Alone at Christmas: Top Ideas to Kick the Holiday Blues

Thank you for stopping by this page. You did a Google search for “alone at Christmas” and found me, so I hope I deliver. You’re feeling sad or alone this Christmas, and I want to help. Everyone has a different reason for feeling the Christmas blues, or not being able to get into the spirit of the holidays.

First, will you accept a virtual hug? If you’re feeling down enough to be stuck to the keyboard, you might even be wiping some tears away. Let’s get through this together!

via GIPHY

Many people experience sadness, depression, and anxiety during this time of year. There are several factors that can contribute to these feelings, including the stress of Christmas, family expectations, and the disconnect with reality.

It doesn’t help that we are bombarded by images, stories, and commercials of people with happy faces, living in magical moments, surrounded by loved ones. The truth is, even if you’re in a crowd, you can be alone.

The holiday season can bring up a lot of complicated emotions, including grief, loneliness, and other challenges.

Don’t miss all of the articles in the Christmas Well-Being series:

Sadness during the holidays

One common experience during the holiday season is feeling sad. For some people, this sadness may be related to difficult memories or painful losses.

For others, it may be a more general sense of gloom that seems to settle in during the dark days of winter. Whatever the cause, feeling sad during the holidays can be a challenging experience.

Caucasion, middle-aged woman looking at a picture, sitting by herself at a table, surrounded by Christmas decorations.

87% of American adults agreed that having a mental health disorder is nothing to be ashamed of.

-American Psychological Association

Everyone gets sad during the holidays at one time or another. The whole world isn’t hysterically happy between Thanksgiving to New Year’s. That’s not real. A little sadness, for whatever reason, is OK to feel.

Give yourself permission to be sad, and cry if you have to. Crying relieves some of the stress. You might not even be able to put a name on why you are having these feelings of sadness during the holidays.

Man of color sitting sadly on a chair with a party hat on.
Feeling sorry for yourself that you are alone for the holidays, or don’t have a special someone to spend it with can lead to feelings of sadness.

I’m not a psychologist, but there are things you can do to cope with these difficult emotions. Some of them are DIY self-care and you’re on your way to being Christmas-restored. Other times, you have to be very honest with yourself, and seek mental health.

Holiday depression

Medication may be one culprit of feeling down at Christmas. If you are on meds, an adjustment might be needed. Schedule a visit to your doctor – a simple change may be all it takes and you are back to feeling like yourself again.

If it is something more serious, such as the onset of depression, more changes will have to be made. The process for getting scheduled to see a therapist takes time. Unfortunately, the first session is all intake – the real talking doesn’t happen until future sessions.

If you need help now, there are many online sites that you can hop on and connect with a therapist right away. Only a doctor can prescribe medication for depression, so a visit will ultimately need to be made to a doctor or therapist who can prescribe medication.

In addition, Christmas means shorter days of sunshine in many regions of the world. S.A.D or Seasonal Affective Disorder is depression that sets in seasonally.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that primarily affects people during the fall and winter months when there is less daylight, particularly in locations farther from the equator. This lack of light can disturb the internal clock and may lead to feelings of depression. The change in seasons can also influence the body’s melatonin and serotonin — natural substances that play a role in sleep timing and mood. When combined, these factors may lead to SAD.

MAYO Clinic
Man in front of a light therapy light.
This man is taking part in a session in front of a light therapy lamp.

I encourage you to read the MAYO Clinic article, it spreads out into other surprsing symptoms. It’s always comforting to have validation for what you are feeling.

If S.A.D. sounds like what you have, there are strategies that you can take immediately. One is to simply bring more sunshine into your life. According to MAYO, light therapy, or light boxes can help. Some people are proactive and start light therapy in the fall.

MAYO suggests spending 30 minutes in front of a light box every day. It’s easy, just flip the light on while drinking morning coffee or having breakfast.

Being alone at Christmas

Let me put myself in your shoes for a moment. I want to address the very specific situation of being alone-alone during the holidays. You know why you’re alone but I want my readers to understand the whole picture.

Reasons someone would be alone at Christmas:

  • living far away from family and friends
  • have to work at Christmas or over the holidays
  • were in a relationship, and recently broke up
  • partner recently deceased
  • an introvert, personal preference to be alone
  • do not have a network of family and friends
Have 6 minutes? Mel Robbins gives you tough love advice for celebrating the holidays when you’re alone and holiday mental health tips.

Is it healthy to be alone at Christmas?

Some people choose to be alone at Christmas. I, myself, am an introvert and I wouldn’t mind having some quality alone time. My mom did that one year after dad passed away. She was totally OK being alone on Christmas Eve day. My family gave mom the space to process the holidays in her own time. After that, she joined us for Christmas Eve.

There is no better “healthy” alone time than Christmas. Why do I say that? Because no one is trying to ring your phone, ask you for a favor, or solicit you. It is the ideal alone time – culturally off-limits for bothering people.

The problem, according to Mel Robbins, is when you start feeling sorry for yourself and slip into isolation. A good point that Mel brings up in her video, is that people who are spending the holidays alone are embarrassed to let others know they are alone.

Young woman happily hanging Christmas decorations, comfortable with being alone.
Some individuals don’t mind being alone for the holidays.

The psychological hit of a blue Christmas

Christmas can have a significant psychological impact on individuals. The holiday season is often associated with feelings of joy, love, and togetherness – quite the opposite of what you’re feeling now.

However, for some people, it can also trigger negative emotions such as sadness, loneliness, and stress. This can be especially true for those who have lost loved ones, experienced significant life changes, or struggle with mental health issues.

Woman alone on an empty public patio during the Christmas season.
Where to spend Christmas alone? For some people, that is the focus of their holiday.

The “Great Christmas Let Down”

I’ve already mentioned the media and advertising portrayal of the holidays. They do a good job promoting the vision that the holiday season is a time of perfect happiness and harmony.

However, this is not always the case in reality. The pressure to have a perfect holiday can lead to feelings of stress, disappointment, and inadequacy. Additionally, if you have a different cultural background or don’t celebrate Christmas, you may feel left out or disconnected from the festivities.

Feeling sad is a normal and natural response to the stress and pressure of the season. Heck, I’ve felt the Great Christmas Let Down myself.

Young caucasion woman with santa hat on, hands on face, sad because of Christmas let down.
The big “Christmas Let Down” – the feeling that Christmas doesn’t live up to the hype.

If you’re feeling depressed at Christmas, there are several things you can do to help alleviate your symptoms. These may include seeking support from friends and family, practicing self-care, and seeking professional help if needed.

If you’re struggling to get into the holiday spirit and don’t feel like Christmas, it’s okay. Everyone experiences the holidays differently, and there’s no right or wrong way to feel.

Try to focus on the things that bring you joy and meaning, whether that’s spending time with loved ones, volunteering, or engaging in your favorite hobbies. Remember, the holidays are a time to celebrate what’s important to you, not to conform to cultural expectations.

Lonely without loved ones at Christmas

Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, but for many people, it can be a difficult time of year. If you have lost someone close to you, the holiday season can be especially challenging. Seeing other families together and sharing in the festivities can be a painful reminder of your loss.

Grandparents sitting on sofa with Santa hats on, video conferencing with grandchildren over laptop.
Technology is a great way to connect with family over the holidays long distance.

One way to cope with this is to find ways to create a Christmas Memorial tree for a loved one, or decorate their gravesite. You could light a candle in their honor, create a special ornament for your tree, or make their favorite dish for dinner. Doing something to acknowledge their memory can help you feel closer to them and provide a sense of comfort during a difficult time.

One of the best ways to combat feelings of loneliness is to connect with others. Reach out to friends and family members and make plans to spend time together. If you can’t be with loved ones in person, consider connecting virtually through video calls or messaging.

You can also consider volunteering or participating in community events to meet new people and give back during the holiday season.

Holiday work circumstances beyond your control

Yeah, it sucks to work during the holidays. God bless the people that do, though. From hospital workers, to law enforcement, to convenience store employees.

If you’re in a profession that doesn’t give time off for holidays, you will have to take your turn and work a day. For younger employees, they have “low on the totem pole” status and automatically move into the first place position for working holiday shifts (much to the dismay of their parents who may enjoy more work freedom).

Doctor in medical gown and mask with santa hat on holding a small Christmas tree.
Some professions have to work at Christmas.

I wish that I could roll back the clock, and go back to a place in time where Sunday was honored, and stores were closed. Instead, we have 24-hour open store hours for our convenience (and the benefit of the corporation).

Having the pressure that you have no control over work choices and preferences is a trigger for anger and depression, especially during the holidays.

The pain of newly being alone at Christmas

Being alone at Christmas may be a new experience for you. Many people grew up in a family and take for granted that they will be together with friends and family during the holidays.

One unique perspective is transitioning from children/teens to adults. Children are paired with their parents and don’t experience or identify with being alone. However, a young adult leaving the nest begins to realize what it feels like to be single, and may begin to desire having a life partner to share the holidays with.

Older man sitting alone at his house by himself for the holidays.
Being alone might be a new experience for you. It’s OK to reach out and ask for help.

Newly divorced people, even with children, feel alone during the holidays. Or take, for example, the divorced parent, alone for the first time, while kids are with the other parent. It hurts, and likely you are feeling sorry for yourself.

A decades-long marriage can come to the end after one spouse passes away. Maybe an adult child has been the family you have counted on, and they have passed away. Life changes, bringing you into a new season of life.

You might have been in a close relationship, and decided to call it quits. I’m not going to lie, your first Christmas alone is going to be sad. Processing the sadness is necessary for moving on to happier times.

Taking action to feel less unhappy at Christmas

Many people struggle with sad feelings during the holiday season, whether they are single, away from family, or simply feeling disconnected from others.

One way to combat loneliness is to reach out to others. Consider volunteering at a local shelter or community center, attending a holiday event in your area, or even just calling a friend or family member to catch up. Connecting with others can help you feel less alone and provide a sense of purpose during the holiday season.

Young Asian woman learning to spend the holidays be herself.
A young woman learns to adjust being alone for the holidays.

Other strategies that can help you cope with a sad Christmas include:

  • Practicing self-care: Take time to prioritize your own needs and engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.
  • Managing expectations: Don’t put pressure on yourself to have a perfect holiday season. Focus on what’s most important to you and let go of the rest.
  • Creating new traditions: Consider starting new traditions that align with your values and interests.
  • Expressing gratitude: Take time to reflect on what you’re grateful for and express appreciation to those who have supported you.

Remember, it’s okay to feel sad during the holiday season. Be kind to yourself and take steps to manage your feelings so that you can enjoy the season as much as possible.

Don’t make your Christmas sadder

Whatever you do, don’t play sad Christmas music, watch a sad Christmas movie, search out sad Christmas quotes, or sit down and write a sad Christmas song. That’s just twisted.

It must be a thing to make yourself sadder because YouTube is filled with playlists for sad Christmas music. Geez, folks, you need to stop that.

Young Asian woman watching a sad Christmas movie.
Self-care means not intentionally seeking more sad stuff – like watching sad Christmas movies.

Embracing solitude during the holidays

Christmas is often associated with being surrounded by family and friends, but it’s okay to spend some time alone. Use this time to reflect on the past year and set goals for the upcoming one.

You can also take up a new hobby or read a book that you’ve been meaning to get to. Embracing solitude can be a great way to recharge and find peace during the busy holiday season.

Who know? Your meaningful time alone could become something you look forward to every year.

Mr. Bean doesn’t let being alone on Christmas bother him.

Mr. Bean is someone who does being single well. The British actor, Rowan Atkinson, brings Mr. Bean’s quirky personality to life. In his laugh-out-loud “Merry Christmas Mr. Bean” episode he surprises himself with gift for himself, as well as his teddy bear.

Why not buy yourself a gift? Wrap it up, make it pretty, and put it under the tree. Or start your perfect vision of a Christmas tree, building a beautiful ornament collection.

Self-care doesn’t have to be Christmassy – go ahead and get a massage or order a nice dinner. Choose whatever makes you feel special.

Traveling solo during the holidays

Traveling solo during the holidays can be a liberating experience. It allows you to create your own traditions and explore new places on your own terms. While it may be tempting to stay in your hotel room and feel sorry for yourself, try to get out and explore.

Visit local markets, attend concerts or events, or take a scenic hike. You may even meet other solo travelers and make new friends.

In the favorite Thanksgiving movie classic, “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”, Neal Page, (played by Steve Martin) invites Del Griffith (played by John Candy) over to his home for the holiday, after a bonding multi-day travel experience gone wrong.

Helping others who are alone for the holidays

So many times, we don’t want to “bother”anyone. That goes for the person alone, but the onlookers who don’t want to cross a line of taking action.

As I said before in the Mel Robbin’s Youtube video, it’s important to let other people know that you are alone, then they can help you. Honestly, they would feel like absolute heel knowing a fellow coworker or acquaintance was alone at Christmas.

Elderly caucasion woman alone at Christmas.
Elderly woman alone at Christmas, why don’t you pay her a visit?

I have been lucky to always be around family. The truth is, I didn’t want to share it with outsiders. Now that I am older and there are people missing at my holiday table watching from heaven, I realize there is always room.

You can still keep parts of your holiday sacred, and share other parts. Here are some ideas to share Christmas with others, especially elderly alone at Christmas:

  • bring the person a hot meal, treats, or small gift
  • stop in unexpectedly at the door, singing a Christmas carol
  • offer to take them with you to a holiday concert
  • invite them over for Christmas dinner, or a dinner during the holiday week
  • invite them to join you to drive through a Holiday Lights display
  • visit with them

“The aloneness that you feel gets magnified because you keep comparing where you are now to what it’s “supposed” to look like or where things were in the past.”

-Mel Robbins, expert on change and motivation

People want to help their fellow human around the holidays. If you still hesitate reaching out to someone alone at Christmas, consider these words from my North Dakota friend, “people are just waiting to be imposed upon.”

Coping strategies: getting through holiday depression

I know, I know. You just want to get through the wall that’s facing you right now. Good for you for taking action to move to a more healthy mental frame of mind.

There are coping strategies that can help you manage your feelings and make the most of the festive season.

Katie Morton, licensed health professional, provides 4 actionable steps to fight depression during the holidays.

Holiday mental health resources

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to seek help. There are many mental health resources available that can provide support and guidance. Consider reaching out to a therapist, counselor, or support group. You can also use online resources such as Mind and Psych Central for coping strategies and advice.

If you’re considering self-harm, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. GIVE YOURSELF A CHANCE, PLEASE TALK TO SOMEONE!

Number for suicide hotline - call 988.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours, seven days a week.

988 Lifeline Chat and Text is a service that has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 

 By calling 988 you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

The role of social media during the holidays

The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration for many people. However, for others, it can be a difficult time of year, and social media can play a significant role in exacerbating negative feelings. Below are some ways social media can impact your mental health during the holidays.

Comparing lives online

Social media can create a false sense of reality, where people only post the highlights of their lives. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem when comparing your life to others.

It’s essential to remember that people’s lives are not always as perfect as they appear online. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your own experiences and what brings you happiness during the holiday season.

“The media reminds us of things we don’t have.”

-Katie Morton, Licensed Therapist

Positive use of social networks

While social media can have negative effects on mental health during the holidays, it can also be a positive tool. Social media can help people feel connected to their loved ones, even if they can’t be together in person. It can also be a way to share holiday traditions and memories with others. If you use social media, try to focus on the positive aspects of the platform and limit your exposure to negative content.

In summary, social media can have both positive and negative effects on mental health during the holiday season. By being mindful of how you use social media, you can limit the negative impact and focus on the positive aspects of the platform.

The gift wrap up

Feeling sad happens at Christmas. It’s hard to avoid if you’re having to spend the holidays lone. Know that you have options to be happy, you’re not powerless, and things can change – for the better.

All my best, Renee

Renee Cavvy
Renee Cavvy

Renee pulls no punches when it comes to challenging the social norms of gift giving. Her mission: putting an end to meaningless gifts and cutting through the fluff. This midwest mom offers novel and creative ideas to do gift giving better!