How to do holiday self care when Christmas is lonely

holiday self care
Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Whether due to family dramas or the loneliness that comes when you detach from them, Christmas can be difficult. Holiday self care is important for all, but more so if you’re struggling with dysfunctional family systems.

If you’re like me, the entire month of December brings a certain foreboding. Part of this is due to emotional flashbacks of Christmases past filled with familial unrest, guilt trips, and even violence.

Even when you’ve learned to set healthy boundaries to counter bad behavior, family gatherings can feel like a battle where you have to don a suit of armor to survive.

If you’ve made the difficult decision to cut ties or distance yourself for a season, the loneliness of a solo holiday can feel depressing and embarrassing.

If you've made the difficult decision to cut ties, the loneliness of a solo holiday can feel depressing and embarrassing. Click To Tweet

People tend to retreat into their respective clans as December marches along, making your loneliness more pronounced. They ask what you’re doing for Christmas and you lie and say you’re spending it with your phantom family to avoid judgment.

When things are quiet around the holiday, you may forget about self care. Isn’t that supposed to provide a respite from stress and rushing around? But holiday self care when you’re lonely is more about reparenting your inner child than stress-relief.

Often, those of us who feel lonely at Christmas time (even in the midst of a large family gathering) never got our needs met during childhood. Therefore, feelings of isolation come from a real lack of support, care, and interest in your well-being.

Now that you’ve faced the fact that your needs weren’t met as a child, it’s time to meet those needs yourself. That’s where holiday self care comes in. Here are six suggestions:

Holiday self care ideas

holiday self care

1. Buy yourself something sweet

You probably buy gifts for lots of other people but neglect to buy anything for yourself. A small treat, like an advent calendar, can be a poignant way to take care of yourself.

It’s something you may have bought for your children but never considered getting for yourself. What a way to honor your inner child and each day you’ll get a reminder that you’re worth caring for.

2. Acknowledge your emotions.

Rather than looking on the bright side, or rationalizing lonely or sad feelings, accept them. Remind yourself that it’s natural to feel lonely and sad at a time when most people are looking forward to time with loving families.

Rather than looking on the bright side, or rationalizing lonely or sad feelings, accept them. Click To Tweet

You may decide to journal your feelings or give yourself a hug. Avoid shaming yourself for your emotions and offer comfort and self-compassion instead. If your feelings become unmanageable, talk to someone like a trusted friend or counsellor/coach.

3. Watch what you eat.

Don’t use December as an excuse to throw a healthy diet out the window. Eating healthily regulates your sleep, keeps your mood balanced, and lengthens your life span. It remains one of the most important things you can do for your longevity and well-being.

4. Pamper yourself

This is what we think of when we talk about self care. Give yourself a massage with some lotion, take a nap, do a face mask, set a timer for a short meditation.

Speak words of affirmation to yourself. Those that start with “I am” tend to have the best effect. “I am worthy of love and support,” for example.

Set goals and limits

5. Set limits

Holiday self care means setting limits around your time and energy. Maybe you’ve already said no to family gatherings that drain you. If not, perhaps it’s time to start.

Let go of obligations to people who don’t support you. Many dysfunctional families expect us to stay within roles that never served us to prop up a broken system. Now your primary obligation is to yourself and your personal growth.

6. Set goals for next year

Celebrate your achievements from 2021 and look ahead to 2022. What do you have planned that you want to dream into fruition?

What excites you and lights you up that you want to bring into your life? Perhaps there are easy actions you can take now to get started.

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