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Spending the holidays alone? Three tips to take care of your mental health

By Emilie Poplett | November 19, 2020 | 4 min read | Healthy Lifestyle, Coronavirus

Happy woman lying on the floor and looking at mobile phone screen. Christmas tree with decoration is next to her.


  • With COVID-19 cases rising, many of us have chosen to stay home for the holidays. This might bring up feelings of sadness or loneliness.
  • To cope with difficult feelings, make a self-care plan ahead of time.
  • It’s healthy to acknowledge your feelings. Despite what social media tells us, we won’t always feel joyful, and that’s okay.
  • Allow yourself to enjoy your holiday celebration, even if they look different this year.

When news of COVID-19 hit headlines earlier this year, I thought we’d be out of the woods by the summer. I never imagined that come fall, we’d be making our holiday plans around COVID-19. (For all The Office fans out there, cue Michael Scott: “I’m going through a bit of a rough patch. The whole year actually.”)

This holiday season, many people will spend their holidays alone for the first time in their lives. Our aging relatives may be at high risk of severe complications from the virus. And travel—whether by plane or car—puts us at greater risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 than staying at home. So many of us have decided to hunker down alone or with our immediate families at home this year.

For reasons unrelated to COVID, I’m sort of a veteran at spending the holidays alone. Here are a few tips for taking care of your mental health this holiday season.

Make a plan to cope with loneliness.

Think ahead about what helps you cope with sadness and loneliness. It can help to write down some ideas when you’re in a good headspace.

If I feel lonely I will:

  1. ___________
  2. ___________
  3. ___________

Call a loved one. Get outside for a walk. Read your favorite book. Whatever works for you.

The goal isn’t to avoid your feelings, but to take good care of yourself when difficult feelings come up.

Acknowledge your feelings.

Greeting cards, Hallmark movies, and friends’ social media accounts might make it seem like we should all be feeling joyful and #blessed. That’s unrealistic every year, let alone in 2020. Try to avoid comparing your holiday experience to someone else’s or to previous years.

Give yourself permission to feel whatever you’re feeling. Sad? Lonely? Angry? All of those emotions are allowed. Acknowledge how you really feel, and remember that difficult feelings will pass.

Give yourself permission to celebrate.

On the flip side, allow yourself to enjoy the holiday season when you’re feeling up for it. If your family always bakes a special dessert, make that dessert again this year. Or, if it feels better to you, take this year to try out some new traditions. Either way, give yourself permission to take part in activities that make the holidays feel special.

Decorate the house, even if it’s just for you. Bake that bread that always smells so good. Watch your favorite holiday movies. Or keep it simple and just enjoy a bubble bath and a good book.

Just because our celebrations look different this year doesn’t mean they can’t be fun.