When Anxiety and Loneliness Make Holidays Hard

November 22, 2018 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

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Holidays can be hard when you are living with anxiety and loneliness. Holidays can be stressful for anyone, but when you experience any type of anxiety, they're more difficult. Then, when you layer a sense of loneliness and isolation on top of anxiety, holidays can be quite upsetting. Anxiety can make you feel lonelier on a special day, and loneliness can exacerbate anxiety. Understanding what's going on with these misery-causing experiences can help you change your holidays for the better. 

Anxiety and Loneliness: A Villainous Holiday Pair 

Anxiety and loneliness contribute to and reinforce each other. When a holiday rolls around, they team up to cause incredible angst.

Anxiety causes people to isolate. Isolation is a common effect of anxiety disorders that easily becomes loneliness. On the other hand, sometimes we feel lonely before we feel anxious. Isolation from others can create a sense of anxiety that can be vague or specific. 

These two villains can manifest in different ways. For some people, anxiety and isolation keep them home, unable to go out and join family or friends for festivities. Other people are able to go out and attend gatherings, but anxiety keeps them feeling isolated even in a crowded room full of loved ones. 

The evil interplay keeps people from enjoying holidays. Specific thoughts can make these times nearly unbearable.  

Effects, Treatment of Loneliness and Anxiety

Typical anxiety, worries, what-ifs, and fears tend to be magnified at holiday time. Old worries ramp up and new ones creep in. Feeling alone creates its own negative thoughts to add to this. Whether you're spending the holiday by yourself or are feeling alone in a crowd, some anxious holiday thoughts you might have include: 

  • I shouldn't be hiding at home.
  • I shouldn't be hiding against the wall at this party. 
  • What if everyone is glad that I'm not there?
  • What if everyone is disappointed that I'm here? 
  • What if they're talking about what a loser I am?
  • No one is looking at me. They're trying to avoid me.
  • Everyone is looking at me. They're judging me. I'm not good enough for them.
  • What if I'm always alone?
  • I'm afraid of being lonely forever.
  • What if I die here by myself and no one knows?
  • I'm nervous to eat in front of everyone because I might spill everywhere.
  • What if everyone hates me because I stayed home?
  • I'm so nervous around these people. What if I throw up?
  • What if people knock on the door to bring me food? What am I supposed to say?
  • What if nobody brings me food and I have nothing to eat?

Holiday anxiety is like every other kind of anxiety: it doesn't have to last forever. You can eliminate the worry of living this way holiday after holiday. Try these techniques to reduce the feelings of loneliness and anxiety and increase holiday happiness:

  • Have a beginner's mind. Let go of expectations for how you and the day "should" or "shouldn't" be. When you catch yourself caught up in "shoulds," shift your attention and remind yourself that everything is neutral, it just is what it is ("Social Anxiety, Shoulding, and Shoshin [a Beginner's Mind]").
  • Take breaks. No matter where you are, a holiday can get overwhelming. Step out for fresh air and a brisk walk if possible, or go to a different room and stretch, breathing deeply.
  • Shift your thoughts to the moment. Known as mindfulness, keeping your attention on what is going on right now (use all of your senses to pull yourself to the moment at hand), helps us shift our thoughts away from anxious ones like those listed above.
  • Honor yourself. If you're hungry, eat. If you're not, then pass. Talk to people if you want to at that moment. If you want to just observe, then do so. 
  • Connect. If you are alone and lonely, feel better by reaching out to others. Write someone an old-fashioned letter. Do you build or make things? What about spending your holiday making things to donate to local charities? 

Anxiety and loneliness can make your holidays miserable. You can turn the situation around, though and make good moments in any holiday. 

APA Reference
NCC, T. (2018, November 22). When Anxiety and Loneliness Make Holidays Hard, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2018/11/when-anxiety-and-loneliness-make-holidays-hard



Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps, and five critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Ida
says:
November, 26 2018 at 1:17 pm
Thank you very very much Tanya for once more a great read. You give many hints to help me, I find it most precious. Have beautiful holidays!
November, 27 2018 at 7:18 pm
Hello Ida,
Thank you very much for your comment! I'm so glad that you found helpful information. I wish you a great holiday season with little anxiety -- and anxiety that you can manage!

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