We sing carols over and over, looking across crowded rooms, hoping someone will acknowledge that we actually exist. We sing lines like “The weary world rejoices” and the sting of the truth of those words, sink deeper every line that carols onward.
Have you felt lonely at Christmas?
Have you sat in a room filled with faces smiling and your inside voice is screaming?
Have you tried to muster up all them Christmas feels but have come up wanting?
I have been there.
I have sat wondering will I ever be happy on Christmas again.
I was the Christmas Eve Carols in the domain watcher on television, with tears dripping down my face.
I was the “I will never online date” person, who signed up on Christmas Day for the first time, because I was just so sick of being alone at Christmas.
From this space (not one where my whole world is together) here are my thoughts that might hopefully help somewhat when the pain rises this Christmas.
Here is my list of how to survive an imperfect holiday season, with a deep breath and some simple thoughts.
10 ideas to help ease the pain this Christmas
1. Phone a Friend
We all know what it feels like when we are contacted from a long lost friend, this is a way to help ease the pain this holiday season. Just pick up the phone and call someone. Whether it’s a friend, long lost relative or family member. Don’t text, don’t email and don’t facebook stalk. Pick up the phone and call someone, anyone. Start by saying I have been thinking of you. As awkward as it may start out, the phone call will help ease the pain. In fact research shows us that to minimise loneliness and create healthy relationships we need someone who will affirm and listen to us.
2. Switch off facebook and instagram
One of the worst ways to spend Christmas is watching the highlight reel of other people’s lives, increasingly making you feel more lonely, screen shot after screen shot. I promise the more you scroll the lonelier you will feel. As we compare our Christmas to someone else’s, the feelings of inadequacy and missing out rise. Social Media can be the worst medicine at Christmas time. Find a way to scroll productively, like find a new project on pinterest and search it. Each time you find yourself mindlessly scrolling, put your phone away.
3. Make Plans
Don’t think suddenly everything is going to spontaneously come together at Christmas. If you know this year is going to be a little difficult, start to make plans. Call someone and ask them to come to a carols service with you and offer to pick them up. Plan to go to the movies with a family member and buy the tickets. Organise coffee catch ups with people who are also a little on the fringe. When you fill the season with some great plans, activities, outside beach days it will make a huge difference. Why not even try your hand at Stand Up Paddleboarding or Sky Diving? These plans will fill the in-between periods when it seems like everyone else is having fun without you.
4. Find your question
We all know how awkward the work Christmas party can be. You don’t have to be the raging sanguine to enjoy those parties, but what about equipping yourself with some tools for those dinners, cocktail parties and suppers. Come up with three fail safe questions to start conversations and practise them. What are your plans for the New Year? What has been something you have loved about 2015? What are you hoping to get from Santa this year? Come up with three questions, that you can ask someone when you are standing around in social situations and do your best to engage. Being alone isn’t the same as feeling lonely. People can be surrounded by friends and family but feel intensely lonely at Christmas time. There are memories, there are unmet expectations, there are hopes not realised, there are moments of absolute regret. Every time we engage with people in social situations, you never know the true state of their heart and how much that seemingly insignificant conversation can mean to them.
5. Lower your expectations
One of the greatest things I struggle with at Christmas is unmet expectations. I am a total romantic at heart and love to create beautiful moments and traditions. The problem is that not everyone has the same passion and excitement for Christmas as I do. Family members escape and check out. People forget to buy presents. People you didn’t buy a present for buy you one. Christmas is a melting pot of expectations and we often are not meeting someones. The best thing we can do in this season is over and over believe the very best of the person we have expectations of and lower our expectations across the board. Then when we turn around and find ourselves laughing and spontaneously engaging in a moment, we are surprised by the beauty. Rather than disappointed that our perfect christmas is crazily imperfect.
6. Walk away from arguments
Christmas is the biggest season for family arguments and conflict. Often when alcohol is involved and unmet expectations, grievances from days gone by come flooding back. Christmas always brings up all them feels. The best thing you can do, from a confrontation is minimise, de escalate and walk away. You will never, ever solve a long held dispute with a war of words at Christmas. It is the worst time of the year for resolution. Find a way to shake it off and walk away.
7. Find a way to gain perspective
It is easy to get lost in our own thoughts and pity at Christmas thinking our life is the one that sucks the most. However there is always someone who is praying for what you already have. Someone praying for food, someone praying for a bed, someone praying for a child, someone praying for a conversation, someone praying to be noticed. Find a way to gain perspective by writing down everything you are grateful for and put it up somewhere you can see it every day over Christmas. Serve at your local soup kitchen. Watch documentaries about people who are in intense seasons of poverty, struggle and war. Find a way to gain perspective this Christmas.
8. Gratitude list
Write a big, fat, old list of everything you are grateful for. From fresh seasonal cherries, to carols services that your church worked so hard to prepare. From a neighbour who remembers your name, to a safe and warm house to sleep in at night. Write that gratitude list on a mirror in your bathroom and find ways to increase your gratitude. It will help with those lonely moments.
9. Write Christmas letters
Every Christmas we have a wall of Letter catchers for our family. We put brown paper bags on the wall, with each family members name and we write them warm fuzzies. Letters to tell them what we love about them and how much we love having them in our lives. Christmas can be an extremely fracturing time of year and channeling our emotions into words that encourage people is such a cathartic tool at christmas. Pour a glass of wine or tea, pull out some Christmas cards and paper, put on some christmas music and write. Write with a pen and paper. Allow words to come that you never even knew were there. Put down technology and reconnect with your writing words. It will help you feel less dissatisfied this Christmas and share the love.
10. Find a church
Whether it is volunteering at Christmas, going to a carols service, giving out presents to those who don’t have much, organising a catch up for those with no family, inviting people over for lunch who don’t have any family around. Christmas is the most amazing time to engage in the community aspects of Church life. Pretty much every suburb and every town, every city has a church on it’s street corner. Just walk in, sit and listen and start a conversation that matters.
Hope this helps a little,
From my heart to yours I am thinking about the lonely this Christmas.
As I do every year.