Spending the Holidays Alone or in Isolation? 14 Ideas to Make it Better

Published on:

Holidays can be hard for so many reasons. You may find the first holiday season after loss extremely difficult, such as when a loved one dies or you suffer a breakup. Adding isolation into the mix can feel bleak, so we put together a list of ideas for connecting with loved ones, activities to do on your own, and tips for spending the holidays alone.

Jump ahead to these sections:

Ideas for Connecting with Family or Friends During Your Holiday Alone

Without a doubt, family traditions may look different in isolation. However, you can still celebrate with family and friends in safe and festive ways. 

1. Zoom party

Everyone’s a Zoom expert now! Your mom, great aunt, and maybe even your grandma knows how to hop on and change their virtual background!

Schedule a video chat with your loved ones and have everyone make a festive cocktail or dessert to show off to the group. Don’t forget to say, “Cheers!”

2. Secret Santa

Make your Zoom party even more fun with Secret Santa (or Kris Kringle or Chanukah Harry if Santa isn’t your thing). Level up the experience by adding a theme such as “things you never knew you’d need to survive a quarantine” or “on Wednesdays, we wear pink.” 

We recommend using Elfster. Have all participants sign up, and Elfster automatically draws names out of a hat, includes an optional wishlist feature, and sends address and delivery information. Wait to open the package until you’re celebrating on Zoom and try to guess who sent your gift.

3. Virtual escape room

Find a company online that does virtual escape rooms and sign up with a group of friends. Use your collective knowledge to solve riddles and laugh along the way. You can also sign up to do this on your own, and you’ll get matched with other folks flying solo.

4. Give back

You can give back from the safety and comfort of your own home. Consider coordinating with your family to write letters to those in a care facility who have been unable to hug their loved ones all year. You can even hang with your family over video chat while you all sip some hot cocoa and exchange ideas for sentiments or doodles. 

You could also pool money to donate a week’s worth of meals to a local family in need this holiday season. 

5. Give window hugs

Seeing your loved one through a window can feel equal parts heart-shattering and heartwarming. Put the phone on speaker and visit with your family member in person with the safeguard of the window in between.

ยป MORE: It's normal to feel overwhelmed after a loss. Follow this step-by-step checklist to know what comes next.

 

Activities to Do on Your Own Over the Holidays

At a certain point, you may experience the dreaded Zoom burnout. It’s just not the same as connecting in person. Maybe you’re sick and tired of virtual dates, or perhaps you’ve lost your person this year. We’ve got some ideas on how to make the holidays special on your own this year.

6. Create a vision board

Nothing says “new year, new you” like a vision board. One benefit of solitude is the time to focus on yourself. Sit with your thoughts, do some research, print some artwork, and fill a board with your hopes and dreams for the new year. 

Your board can include resolutions or not. It can be full of inspiring quotes, motivating swear words, or something else — whatever you want!

7. Treat yourself

This means different things to different people. Try one or all:

  • Eat: Learn how to cook an exotic meal or take a crack at making your dad’s famous roast. Learn to bake. Feel good by eating more veggies or commit to only eating your childhood favorites for a week. Spend hours curating and designing a charcuterie board, then feast.
  • Shop: Take advantage of holiday sales and make online shopping a full-day event. Scour the internet for special gifts for yourself. Whether you’ve got your eyes on a luxurious yoga mat, a gorgeous set of ceramic pots and pans, or a fancy ergonomic desk chair for all those Zoom meetings, treat yourself. 
  • Lounge: Do nothing for a whole day. Indulge yourself by watching an entire series in one sitting. Take an hour-long bath. Buy yourself a delicious smelling candle, a fancy bath bomb, and a waterproof pillow prior to your day of relaxation.

8. Craft the day away

Surf Pinterest and Facebook for DIY projects. Look into festive garlands and ornaments, or get creative with swatches and old mats from Gathre.

Create something fun for yourself or work on projects to send as gifts. If you can knit, sew, or crochet, you could even craft winter items to donate. Keep someone cozy in a homemade beanie and mittens. 

9. Write an ‘open when’ letter to yourself

In preparation for the holidays, write yourself an ‘open when you feel lonely letter.’ On a day when you’re feeling particularly low, open that letter and let your “past you” give your “present you” a pep talk. 

Pro tip: Include a gift card to takeout from your favorite restaurant.

10. Do some end-of-life planning

It’s best to face mortality by creating an end-of-life plan. Make sure you make your wishes known and your loved ones get taken care of in the event that tragedy strikes. 

Tips for Surviving the Holidays Alone

Coping with loneliness involves some strategic thinking. Learn more about what you can do to make the holidays special even when you spend time alone.

11. Ride your emotions

It’s important to think of feelings as visitors. They come, and they go. What you resist persists, especially when it comes to your emotions. Let yourself feel those negative emotions. Before long, you’ll find yourself on the other side.

12. Remain present

Instead of letting your mind wander to better days, try staying focused on whatever you plan to do at that moment. 

Sensory experiences make staying present easier. If you make that charcuterie board, use your senses. Take in the contrasting colors of meats and cheeses, smell each bite before you dig in, and let the tastes swirl through your mouth before you swallow. 

Do the same in the bathtub. Follow the swirls of a bath bomb with your fingers, close your eyes, and feel the foamy bubbles with your toes. Inhale the aromas around you.

Pro tip: If you use a computer, put your phone away in a different room while you virtually celebrate with family and friends. This way, you can fully focus on your people without the temptation to scroll through social media.

13. Let it go

We don’t know what “it” is for you, but let it go! We guarantee you’ll feel much better. Sometimes when we surrender in one area of our lives, we try to aggressively control other areas. This can lead to tensions with loved ones, disappointment, and hopelessness. 

Letting things go is a practice. It isn’t just brushing things aside, but rather intentionally releasing things that don’t serve you well. 

At the end of each day, imagine placing anything that doesn’t serve you into a balloon. Use your breath to inflate your balloon. Then imagine the balloon drifting away until the balloon floats away, out of sight. Going to bed with a clear heart and mind can pave the way for restful sleep and the opportunity for a fresh start the next morning. 

14. Practice gratitude

Last but not least, practice gratitude. This is something you may have to schedule and force at first, but practicing gratitude has been scientifically proven to make people happier.

Tips for practicing gratitude:

  • Journal about your gratitude every day.
  • Call someone you love to tell them how much you love having him or her in your life.
  • Choose a moment every day to think about the things you're grateful for, such as when you brush your teeth or have a solo meal. Shoo away those negative vibes with some feelings of gratitude.

Looking for More Ideas?

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. Connect with your loved ones over text, Zoom, or social media, and brainstorm ideas so you can spend less time feeling alone.

Icons sourced from FlatIcon.