4 Ways to Cope with Rejection and Loneliness During the Holidays
At this time of year, when spending happy moments with family is given so much emphasis, it’s even harder to deal with the loss of a family member, painful family memories, and loneliness. The holidays may be a greater reminder of the loss of someone you love.
Sometimes being with family causes us to self-evaluate in a negative way as we compare ourselves to relatives who are more classically “successful,” “good looking,” or at a stage of life we might wish to be in. Other times, family members will kindly (or not so kindly) remind us of our shortcomings. If we don’t have close family, watching others connect with their loved ones can make us feel left out and lonely.
Loneliness is a subjective deep feeling of emotional or social disconnection. You can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. Family members can talk with you and you can still feel lonely. The downside is that if you are feeling rejected, misunderstood or unloved it can increase your tendency to isolate or withdraw (leading to greater feelings of loneliness). It’s important to go against that instinct, which can also give you a break from negative thoughts.
How can we cope with feelings like rejection and loneliness and return some of the joy and celebration to this time of year?
1. Reach out and connect with others.
Ask others for what you need. Reach out to friends and family and find out what they are doing over the holidays so that you can connect and spend time with others. Suggest a specific activity you can do together. Use this time to deepen connections you already have with those you’d like to be closer with. Don’t forget to allow others to connect with you. Share your feelings with someone you trust and receive their support. Perhaps someone else you know might also be feeling lonely, or the impact of a loss? Reach out and call them.
Consider giving to those in need. Spending your time giving back is a great way to realize the positive impact your actions can have that also makes you feel more connected to your community. Practicing empathy toward others also makes you more empathetic to yourself. You don’t have to be perfect to make a difference in someone’s life! Stephen G. Post, PhD, author and director of the Center for Medical Humanities at Stony Brook University, believes volunteering is crucial to maintaining mental and physical health. One idea is to adopt a family in need and donate gifts and items of need. You might also get involved with a place of worship that offers outreach to the community or volunteer to help serve a Christmas dinner at a shelter.
2. Practice self care and healthy habits
Rejection and loneliness is painful and it can lead to unhealthy habits. Chocolate may seem like a comforting food, but overindulging in it will definitely bring you a case of “too much of a good thing”– a high that will be followed by a dramatic mood crash… The same goes for eggnog, wine, hot toddies…
Though the holiday season can compound an already busy life, it’s important to make time for yourself. You should never feel bad about practicing –and prioritizing — self care. Self-love is the way to truly loving others! Eat right, continue to exercise, and make sure you’re getting enough sunlight. Add an extra lamp on your desk at home or at work, if it seems dark, to help combat any traces of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
3. Set realistic goals for yourself
This doesn’t have to be the “best Christmas ever.” There’s no law saying you have to be filled with joy all the time. When you acknowledge that it’s okay to feel low or lonely, you’ve already rid yourself of the shame associated with holiday unhappiness and can move forward from a good place. In fact, in surveys of people’s feelings over the holiday season, over half the responders report experiencing loneliness during this time of year. So you’re not alone in feeling alone!
And never forget you are your own unique person. So you have no reason to do what others do “just because” it’s the holidays. Popular media may imply that having a romantic partner and going to a flurry of parties is the norm, but the love of a friend or even a problematic family member is just as valid as a romantic partner.
4. Honor your feelings and practice self-compassion.
Don’t let your feelings of loneliness or rejection confirm your inadequacy fears. The situation you are currently in, the way others do or don’t treat you, none of this has anything to do with your worth as a person.
Step back for a moment as if you were an outside observer and notice what you are truly feeling. Validate and notice your feelings vs. becoming engulfed by or fearful of them. Your feelings are real and important. Give yourself permission to have them, even if they are uncomfortable. Imagine what you might say to a young child or friend who was feeling similarly and offer yourself those same words of compassion and support. You can’t change the loss you may be feeling or the hurt from negative interactions with others, but you can change the way you relate to yourself.
This can be particularly helpful to do with the help of a licensed professional who will challenge you to look at yourself from a new, but compassionate, perspective. Talking to a stranger can also help make you feel better right away, even if you don’t “solve” your problems with the first visit or two. People who experience loneliness often develop maladaptive coping mechanisms that make it hard to move beyond their negative feelings. If you’re feeling stuck, our counselors in Houston can help you.
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