Lonely at Christmas: How to Cope

You might be alone on Christmas for different reasons, such as social anxiety or living far from relatives and loved ones. But there are ways to make sure Christmas can still feel special and fulfilling for you.

A team of Occupational Therapy experts at Cygnet Health Care have shared some valuable advice on coping with loneliness at Christmas for those who may find themselves struggling alone this festive period.


How can spending Christmas on your own make you feel?

Karen Shaw, Lead Occupational Therapist at Wallace Hospital:

Christmas is a time of high pressure anxiety and stress. It can be a time of great sadness, despair and loneliness. Individuals who have limited social circles can feel worthless, helpless and inevitably can become depressed and suicidal.

“This however is not the same for everyone and we need to be vigilant of individuals who become over stimulated and sensitive to the high levels of socialising and who may actually need to have some quiet time over the festive period. We shouldn’t put pressure on individuals to enjoy themselves when the whole aspect of Christmas is overwhelming.”

Helen Saunders, Head Occupational Therapist at Storthfield House: “Spending Christmas on your own can make someone feel isolated and perhaps under pressure. It can lead to feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, and experiences of low mood. You might start to ruminate on past events, or be triggered by certain memories or events.”

Stacey Chishiri, Occupational Therapist at Cygnet Hospital Derby:  “Spending Christmas alone is quite familiar as I live alone. I usually go to my foster parents for the day however during COVID-19 I had to spend Christmas alone which brought feelings of loneliness. Due to technology I was able to FaceTime and have phone calls with friends and foster family. Spending alone can bring feelings of worthlessness however with the right adaptations there are ways to not feel this way.”


Why is there pressure to have the perfect Christmas?

Karen: “The pressure to have the perfect Christmas is a cultural and natural driver passed on from our parents and their parents before them. Parents who have grown up with poverty, deprivation and abuse may feel that to be a good parent you need to focus on the materialistic aspects to ensure children do not go without as the parent had. Also media and marketing companies have a significant impact on how we perceive Christmas by presenting glossy adverts with beautiful items to make the home, food and gifts essential for the perfect Christmas day.

“The unfortunate aspect of this is the limited acknowledgement of the true meaning of Christmas. The birth of Christ and being neighbourly and thoughtful towards others. The pressure put upon us at Christmas is not good for our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing and really is not often achieved as we strive to make this one day the best ever. It really is not that important.”

Helen: “The societal pressure to keep up with traditions and other people’s expectations of how to celebrate Christmas can make people feel like they have to meet certain expectations. Social media posts and advertisements can contribute to internal pressures of exceeding financial budgets and conforming to external expectations of what Christmas should look like.”


What should you do if you find yourself spending Christmas on your own?

  • If you would like company then check out the charitable organisations who are providing get together meals for those living alone or who need support
  • If you are a church goer then check out what the local parish have planned
  • Embrace the opportunity to be alone for example think of things that are new to you or you have wanted to do but never had the time such as reading the book you have always wanted to read, watching a movie or box set that you missed first time round, listening to a new genre of music or picking up an instrument, language CD etc. that you can starting learning.
  • Food is important to us all and because we are alone does not mean we cannot enjoy a nice meal. Cook or if you are lucky enough to be in the city order a meal in for yourself.
  • Set aside time to be in touch with people, whether that’s via telephone or social media, or connecting with others in your local community, for example through volunteering. Focus on what matters the most to you, and make time for those things.
  • Remember that even though people all over the world are having parties, get together etc. This does not mean they are having a great time as no doubt many will be under pressure to be the perfect host, guest and present giver. Being alone in your company can be the best gift.


Is it important to treat yourself if you’re struggling at Christmas?

Karen: “Yes, it is essential we treat ourselves at Christmas. It does not have to be lavish just a treat. Remember a treat can be your own company, silence, a chocolate bar, a book, film, a bath, nice music a comfy sofa and cosy home. This is how Christmas should be.”

Marie Boribon, Occupational Therapist at Storthfield House: “If you find yourself struggling at Christmas then you should absolutely use the opportunity to treat yourself if you can. Even something as simple as a warm bath or a special meal can make a big difference. Self-compassion can be protective during this season where you are likely to compare yourself to others and experience difficult feelings.”

Stacey: “If you do find yourself struggling, you should definitely treat yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything big, It can vary from food to self-care tasks to even going for a walk to appreciate nature.”

About Lisa Baker, Editor, Wellbeing News 4367 Articles
Editor Lisa Baker is passionate about the benefits of a holistic approach to healing. Lisa is a qualified Vibrational Therapist and has qualifications in Auricular Therapy, Massage, Kinesiology, Crystal Healing, Seichem and is a Reiki Master.