The holidays are a time for being with family, with friends, with your significant other – in short, with the people who are most important to you. 

And yet so many people struggle with loneliness during the holidays. Even if you are surrounded by people who love and appreciate you, if you are battling a mental health condition, have just gone through a break up or are experiencing the holidays for the first time after losing a loved one, these joyful celebrations can be anything but enjoyable. 

Loneliness and its effect on mental health 

Loneliness in and of itself is not a mental health condition. Rather, it is “a state of mind … [that] causes people to feel empty, alone, and unwanted. People who are lonely often crave human contact, but their state of mind makes it more difficult to form connections with others.”

Loneliness has a direct impact on one’s mental health and may worsen loneliness. Certain behaviors associated with mental health struggles include: 

  • Withdrawing from friends, family and previously enjoyed social events;
  • Finding it difficult to engage with others and worrying about situations where you may have to do so;
  • Struggling to express the emotions you are experiencing out of fear of being misunderstood or judged;
  • Getting overwhelmed when in busy public places, and therefore avoiding them; 
  • Battling low self-esteem or feeling burdensome to those around you.

A culmination of these struggles can significantly play into emotions of loneliness while simultaneously worsening one’s mental state. 

Does loneliness worsen depression? 

Loneliness can, in fact, worsen and may even be a cause for displaying symptoms of depression. Most individuals experiencing depressive symptoms withdraw socially and/or isolate themselves, leading to increased loneliness. Loneliness and depression often cause a cycle of negative emotions and experiences.

Anyone going through a divorce, a move, loss of a family member or breakup may also be at greater risk of developing depression partially as a result of experiencing intense symptoms of loneliness. 

What can I do to mitigate loneliness during the holidays?

Unfortunately, depression, loneliness and other negative emotions may take some time to reverse. But, by taking care of yourself, you can work to lessen symptoms and overcome this experience of loneliness. 

Seek out your friends 

Even if you feel like your struggles are too much for your friends to bear, research shows that tapping into the people around you can boost your mental health by reducing loneliness. Most likely, your friends want to be there for you and don’t mind if you’re not feeling like yourself. They will be grateful you showed up.

Research also shows that social media is partially responsible for the lack of community and face-to-face interactions that reduce loneliness. If you notice that the time you spend on social media worsens your mental health/increases loneliness, maybe consider taking a break and focusing on the festivities around you instead.

Foster gratitude 

It can be very easy during times of loneliness to start looking inward – and not in a good way. If you are perpetually focusing on the negative emotions you’re feeling, and giving little attention to the positive things going on around you, you are doing a disservice to your mental health. 

Consider starting a gratitude journal during increased times of loneliness, including the holidays. What happens in your day to day that brings you joy? At the end of the day, spend time reflecting and writing down 3-5 things you are especially grateful for.  

Talk to someone you trust

You might want to share with a parent, a sibling, a close friend or even a counselor the emotions you are experiencing and your reservations with entering into the holiday season. Letting someone else know you’re struggling, and asking for their wisdom, or just knowing you have someone in your corner to check in here and there, can do so much to boost mental health.

If you believe loneliness has increased and symptoms of a mental health condition have worsened, don’t be afraid to seek further help by reaching out to a counselor. Talking through your thoughts and processing with someone new can be especially helpful while struggling with loneliness. 

Take good care of yourself 

Good mental health is strongly connected to good physical health, making it crucial during vulnerable times to put some extra effort into your routines. 

  • Make sure you are getting at least seven hours of sleep a night to give your brain and body time to reset and heal
  • Prepare nutritious meals for yourself, with lots of proteins, veggies, fruits and whole grains, to promote overall wellness
  • Prioritize exercise by moving your body at least 30 minutes a day in whatever method you prefer most (walking, running, swimming, hiking, weight lifting, dance, etc.)
  • Implement mental health boosting activities, like yoga, breath work and mindfulness to increase mental stamina and decrease unwanted symptoms 

By taking good care of yourself, you are putting yourself in a routine to promote wellness, positive emotions and an overall sense of wellbeing which will most likely work to decrease negative emotions.

Need additional support?

If you are still struggling with loneliness and co-occurring mental health concerns, reach out to Silver Ridge Recovery today to get in touch with someone who can help. 

Contact us online or by calling 855-945-7788 to learn more.