Traditionally, Christmas is a time where we get to get together with friends and family – but for many, it can also be lonely.
This could be for a range of different reasons. Perhaps, due to the pandemic, you’ve decided not to spend Christmas with your loved ones this year – or, maybe you have a demanding work schedule, are grieving the loss of someone special, or have recently been through a divorce.
Other reasons that people feel lonely at Christmas include being single, losing a job, being estranged from family, or not having any family or friends nearby.
If any of this sounds familiar, and you’re worried about feeling lonely over the festive period, then it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. There are plenty of people who are affected by loneliness, even if they don’t talk about it.
According to Campaign to End Loneliness, even before the pandemic began, there were nine million lonely people in the UK. And this year, the number of people spending Christmas alone is expected to double from 4% to 8% (Observer).
We also conducted our own poll recently, and 38% of Rest Less respondents said they weren’t planning to see their family this Christmas.
Although dealing with feelings of loneliness isn’t always easy – especially during the holidays – there are a few things you can do to make the Christmas season feel more manageable. From volunteering for a charity, to connecting with loved ones virtually, here are six tips that might help.
1. Treat yourself
Just because you’re spending Christmas without friends or family this year, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make the most of it. Consider putting up some Christmas decorations anyway, cooking yourself a meal that you love – and if you can afford to – treating yourself to a couple of pressies!
Tradition dictates that Christmas is made magical by roast dinners and family gatherings, but there are plenty of other ways that you could make the time special.
Perhaps you’ve worked hard this year and haven’t had much time off – so the Christmas period could give you the long, relaxing break that you’ve needed. Or maybe, you rarely have time to cook or bake, or treat yourself to something new, in which case, why not make the festive period a time to indulge a little?
Most of us spend the majority of our year, focusing our time and energy on other things and people, and it can be a rarity for us to get the chance to sit down with ourselves to reflect on our own wants and needs. So, if you’re spending Christmas alone, try to use it as an opportunity to have some ‘you’ time, where you choose exactly what you do and when you do it, without any pressure of expectations from others.
2. Connect with loved ones virtually, or over the phone
If you would usually be with friends and family at Christmas, but are unable to this year as a result of the pandemic, or because of your busy work schedule – then you could still arrange to have a video or phone call, at a time that works best for everyone.
While this isn’t a substitute for being together in person, it will still allow you to hear each other’s voices, express your love or well wishes to each other, and spread the Christmas cheer. If you plan on connecting with loved ones via video call, then why not arrange to eat your Christmas dinner together while you chat, or to catch up over a coffee, or a mulled wine?
Alternatively, if you know a few other people who will also be spending Christmas by themselves, then you could organise a virtual Christmas party, where you all get together to wish each other Merry Christmas and share how your day is going.
If you want to prepare for any virtual festivities by learning how to use video calling platforms like Zoom, then have a read of our article: How to video call your friends and family.
3. Volunteer for a charity
Volunteering to help others over the Christmas period can be a great way to give something back, while easing feelings of loneliness. The gift of giving doesn’t have to be exclusive to people that we know and love, and there are so many different ways that you could make a difference this year.
Here are a few examples of how you could volunteer your time:
- Befriend an elderly person over the phone. If you’re concerned about mixing with others over the Christmas period, but you’d still like to make a difference, then you could consider joining a telephone befriending service. Befrienders offer a lifeline of friendship to lonely or isolated elderly people in the UK, by committing to spend time swapping stories and offering support, for a few hours every week or month.
Age UK and Re-engage are examples of charities that run this sort of service – their websites will give you more details about what to expect and how to apply. It’s important to note that this is nearly always an ongoing commitment – not just something done over the Christmas period.
Volunteer for Crisis. Homeless charity Crisis rely on the kindness of volunteers to help them provide hot meals, somewhere to sleep, and hope for the future, to thousands of homeless people across the UK over the festive season. Although they have less volunteer roles available this year due to the pandemic, they still need help. It’s worth checking out their website to find out whether any help is needed in your local area.
- Volunteer for Shout. 24/7 crisis text service Shout offers people somewhere to turn if they’re struggling to cope and are in need of some immediate help. It’s run by a team of amazing volunteers who keep the service running around the clock – even over the Christmas period. To find out more about what Shout volunteers do, and get details on how to apply, you can visit their website here.
There are also a number of other ways that you can give back over the Christmas period and into the new year – all from the comfort of your own home. Have a read of our article on online volunteering for some more ideas.
4. Wrap up warm and go for a long walk
If you’re feeling lonely at Christmas time, then often one of the most helpful things you can do is to wrap up and go for a long walk. If you really want to embrace and make the most of your time spent outside, then you could even take a warm drink and some music along too.
If you’re grappling with negative thoughts over the Christmas period, then going out for a walk can shift your whole perspective, by helping you to get out of your own head for a while, and feel part of something bigger. You might notice others going for a solo walk, or nature thriving under the peacefulness, and hopefully you won’t feel quite so lonely.
Often our thoughts seem clearer when we step out for some fresh air, and getting closer to nature can also help us to feel calmer and more relaxed. Plus, there’s something extra special about going for a walk on Christmas Day, because there are few times in the year when the streets are as quiet and peaceful, which can make a refreshing change.
If you’ve never tried mindfulness before, then this could also be a good time to give it a go, because it will help you learn how to focus your attention on your surroundings and your body – which is great for breaking negative thought patterns. Our introductory guide to mindfulness will show you how to get started.
5. Keep yourself occupied
If you’re worried about how you’ll cope with feelings of loneliness on Christmas Day, then consider making yourself a to-do list full of fun and indulgent things that you can do by yourself. This could include things like having a movie marathon, lighting some scented candles, or trying a homemade mince pie recipe.
Nearly all of us have things that we’ve wanted to do or try, but haven’t gotten around to, because life is busy – so try to see a Christmas spent alone as a time to tick some of those things off your list. Hopefully, if your mind is focussed on the day’s plans, then you will be less conscious of the fact that you’re by yourself.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, then have a read of our articles:
6. Hang out with your pet
If you’re lucky enough to have a pet, then even if you’ll be missing human company this Christmas, you could still make the most of time with your loyal companion. Dogs especially will love your company this Christmas, and might even thrive off the undivided attention.
So, if it’s just you and your pet this year, then why not plan your day with them in mind? New toys and tasty treats make great gifts for pets – and you could even wrap them up (safely of course), and let your four-legged friend have some fun opening them.
Christmas movies are also great to watch while snuggled up with your pet, and if you have a dog, perhaps the two of you could go out for a walk along a different route – just to make the day that bit more special. And if you really want to treat your dog or cat, then PDSA have also published guidance on how to dish up a dog-safe or cat-safe roast dinner!
If you’re reading this article, then you might be worried about the thought of spending Christmas on your own this year. While these feelings are normal, try to remember that you aren’t alone – there are many other people in a similar position.
It’s also worth remembering that not every Christmas will necessarily be the same, and next year could look quite different.
With this in mind, it can be helpful to try to make the most of this one-on-one time with yourself by spending it doing things that you enjoy, and that make you happy. While relationships with others are important, the most important relationship we have is with ourselves – so being kind to yourself, and showing yourself some love, could be the best present you give yourself this year.
And while we hope that at least some of the tips in this article will be helpful, if you do feel particularly low this Christmas and you need somewhere to turn, then you can contact Samaritans or Silver Line 24 hours a day, seven days a week – where someone will be able to offer you a listening ear and some kind words.
Are you spending Christmas alone this year? Do you have any plans similar to those in this article? Or perhaps you have some additional ideas on things to do if you’re spending Christmas alone? Join the conversation on the community forum, or leave a comment below.