In cold, dark, and grey Canada, part of surviving the winter is the unspoken promise of the reprieve we are supposed to feel during the holidays. Generally, this is a time where we binge on everything, including time with our loved ones. Whether you’re used to spending the holidays with your extended family or a close circle of chosen pals, this year we are being asked to not see anyone from outside our own household. The idea of spending the holidays alone or without family is probably upsetting to a lot of people. Unfortunately, this year, it’s necessary.

I consider myself lucky to have crafted a life where despite having no blood family, I don’t spend the holidays feeling sad or alone anymore. Having learned, over the years, how to make the holidays feel less lonely, here are my tips for those trying to cope with their first solo holiday season.

Go hard on self care

We all have Vulnerability Factors, which can range anywhere from poverty to not getting enough sleep. They tend to pile up around this time of year, when the change in weather and daytime sunlight leave us more susceptible to conditions like Seasonal Affective Disorder, Depression, and the winter-time blahs. If this time of year is normally hard on you, consider your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs to be the most important things to prioritize during this time. Things are likely to feel even harder this year, so make sure you are eating what makes you feel good, sleeping enough, attending to basic hygiene, moving your body, breathing fresh air, taking alone time, practising mindfulness, and enjoying hobbies. Anything you can do to support your well-being is important and essential to getting through this year.

Create New Traditions

I love my friends dearly. They are the types to invite me to join them and their family for the holidays. Although it has meant the world to me to be included, it also carries a specific sadness to attend something you don’t feel like you’re really a part of; it feels like a reminder of what I don’t come from. I’ve found that creating new traditions for myself has been really helpful in terms of feeling like I’m moving forward! The first year I was alone on Christmas, I decided to order appetizers and desserts for dinner and watch Pretty Woman. Now I try to do that once every year over the holidays because it was something nice I did for myself and it feels like a cute tradition. Creating your own traditions can be a helpful way to navigate any holiday season that feels different, pandemic or not. 

Acts of charity and kindness

This year is rife with opportunities for us to help others. Charitable acts give us feel-good brain chemicals, and there are endless ways we can give back to our communities. Some ways to give back could include: buying a wish list item from the TransSanta initiative, supporting your local artists, shovelling snow from your neighbour’s walkway (with permission!), cooking and delivering someone their favourite meal, writing and delivering a platonic love letter, picking up trash in your local park, or offering to run errands for an overwhelmed parent. No effort to give back is too small, so look around and see who could use a little help or a little boost. 

Find a way to cultivate online community

I’m quite enamoured with how innovative folks have been at creating online spaces for people to connect during quarantine. I’ve seen folks doing many cool things over Zoom (which is sometimes more enticing to me than an in person event). I’ve seen Zoom used for menorah lightings, weekly D&D campaigns, children’s song circles, sober and in recovery meetings, script readings, workout classes, queer raves, and even orgies! There is an online space for everyone. If you’re looking for a place to connect online with people who share your interests, Meetup is a great place to start (because there’s a virtual meetup for just about every interest). 

Learn something new

Whether it be a skill, language, or hobby, learning new things during adulthood increases our neuroplasticity and causes our brain to release endorphins. What better time than now to give yourself the gift of these great things! Youtube has a free tutorial for anything you could imagine. Want to learn how to dance? Youtube. Make a Baked Alaska? Youtube. Build a fire pit heated hot tub for under $100? Youtube. You get the point! It’s Youtube! 

Remember that nothing is permanent

This pandemic will eventually end. We will once again get to spend our holidays with large groups of people that we love. Although the pain is hard in the moment, eventually it peaks and begins to fade. If we accept it for what it is, I’m hopeful that we can appreciate that the loneliness specific to this year is temporary.