Holiday Loneliness? Here’s Four Ways to Cope

The upcoming winter break is not just time-off from classes, it’s a time when annual festivals and holidays are celebrated by many people from different cultures.  As a culturally diverse nation, religious holidays like Christmas (Christian), Hanukkah (Jewish), Bodhi Day (Buddhism), and Pancha Ganapati (Hindu); as well as cultural celebrations like Kwanzaa (African American) and New Years are recognized along with the Winter Solstice (December 21), the longest night of the year. Even in Florida, the days become noticeably shorter and the nights longer and colder.

Once the semester winds down, what comes to mind when you think about the holidays? This break might mean being with family or loved ones, eating your favorite foods and home-cooked meals, and celebrating your own cultural, familial, or religious traditions and customs.

But what if you are unable to travel long distances to be with friends and family? It’s common to feel a sense of longing for the familiar and miss special people when you are away from home during the holidays. Or perhaps you are from a culture that does not celebrate these upcoming holidays, but with most of campus emptying out it may intensify your feelings of loneliness. Coupled with longer and colder nights, it isn’t unusual to feel depressed, fatigued, irritable, overwhelmed, sad or frustrated during this time of year.

Fun activities, observing seasonal holidays, and taking a mental break are some healthy ways to reduce the stress built up over the last semester and overcome some of the negative emotions that can creep up on you this time of year.

Here’s four things you can do to help with holiday loneliness.

  1. Consider talking with other students in your classes, find out who else will be staying in town and planning a get together. A potluck and white-elephant gift exchange where you re-gift (or set a limit with how much you can spend on a gift) can be the start of a fun new tradition. Be sure to take care of yourself and find emotional support from friends and family and community resources if you are feeling down.
  2. If holiday traditions are important to you, find a way to honor your traditions, but don’t expect to replicate them exactly, because it’s just not the same when you are away from home. Find a way that makes it work for you.
  3. This break be your opportunity for local sight-seeing and regional travel. Pick a destination that you’ve always wanted to see and make it a priority. You will be creating special memories of your time in Gainesville by expanding your experiences.
  4. If you are missing your family, you can bet your family is missing you too. Find ways to stay connected (Skype, Facetime, etc), so you can feel a part of the family celebrations from a distance.

Remember, you are not alone.