Holiday

So You Are Alone on Christmas, Hannukah, Kwaanza, Ramadan. How to Get Over The Holiday Blues–PART 1

So You’re Alone on Christmas, Hannukah, Kwaanza, Ramadan. How to Get Over The Holiday Blues

Why am I alone on the Holidays?

So it’s Christmas. Or it’s Hanukkah. Or Kwanzaa or Ramadan. Either for the first time or as an annual pattern, you’re all by yourself. No one has invited you to any holiday gatherings. No one is checking on you. You’re all alone.

Maybe you recently moved. perhaps your friends have moved on to other cities or states or countries.

Maybe you’ve been in a fight or disagreement with family members. The person that you usually spent the holidays with has recently died or has faded from your life.

Perhaps your lover or life partner is now gone and has taken all your mutual friends with them.

Whatever the reason, you are alone again. At times like these, it would be easy to fall into self-pity and extreme sadness, and disappointment in others.

You might even go so far as to blame yourself and even shame yourself.

HELP IS ON THE WAY!

As a life coach and therapist for over 25 years, I’ve seen lots of clients experience intense levels of stress during the holiday season.

So in the spirit of giving, I’d like to give you some tips and that will allow you experience joy gratitude, and to help you achieve a level of acceptance. At the same time, I hope to help motivate you so that this year’s holiday and the holidays in years to come are filled with meaningful connections and experiences.

We’re going to take a two-pronged approach. First, we’re going to talk about the mental and emotional elements that may be bringing you down. And second, look at some new behaviors that you can experiment with to increase your happiness over the holidays

HOW YOUR THOUGHTS MIGHT LEAD TO THE HOLIDAY BLUES

So let’s start by talking about some of the things that people say and do around the holidays that lead to the ‘Holiday Blues.’

Things you may be saying to yourself that increase the Holiday Blues.

1. Because no one has joined me or invited me during the holidays, I am an awful terrible person and deserve to be ashamed of myself.

2. Because no one has joined me or invited me during the holidays they are awful, horrible, terrible people. People are heartless, selfish and without feeling. If this was a just world they would receive punishment for their mistreatment of me.

3. Because no one has joined or invited me during the holidays, life has treated me in a way that I don’t deserve. Therefore life itself is horrible, awful, terrible and I’m not sure I want to be in this world.

4. Because I’m feeling sad and lonely, there must be something terribly wrong with me. I’m supposed to be happy.

I’M A LOSER, BABY

So let’s start with the first misery causing belief.

1. Because no one has joined me or invited me during the holidays, I am an awful terrible person and deserve to be ashamed of myself.

There may be multiple reasons that you’re alone this holiday season but if you are blaming yourself and shaming yourself there’s a good chance that you are mentally aggravating your sense of unworthiness.  Admittedly, it can be a very difficult thing for many people to value themselves when others are not reflecting that value. When no one is telling you how important you are to them, no one is expressing gratitude for your presence in their life, it can be challenging to remember you have value simply by being a living being. Even if everyone on earth decided to give you a low rating, you could still choose to assign a value to yourself simply for being alive. Naturally we all want others to value us.

ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE:

First, note, recent polls show an EPIDEMIC of loneliness with one 1 out of 3 people reporting regularly feeling lonely. In loneliness you are not alone.
Let me ask you a few questions as a counter-argument to the idea that other people can decide your value as a human being:

After finding out that a woman was living at home alone without any friends and no visitors would you assign this person no or low value?

Most people would answer  ‘no.’ for most people, there would be a sense of compassion and therefore they would never say that a person without friends or relations was of no value.

What about an older person who does not have children and is old enough to have lost most of their friends due to old age, sickness, and death? Would you assign that person the concept of no value?

What about a person who has moved to a new city not established any connections yet? Would you not give them credit for having value as a person?

Of course, none of these situations may describe your experience. You may have had trouble connecting with others for any of these reasons:

  • Working at a very involving job that takes up most of your time.
  • You may be experiencing shyness that prevented you thus far from connecting with other people.
  • You may have some emotional or physical disability which is preventing you from approaching or connecting with other people.
  • Or you may have simply procrastinated on developing new friendships, joining special interest groups, participating in sports and hobbies.
  • You might also have limiting beliefs on whether it’s possible to develop new friendships or to make new friends after a certain age.
  • You might have other erroneous beliefs that friendships happen organically and naturally and  should not require any effort on your part to generate.

You may have other challenges, for example:  Financial, geographic, occupational, familial. And these challenges may, in fact, make it more difficult to develop friendships, though not impossible. For example, you may irrationally tell yourself I cannot spend time with other people until I am financially and occupationally sound, or I cannot take any time away from family responsibilities, my workplace responsibilities.

COME HERE, GO AWAY:

You may also have a behavior or thought pattern that has led to poor friendship connections.

Perhaps you have not spent enough time nurturing potential friendships throughout the rest of the year.  Were there possibly some opportunities where you could have participated with others and rejected the opportunity?

Were there times where you showed intolerance, impatience, the lack of acceptance towards others in your life this year?

Were there times where in order to avoid the risk of being evaluated or judged, you avoided activities with others?

Were there times when you avoided participating with others because you predicted that the activity or the people involved would be boring, annoying or of no value?’

Additionally, is it possible that you have been more passive than active and have waited for others to invite you to activities rather than hosting or being pro-active in generating activities for others to join?

As you answer these questions you may be able to see some patterns that might have contributed your lack of connection on the holidays. If this is so, it’s very possible that this is a fixable situation – if not this year then for the coming year.

I’LL BE THERE FOR YOU, WILL YOU BE THERE FOR ME?

However, none of these may describe you. You may, in fact, have led a stellar existence during the last year or so. You may have given your time and effort to charitable causes. or even have reached out to others who were in need within your social circle. You may have been proactive in inviting fellow workers out for after-work activities. You may even have joined multiple interest groups to establish new connections. You may be very thoughtful and kind to your extended family. And yet it could also be true that despite all of these efforts on your part, you still find yourself without any supportive connections during the holidays.

If in fact, that is the case, it is genuinely unfortunate and disappointing. If you went even further and asked people to specifically either invite you or join you and were met with rejections all around, it is quite disappointing.

If that is the case, you would be better off convincing yourself that it is preferable to have connections during the holidays and that you will continue in your efforts to gain better connections, BUT that you can still choose Unconditional Self-Acceptance (USA) even when other people aren’t connecting with you.

ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE:

Now is a good time to pull out a sheet of paper and create a Gratitude List.
Now why a Gratitude List, Mr Life Coach??!!  I just told you how lousy my life is right now!!!

I’m glad you asked.
Psychological researchers have recently discovered things that folks in the religious and spiritual domains have known for a long time. Often the antidote to depression and sadness is to change the mental filter so that we are looking out for what the Buddhists call ‘no-toothache happiness.’

What is ‘no-toothache happiness?’

Well, try to remember a time you weren’t feeling happy for a while. Then one day you developed a headache or had an accident in which you were unable to use a part of your body, or you lost some ability or even caught a cold. Before you had one of these negative incidents, you were not aware of how happy you were to NOT HAVE a headache, toothache, cold, disability, lack of a vehicle, etc. You only became aware of the ‘no-toothache happiness’ after you had your toothache (when unfortunately it was too late to experience that happiness).

In the same way, people who are feeling extremely sad and depressed are often unaware of the positives in their life. Essentially they have a filter in their perception that is only allowing them to see all the negatives. They are not aware of the things currently going on in their life that could lead them to feel happy or at least relatively happy.

By creating a Gratitude List, you are essentially changing your mental filter so that you can see some of the positives that are already going on in your life. Now you may find this annoying because you may see yourself as having genuinely stressful experiences. Creating a Gratitude List does not contradict the reality that you may, in fact, be under real stress.

What the Gratitude List does do, however, is to help expand your awareness and help you to become conscious of the fact that there are more than just negatives going on in your life.

Okay, let’s now look at the second misery-inducing belief that can really increase the Holiday Blues.

PEOPLE ARE STRANGE WHEN YOU’RE A STRANGER

2. Because no one has joined me or invited me during the holidays they are awful horrible terrible people. People are heartless, selfish and without feeling. If this was a just world they would receive punishment for their mistreatment of me.

We can approach this belief from two different angles. First, we can look at the possibility that it’s completely erroneous. It may, in fact, be that the other people around you are struggling with their own troubles, their own irrational beliefs. They simply have not been thinking about anyone else due to their preoccupation with their own situation.

Have you yourself ever found that someone wanted your attention your connection you had not even been aware of their needs?  Then you can understand the ordinary incompetence of ordinary human beings.

But let’s go with the worst-case scenario. Let’s say for a moment that it is, in fact, true– People in your life are in fact selfish, self-centered, narcissistic, cold, mean people.

Even if this is true you can change your way of thinking about this. The human brain has not changed that much the last few thousand years so we can rest assured that selfishness is not new human behavior. All we have to do is look to various religious tomes to see that selfishness and self-centeredness have existed for as long as man has been around. However, we also have proof that throughout history there have been men and women who made it their life’s mission to spread love, kindness, and generosity.

So even if it’s true that all the people around you at this time are incredibly unkind and mean-spirited you can surmise two things:

1. These specific people express no concern for me and it may be because they have irrational thinking which tells them that they don’t need to be supportive of me.  While I can try to influence them, I may not be able to change their thoughts and behaviors.

2. Very likely that there are other people around on the planet that are in fact more supportive and more kind. It is in my best interest to find where to locate those people and to go there.

Of course, all of this presupposes you have not been behaving in a manner that would cause others to avoid you.

One way to evaluate this is to start a conversation with the people who have been distant from you over the holidays. You may want to ask them about how they spent their holiday. That may give you more information about why they may not have spent time with you.  You may want to ask them if you have behaviors that they think you can improve upon. You can couch this in the concept of making New Year’s resolutions and asking them to help you with behavior they think you could work on. You may find that you have been doing something that has been bothersome to that person. This can be an opportunity to turn that behavior around if it is objectively offensive.

Do They HAVE TO Like You?

When you notice that you desire a holiday connection but it isn’t happening it’s important for you to evaluate whether or not you may be adding mental demands/commands that specific others treat you in a certain proscribed manner.

In other words, does everyone need to like you or invite you?

Do do you believe that others must enjoy, like, and desire to spend time with you? This is different than desiring and preferring and wanting someone to spend time with you. This is actually adding demand to the desire for others company. If you can convince yourself that other people have the right and the freedom to prefer the company of others over you, you go a long way towards reducing the Holiday Blues.

BORN UNDER A BAD SIGN

Let’s look at number three in the Holiday Blues series.

3. Because no one has joined or invited me during the holidays, life has treated me in a way that I don’t deserve. Therefore life itself is horrible, awful, terrible and I’m not sure I want to be in this world.

Again it is very easy to blame the difficulty of making friends and strong social connections on life itself. From before written history, man has sought out the reasons for his misfortunes and often has blamed it on the Gods, Satan, the Spirits, the Fates. So too, modern men and women also tend to globalize their troubles.

But, it may in fact be true that your life has not been very fair and that you haven’t been given a fair shake in your life circumstances. Humans, especially those in the luxury of modern society hold on quite stubbornly to the concept of fairness. And we’ve done a pretty good job creating enough laws so as to legislate fairness. If all goes well we will continue to create a world in which fairness dominates. However one needs not look very far to see that in fact, life is not inherently fair. look to the world of the animal kingdom by watching any nature show. You will see that ‘deservingness’ has nothing to do with survival or thriving. Animals spend very little time bemoaning the fact that they are short on food, or rejected by a potential mate. So too with humans, fairness does not always dominate. So rather than spend your life energy complaining that life has been unfair and that it should be otherwise, your energies would be better spent on working harder than the person for whom life has been fair, or even unfairly advantageous.

Yes it sucks. Yes it’s unfair.

And yet we will do better by accepting but it is in fact unfair and moving on from there.

MAD TO BE SAD

Finally the 4th Horseman of the Holiday Blues is this–

4. Because I’m feeling sad and lonely, there must be something terribly wrong with me. I’m supposed to be happy.

Au contraire. In fact it is quite natural to feel sad and lonely when not connected to others who value your friendship. It may even be a survival behavior developed through natural selection and in our DNA to seek the company of others. In times of old, the tribe was the protective factor in whether someone lived or died. So the brain is wired to seek out connection. Sadness and loneliness can be signals from your brain telling you that you may need to work harder to make those connections. There is nothing wrong with you wanting to connect with others. Nothing wrong with you for feeling sad and having less connection right now.

However, if you choose to ignore this signal, you may find yourself in the same situation year after year. So listen to the signal and begin to brainstorm ways that you can better connect in the coming weeks months and years.

BEST FRIEND DISPUTE

Some part of you knows that you cannot simply go around feeling miserable for the holidays. Some part of you is aware that there is more than one way to look at this situation. And finally, there is some part of you that understands that there is a way to overcome these obstacles.

That part of you is what I like to call your ‘Best Friend.’
We all know that we can be our own Best Friend or our own Worst Enemy.

Some people commit suicide when their own Worst Enemy—that part of their thinking that insists life is too frustrating, too difficult to go on—takes over.
Others behave in self defeating ways based on the Worst Enemy thinking. Sometimes the Worst Enemy shows up as the thought—I can’t take this situation, this person, myself—I’m going to do what feels good right now—even though its not good for me.

Best Friend Thinking is the thinking process you would use if your Best Friend was thinking or acting in an ineffective or self-damaging way.

Best Friend thinking is the way you would respond to your best friend when they tell you their reactions, other peoples behavior and their life situation. Usually in a firm yet compassionate, centered and reasonable manner. If you saw your friend sleepwalking and about to walk over a cliff, you would grab them, shake them awake and talk passionately but RATIONALLY to keep them on solid ground.

So wrie down your thoughts of blame,shame and fear. Then put on your ‘Best Friend Thinking Cap’ and imagine your best friend just told you these things. Now, WRITE DOWN your passionate but EVIDENCE-BASED counter-argument. Look for ways to rationally Contradict any absolutistic, demanding, blaming, shaming or sky-is-falling awfulizing thought

Now read and reread that best friend counterargument. put it in your pocket. put it in your phone. Youll probably need it more than once.

THE PARENT-CHILD DISPUTE

For additional evidence, consider this: If you had a son or daughter who said to you ‘there is something wrong with me. am not connected to anyone and I’m feeling sad and lonely. Other people are rotten and should recieve harsh punishment! The world should be fairer to me!’ Would you tell them that yes, in fact, there is something wrong with them for having these emotions? Or that others and the world owe them something? Of course not. You would feel compassion and concern. And you would likely give them the same advice being offered here today – let go of your irrational beliefs, get out there and make something new happen.

Ask For Help

As always if you feel the need for professional help, actively pursue a coach or counselor who is versed in CBT or REBT therapy.

And of course if you are feeling truly despondent Let people know. If you don’t want anyone in your life to know then You can call a crisis hotlineNational Suicide Prevention Lifeline – For youth and adults
(800) 273-TALK (8255)


If you’ve learned nothing else from this article on how to eliminate the Holiday Blues, I will leave you with a few words from the poem Desiderata.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here…
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

(Media inquiries: Please inform us if you wish to use any part of this article for upcoming articles or media.Please be sure to include a link to our website: https://www.affinitytherapyservices.com )

©2019 Ross Grossman, MA, LMFT 

Affinity Therapy Services

www.affinitytherapyservices.com 

323-248-9379, 323-646-4477

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