The holiday season is once again beginning and visions of warm, loving families and fun holiday parties are everywhere. Television commercials, heart-warming movies, even billboards show us this is what we should have. But for any number of reasons, anxiety, depression, divorce and distance, millions of people spend the holiday season alone. Those with social anxiety disorder may intentionally turn down invitations, filled with fear of interacting with others or even being in public. Or you may live far away from family; the thought of being alone making you feel even more depressed and more anxious.
The following are some suggestions to help you get through the holidays when you are alone:
Volunteer - Volunteering and helping others makes us feel better. If you are alone because of social anxiety, you can still find opportunities that involve very little public exposure. Spend the holiday at the local animal shelter, giving orphaned animals much needed love and affection. You can offer to deliver meals to shut-ins, dropping the meal off and excusing yourself because you have so many more meals to deliver. Look for opportunities that match your interests and passions. Spending the day doing something good for someone or something else can help relieve your anxiety.
Work on a home project - What have you been procrastinating doing? Do you have a closet that you have been meaning to clean out? A room you keep thinking about painting? Find one or two around-the-house projects that can be completed in a day. Rather than sitting around dwelling on being alone, be productive. At the end of the day, you will feel like it was a day well spent.
Choose to be with someone who understands - If you are dealing with social anxiety, look for a support group in your area. You may find others who are in the same situation and together you can plan your own holiday. You may find it easier to be with those who will not judge you. If you don’t want to make a whole day of it, ask someone to join you for coffee or a walk. You may both find it beneficial to break up the day with some togetherness. You might just start a new holiday tradition of getting together with those who can’t be with their families.
Write letters - Are there people that you would like to spend the day with but you can’t because they are far away or because your anxiety is preventing you from traveling to their house? Take the time to write letters to family members and friends, letting them know that you miss them.
Learn something new - What do you want to know about? Before the holiday, go to the library and take out some books on a topic you have always wanted to know more about. Take the day to learn as much as you can about the subject.
Take a walk - Exercise is a great way to reduce anxiety. Plan to take a walk, the fresh air might help lift your spirits.
Plan a movie marathon - Create your own holiday meal based on your favorite foods - it doesn’t have to be a traditional turkey dinner - and rent your favorite movies, enough to keep you watching all day. Or head out to a movie theatre and plan on seeing several different movies, one after another.
Host an online Thanksgiving or holiday party - If you are too anxious to attend family events, you can still connect with friends and family online. Invite your friends and family to join you on Skype or chat with you on Facebook. Let them know they can “drop in” to talk anytime during certain hours and then be sure you are available.
Treat yourself - It is, after all, the holidays. Treat yourself by buying your favorite foods, including an indulgent dessert. Take a long bubble bath, drink hot-cocoa by a fire, curl up with a good book. Whatever it is that you love to do but never get around to doing, now is the time. Make yourself feel special.
Plan one activity - You may not be able to handle all day family events, but you might be able to handle a small get-together or a church service. Think about what you are able to do and plan to get out of the house at least some time during the day.
If social anxiety is keeping you from spending time with family and friends, start planning now for next year. Vow to contact a doctor, look into treatments and be ready for the holidays next year.
Do you have more suggestions? Please share with us.
For more information on anxiety and Thanksgiving:
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.