There is a difference between solitude and loneliness. Seeking solitude during the holiday season is absolutely a healthy endeavor. However, loneliness can feel a lot like depression or can lead to more troublesome symptoms if it’s not addressed in a healthy manner.
Feelings of isolation can occur regardless of our social setting. Whether you’re planning to spend the holidays surrounded by family and friends, or if you’re alone for the first time since the loss of a close companion, this time of year can trigger feelings of depression and anxiety. The holidays are rife with comparison and expectations. And holiday memories often contribute to or exacerbate grief experiences.
Additionally, as the weather changes and we enter a darker time of year, people who struggle with seasonal affective symptoms may be at greater risk for feeling depressed.
If you are the one spending the holidays alone, make it a point to get out and enjoy interesting activities, either by yourself or in public, like a place of worship, online group or other organized circles. Volunteering during the holidays is another way to engage with others and build positive feelings at the same time. If you belong to a social group, share your honest feelings, and ask to spend time with others if you’d like.
If you know someone who is spending the holidays alone, ask how you can to support them. Invite them to meals or other activities, but do not push or obligate them to accept your invitation. Loneliness can allow troublesome thoughts and viewpoints to go unchecked, which can cause or worsen depression or anxiety. If you are concerned about someone, encourage them to seek professional help.
Allison Taylor is a licensed clinical social worker at Samaritan Mental Health – Albany. She provides outpatient therapy for adolescents and adults and can be reached at 541-812-5060. She specializes in youth and parent conflict, oppositional behaviors, phase-of-life changes, depression, grief and loss issues, anxiety, stress management, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and relationship concerns.