The first day of December sucks.
Don’t get me wrong. The lights, the decorations, and the general atmosphere of the holidays are great, but I can’t help feeling dread every time this season rolls around.
For the past six years, the holidays have no longer held the same special feeling they did when I was younger. Instead, I struggle with fear, anxiety, depression, and most of all, loneliness. When everyone around me is gathering with their families, I don’t really have that option.
Like so many of my peers, I moved away to attend university. But unlike my friends and classmates at school, the prospect of going home for the holidays wasn’t always a happy one. The anticipation of having to manage strained relationships and emotional conflicts lowers my stress tolerance. After the first couple years—when I visited out of a sense of obligation—I realized I’d be better off staying at school, even if I was alone.
This is a conflict I’ve felt every year since: do I go back and feel miserable? Or do I stay in my apartment, by myself, and feel a different type of miserable?
One year, I googled “what to do when you’re lonely during the holidays.” Most of the search results recommended that I surround myself with close friends. I loved that idea; I have great friends who have helped me through some really rough periods of my life. But most of my close friends leave the city to spend time with families and partners in December. They get busy with parties and dinners, and sometimes I don’t hear from them for days or even weeks. So that piece of advice doesn’t work for me.
Another tip I’ve come across is to learn how to be happy alone. Take myself out for dates and learn to rely less on others. Sure, I can go to Christmas markets by myself or go ice skating by myself. But then I’m surrounded with happy couples, families, and friend groups who just remind me of what I’m missing.
It took years of hard work with my therapist to find a solution that fits my needs. What is it? Acknowledge that I can’t self-love or isolate my way out of loneliness. Accept that the holidays will always be tough for me, and that’s okay. Focus on being compassionate and gentle with myself. And above all, remember that I’ve made it through before, and I’ll make it through again.
If you’ve experienced anxiety, depression, and loneliness during the holiday season, you are not alone. More than half of Canadians feel the same way*, according to a recent study done by the Canadian Mental Health Association. One of the best things you can do is talk with a professional* who can help you through these difficult months.
- Sara Jones