Home (Alone) for the Holidays: A Post-Breakup Guide to Navigating the Holiday Season
The holiday season can be a particularly tough time of year to be alone - especially if you’ve recently ended a relationship with your significant other.
Not only are you likely mourning the loss of your partner in your life, but you may also feel a bit disconnected on a broader level as well, as if your relationship to the rest of the world has somehow shifted. With your days now filled with more time and space than they used to be, you may find yourself a little isolated.
As humans, we crave connection. We long to feel like we belong. And the holidays have traditionally been reserved for spending time with our family and loved ones.
But for myriad reasons, it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes we find ourselves faced with the prospect of spending a given holiday on our own. And if we’ve just come out of a significant relationship, the idea of being alone at this time of year can carry an added sting.
If that’s the case for you this year and you’re struggling with it, I’d like to offer up the following guide - one that’s helped me grapple with this very issue in the past. So without further preamble, here is my post-breakup guide to navigating the holiday season on your own:
Step 1: Slay your negative emotions
(a) Start by identifying whatever negative emotions you’re feeling around spending the holiday(s) alone.
What’s coming up for you?
Allow yourself to feel into it, flesh it out, and put a name to it.
(b) Next, I’d like you to consider what it is about spending the holiday(s) alone that’s making you feel that way. What story is playing out in your head?
For instance, let’s say that I’m feeling really sad and mopey about spending both Thanksgiving and Christmas on my own this year. Why exactly does that make me sad? What story am I telling myself that’s resulting in me feeling the emotion of sadness?
Digging in further, the story running through my head is that I’m feeling unloved. Like no one wants to spend the holidays with me. And since the holidays are all about spending time with loved ones, the fact that I’ll be spending them alone must mean that I’m unloved, or unloveable, or repulsive somehow, or not that important to the people in my life, or...get the picture?
Take a moment to let the story in your own head play out. Allow yourself to dive deep into it. Maybe even write it down.
(c) Then, question the story.
Is that script running through your mind completely valid? -100% true?
Odds are, it’s not. (It almost never is). It’s more of a tall tale - full of misconceptions and personal biases.
So let’s stop it with the bullshit stories, k? They won’t serve you or anyone around you. In fact, they’ll likely be self-defeating - ensuring you have a sad and lonely holiday.
Let go of those negative emotions. You don’t need them.
Here’s what I’d suggest you do instead.
Step 2: Surrender to the situation
Shake up your perspective on how things “should” be. Who’s to say how we should celebrate a given holiday?
And, anyway, “should-ing” yourself (i.e., dwelling on what you should be doing versus what you are doing) isn’t very constructive.
Part of the reason why we get wrapped up in negative emotions in reaction to the idea of spending a holiday alone is that we have a standard - in this case, a societal expectation that the holidays should be spent with loved ones - in our heads that we aren’t living up to. We’re falling short. We’re failing to meet expectations and fit the mold.
And sure, maybe that “standard” also happens to align with what we’d ideally like for ourselves. But life doesn’t always go as we’d ideally like it to, and we can’t control that.
So surrender to reality. Accept that your holiday experience might look a bit different than the norm, and that isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing. It simply is what it is.
Step 3: Fuck FOMO
Do not, NOT let yourself to fall victim to FOMO (“fear of missing out”). Operating from a place of scarcity, wanting, and dissatisfaction 1) isn’t very attractive, and 2) won’t get you any closer to what you want or where you want to be.
Pull your focus away from what others are doing. Who cares how anyone else is spending the holiday? Will seeing or thinking about that actually make you happier, or will it just lead you to feel a sense of lacking or make you wish you were there too?
Along these lines, you’ll find it helpful to limit your social media use. Looking to others for validation and engaging in comparison is a recipe for total misery. Score your dopamine hits offline.
(Pro Tip: Consider deleting the social media applications from your phone [so you have to purposefully pull up the website if you want to log on at any given time] or at least moving the icons for Facebook, Instagram, etc. off of the home screen on your phone and turning off notifications from those apps in your phone’s settings so you will only see them upon opening the app or logging on).
Step 4: Adopt an attitude of gratitude 🙏🏼
Flip the script that’s been playing in your head from one of scarcity or lacking to one of opportunity and abundance by setting some time aside each day to consciously reflect on all that you have and truly feel gratitude for it.
Regardless of our circumstances, we each have so much to be grateful for - even if those things are a bit abstract, like our health, having use of all five of our senses, our education, being able to keep ourselves warm, having access to on-demand entertainment in the form of books, Netflix, or the internet, and so forth.
As opposed to paying attention to what you are wanting or lacking (which can often become our default unconscious state), I’d invite and encourage you to practice more regularly recognizing and acknowledging everything that you do have.
Not only will adopting this attitude fill you with a positive, abundant energy, but it will also ultimately make you happier.
Step 5: Focus on giving - to others, but to yourself as well
Once you’ve shifted your perspective to approach things from a place of gratitude and abundance, you’ll likely also find it beneficial to focus on giving, whether in the form of time, love, attention, money, effort, gifts, acts of kindness, or otherwise.
Here are some questions to help prompt your thinking along these lines:
-How could spending the holiday(s) on your own prove to be an opportunity for you?
how would you like to honor and celebrate getting to spend time on your own this holiday season?
what are some things you might like to do to make it special?
-How might you be able to help or care for others?
do you know anyone battling illness or going through a tough time that you could do something for or assist in some way?
could you shovel snow off of someone’s porch or chip ice off of their car for them?
could you dream up some fun/thoughtful holiday gifts for people you care about?
-What are some ways in which you could contribute to your community?
could you pick up litter?
could you fundraise for a good cause?
could you volunteer for a group or organization?
could you provide shelter dogs with walks or companionship?
could you donate items to a food shelter or a Goodwill or Salvation Army location?
-Finally, what could you do to care for yourself this holiday season?
get more sleep?
go on a retreat to explore or work on yourself?
clean, organize, or de-clutter your work or living space?
visit a new and beautiful place?
pick up a new sport, hobby, or skill?
invest in personal growth?
Give in a way that feels in alignment with who you are.
Don’t give in order to seek any form of reciprocation. Instead, do it because of how lucky you are to have all that you do. Do it from a place of gratitude. Do it to honor yourself and those around you. Do it because you can.
Let me know how this process goes for you. I’d love to hear which of the above suggested steps resonate most with you, and if there are others you’d recommend adding to the list.
By reframing any negative emotions you might be experiencing and flipping that script/story in your head from one of scarcity to one of gratitude, opportunity, and abundance, you’ll grow. You’ll became more at ease and happy with who you are. And wouldn’t that be an incredible holiday gift to give yourself this year?