12 Most Realistic Ideas for Getting Through the Holidays on Your Own

12 Most Realistic Ideas for Getting Through the Holidays on Your Own

The holidays seem to bring out the best and the worst in people and in situations. We are besieged by messages and memories. Memories of our family members, lovers lost, out youthful exuberances, and our grand plans.

It is a well-researched fact that more people have issues with depression during the holiday season. This is especially true if you are spending time alone or on your own. And all the more if this is your first time doing it.

The first thing we need to get out of the way is that there is s huge difference between being alone and being lonely. You know the drill… we have all found ourselves in situations where we have been in a room full of people and felt absolutely alone and lonely.

So, you are alone. It’s okay, there are many things that you can do to make good use of the time. I am not suggesting that you use all of the techniques. There is no need to make your time so full that you can’t think clearly. But, use 1, 2 or 3 to use some of your down time effectively.

The first key, like anything else is to plan ahead. If you are planning some relaxation, restorative or activities different from your regular pattern — mark your calendar. Take the time before your holiday break to pick up the books or supplies you need, gather the music, whatever… so you will be ready to go when the time arrives.

The second key is to stay positive. Positive thinking will get you through trying times.

Let’s do this…

1. Plan to meet up with friends

We all have friends who are far away from home, or those who don’t get invited to a lot of activities. Plan something non-threatening and not too over-the-top to get together. Share some food, get to know each other better, get some games, movies, etc.

Even for those who do not join in, they will be moved by the fact that they have been asked. Everyone wants and needs something really simple in life: to know that they matter, they are not invisible.

2. Contact family and friends who live out of town

This isn’t about sitting on Skype or the phone pining away about wanting to be elsewhere. This is a quick “Hello,” ” sorry can’t be there,” “miss you all” type of call, text, tweet or Skype.

Go through your smart phone, contact manager or Rolodex (Seriously. And call a few people you have neglected this year.)

Yes, they have obviously neglected you as well, but that has nothing to do with this.

3. Create memories

Depending on your age, you have stacks of photos lying around or sitting on your hard drive. Do something with them. Put them in a photo album (again, seriously), start a new scrapbook, make a screensaver/slide show for your computer.

4. Go within

Whether you consider yourself religious, spiritual, any or none of the above, reach out for what stabilizes you. Go to church, synagogue, ashram, temple, meditation hall, etc.

Haven’t meditated or read your favorite Bible verses, Rumi, or Gibran in a while? This is a perfect time of year to think about re-connecting or creating a new practice.

5. Donate money

Even if you aren’t buying a ton of gifts, chances are that you will find yourself in a big box store listening to canned Christmas music during the holiday season. These stores usually have Salvation Army kettles, Goodwill or some other charity sitting just outside their doors. Hang on to your change, or intentionally slip some extra change and small bills in your favorite jacket and give it up when you see them.

No, you don’t have to make any moral judgments about where the money is going. Just go with it. Karma, you’ve heard of her, will work it out.

6. Donate stuff

If you are like most people, you follow Pareto’s Rule for clothes and possessions. What? You wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time. You use 20% of your possessions 80% of the time.

Go in your closet, pick 5 or 10 things that you don’t wear, don’t like, don’t fit, can’t even remember buying and donate them.

7. Donate time

In every city, there are soup kitchens, telephone help lines, missions and many other places that could use someone with your talent. What talent? Breathing and willing.

This will require some planning ahead, you can’t just drop in. Make a few phone calls and go help someone.

8. Travel

This is not a tip that everyone can use. I have no issue with traveling alone. Now, alone can mean many different things here — it can be absolutely solo, with a group of people that you do not know, or a small group of people that you do not know well. I have done cruises, overseas vacations, road trips and mission trips using a number of these types of venues.

Get up, get out and go see some of the places and things that you have always wanted to see.

9. Throw yourself into a new project

This could be something new and exciting coming up at work. This could mean doing some extra research. Perhaps you want to get a jump on a new certification that will help your career move forward.

Perhaps you have always wanted to start a new hobby, such as painting, pottery, stained glass, archery etc. Make some calls to local artists guilds, museums, and shops that sell the kind of stuff you want to make or need to use.

10. Celebrate or help someone else’s project succeed

We each have specific knowledge and skill-sets. Put your ego aside and help someone else get a jump on their career. Help someone finish or fine-tune their presentation. Proofread their manuscript. Teach them to use Excel or Word or some other program that you breeze through, but know they struggle with.

Do something that you know in your heart will help someone else.

11. Visit a nursing home

Similar to #7, but still a little different. Again, this is not a tip for everyone. There are many lonely people sitting in nursing homes with no one who will visit them, sit, read, talk, and most importantly, listen.

This doesn’t require any special skill set. Just one human being reaching out to another.

12. Get help

If  your solitude has turned to loneliness and you cannot shake it off, get help. Pronto! Call a friend. Call your doctor for a referral. Look up some free clinics. Call a help line.

Here is a number posted by one of my Twitter friends: To talk to a counselor at a Lifeline crisis center . CALL 1-800-273-8255 / 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) Deaf Hotline #suicideprevention

Most of the time, holidays are great. But for many people they can be a little lonely and frightening. Remember to be mindful of those around you who don’t have as much family and friend time to look forward to as you do. Don’t get so caught up in the holiday frenzy that you become insensitive.

If this post speaks to you, use a few of the suggestions. If not, you probably know someone who may benefit from this. Print it out and slide it onto their desk.

It’s the holiday season and people get a little crazy. Be safe!

Featured image courtesy of apparena licensed via Creative Commons.

Martina McGowan


I have a penchant for studying leadership and business. I am a life-long student of human behavior. I have practiced medicine for over 30 years, in all settings including as a solo private practitioner. I have served on numerous boards in both the private and public sector. I am a mother, grandmother, blogger, and writer.

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Bernice McDonald
Bernice McDonald

Thank you for this article, Marina.  So many are alone and the holidays can emphasize the pain we may be in the process of healing. It's tough to push yourself out the door to meet up with friends or go give something that requires nothing in return.  Little by little, though, if we do this, we find the steps mending our hearts.  Most of the time you can only see if looking back.  Thanks again for 12 great suggestions!

Аренда дома Ибица
Аренда дома Ибица

Great ideas. I like the post and the distinct ideas. These are really very good. I will go for the traveling idea and that too with unknown people as it can be the best for a perfect holiday. You get along with new people and enjoy a new life with them. I like making new friends and like enjoying the holidays. :) Thanks for this idea. :)


@martinamcgowan Great tips..the holidays can feel like lonely times for those who are on their own, or dealing with split up families.  

Martina McGowan
Martina McGowan

@DixieLil Often people forget that there are a few people floating around on their own, and that they need to make a conscious effort to reach out to them. I've tried to supply a few pratical ideas to get through the season. Thanks, Dixie.