. It’s the ones who accept you and love you as you that earn the title.
When I started being myself, in every way, I found something amazing. The people I want in my life, and who want me in theirs. The ones who accept me. And there’s no loneliness when you find those people. There’s this incredible warmth, it feels a lot like home.
I have felt lonely in the past but honestly, I’ve always been so stuck with my job that the stress of work never really allowed me to be lonely long enough.
If I want to focus on feeling busy I will go and nose dive into an illustrator’s feed and avoid any Christmas or holiday-related content.
Evasion is generally how I deal with inconvenient feelings. But I think it’s a particularly millennial experience, not being able to take the time to fully feel lonely and yet have it be an under-current of your work-life schedule even during the holidays.
Like the loneliness doesn’t go away for millenials in this economy, we just focus more on the work and the stress and then that bit of relief we feel when work is over, that little moment is suddenly engulfed in loneliness.
That’s when we realise that keeping busy keeps us from feeling lonely, or at least postpones it enough until the holidays are over.
While living abroad, I missed the family traditions I was used to during the holidays. Even in a room full of friends at a Christmas party, I missed my family.
During these times, I reminded myself that we are always creating new traditions and new memories.
Even if that year wasn’t like years past, I knew that one day I’d look back on them fondly. This allowed me to live in the moment and appreciate what I had.
I remember this one time after giving birth, I got a ‘city pass’ for about 24 hours so I went home to an empty apartment.
Unfortunately, my brother had to work, and neither of my parents were in Estonia at the time. I got really depressed because no one could come home with me to celebrate.
I went and bought myself a bottle of champagne, watched TV and called every single friend I had. Basically, everyone was busy and I had given up hope.
I almost went back to the hospital to be with my newborn twins, when this guy I had only met once reached out.
He asked me to come to watch the fireworks with him. It actually ended up being a fantastic day.
I used to feel lonely a lot and now I don’t. It’s hard to say precisely what has changed. It’s funny because I have almost the exact same circle of friends.
I did not suddenly become incredibly social or move abroad and become a different person.
I used to think such things could work. They didn’t. My very same friends I have known for ages have just gotten closer because I have finally let them.
I used to come to parties and always feel left out. I felt like everyone else was somehow fitting in, and I wasn’t. Now I still feel a little anxious, but I know most people around me feel the same.
When the lockdown was starting, I was living alone in a room in Saint Petersburg. I had a few flatmates, but we weren’t that close.
The perspective of staying alone in a room for months was terrifying. And so I talked to my parents and decided to come back to Moscow to live with my family. We had a great time! Perhaps that’s the main point.
I still feel lonely and sometimes this feeling drags me all the way down to the deep seas of my subconscious. I know the monsters down there all too well. I don’t need to spend much more time with them.
As I said, I actually have friends. So I can call them. I don’t really have to feel that exhausting solitude.
I had been cycling for several months, predominantly alone. Then a friend of mine joined me and cycled with me for three weeks.
But after those three glorious weeks, he had to go home and return to the real world.
Abruptly I was alone again. I’d previously been alone for most of my trip, but this time, with the contrast of those three weeks with my friend, I felt lonely.
I continued cycling for a bit but I was not sure how long I wanted to continue.
Then, about a week later, I stumbled across a Workaway place. Initially planning to only stay a day or two, I ended up staying for a whole week.
It was exactly what I needed: I was part of a little community, working alongside and living with new friends. That week refreshed me and rekindled my excitement for continuing my cycling trip.
My family is really close, so I don’t usually feel lonely around Christmas, since we all gather together to open gifts at my parents’ house and spend time together.
New Year’s Eve is a bit different though. It can be hard to get together a group for a proper party, so a lot of the time I end up having something quieter or more alone than I expected to, which can give me a lot of FOMO when I look at other peoples’ pictures of big gatherings and fancy celebrations.
What I try to do to combat this is to look at what I have available in terms of people, and then I try to decide what the most fun version of that night will be.
With just me and my husband, it might be cozying up in our living room with fancy drinks, dressing up even if we don’t go out anywhere.
If I make sure to have the most fun I can under the circumstances I’m under, it really helps me not feel lonely or jealous when I think about other groups.
This will be especially helpful this year when we can’t gather, and I’m remembering all the big parties that happened in the past.
Loneliness can be experienced when we are isolated from others. However it can also happen when you are surrounded by people you love.
There is no correct way to feel or deal with being lonely. Consider opening up about your feelings with others and see what works for you.
Sometimes a complete stranger might help you feel better, other times, all you need is a change of perspective. Let’s normalise speaking up about mental health and helping each other battle loneliness.
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