It’s not the most wonderful time of the year for everyone.
No doubt, the holidays can be isolating for those who are feeling lonely, stressed-out, or generally going through a tough time. Honestly, I spent too many years in my 20s dealing with holiday melancholy, trying to fill a perceived void each year with things that seemed fun socially (bars and beers equal Christmas cheer, right?), but was often left feeling more depleted.
Not that a good party doesn’t have its place, but a big turnaround for me during this period came with a shift in perspective rather than my circumstances. It was the idea of embracing the moment for what it was and not what it was missing. Slowly, as the years rolled by, I noticed that my attitude was becoming —dare I say—merrier amid the holiday hustle and bustle.
Based on my experiences, here are a few considerations for others who might be playing the holiday blues this season:
1. Do what makes you happy. Sometimes it is that simple. For me, I loved to run—so I started planning holiday races each year to give myself a different kind of hangover. I even coerced a friend or two to join me. So, whether your passions involve Turkey Trots or lightseeing (I made this up, it’s sightseeing of Christmas lights), it might be fun to put some activities on the calendar that you enjoy and can look forward to.
2. Lend a hand. Once upon a time, I was basically forced into doing a brief stint of community service (a story for another time). After doing 50 hours of volunteer work in a hospital waiting room, I decided to stick with it as a form of self-punishment. It was boring and monotonous work, but it felt good to help people in my own, small way.
While it might not make sense for you to jump into a formal volunteer role, giving back —even if it’s just a small gesture for a pal —could help freshen your outlook and make you feel better.
3. Search your soul. I’m not here to preach to anyone, but I think it’s an important concept for us all to consider. Like, why are we all here, and what is the point of this big blue ball we find ourselves upon? Personally, I had grown up Christian and drifted away from the church during my high school and college years. It was during my holiday downtime when I began reconnecting with this big mysterious book they call the Bible.
4. Don’t compare: Thanks to social media, it’s easy to get caught up in the comparison cycle. We start skimming through Facebook and see how great things appear to be for all of our old friends. It’s important to remember: do not go down this hole.
Particularly if you’re feeling insecure or lonely during the holidays, it’s best to avoid that photo album with Brad, Becky, and their cute little dog Bud. Save that torture for another day.
Besides, it’s fake anyways. Think about it, how much of your true self do you reveal on social media? Not the one traveling the world, but the one conquering an entire large pizza in front of the TV on a Friday night. Not the one that’s standing up for great causes in the community, but the one hurling f-bombs in traffic on your way home from work.
Yeah, that’s what I thought — it’s all a big charade.
By staying off social media, at least in that sleuthy sense, we can focus more on our own blessings. I haven’t always had a lot of friends and family around, or much to do around the holidays. But when I stopped taking what I did have for granted, I started cultivating deeper interests and relationships that certainly enriched the holidays —but also far superseded them.
5. Embrace your struggles. For much of my 20s, I had no girlfriend and I didn’t date much. Without liquid courage, I was naturally pretty shy about that kind of thing. Eventually though, I decided to face my fears and began to jump into the dating game in true millennial fashion — by searching for love among strangers on the internet.
And guess what, dating randoms during the holidays turned out to be really fun. I actually met my future wife on the internet and we began dating during the holidays. I even forgot my wallet on our first date and I became her charity case for the night. Somehow, I got another shot and took her to see “Black Swan.”
If there’s hope for me, there is hope for anyone. Whether you’re a little extra sensitive about singleness or other situations during the holidays, embracing hope and good humor in the struggle might help you keep your spirits bright.
At the end of the day, everyone’s circumstances are different. The holiday blues can be an entirely separate beast from those of depression and anxiety. I’ve had my run-ins with them too and it sucks.
While I can’t promise that my experiences will prove to be helpful for everybody, I do want to give my shout-out to anyone struggling this holiday season. I hope you find solace in the little things that lift your spirits and give you hope.