OPINION: Single at Christmas? Make plans, get out and socialise
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Someone said to me the other day: ‘I hate Christmas: it’s when I feel most single.’ She’s not alone.
As ever, there will be people this year who are facing the festive season as a single person for the first time in a long while – either because of bereavement or divorce. It’s tough.
On top of that, there are always men and women who have never found the right relationship, and plenty of others who have had marriages and liaisons but who have been alone for ages. No wonder this time of year is hard for so many.
And it’s not just Christmas Day itself – that, after all, only lasts 24 hours. But lots of us are trying to get into the festive spirit, having had a pretty sad time in 2020. So, there are parties, even if they’re not as plentiful as they were pre-pandemic, and all sorts of other invitations to meet up for casual drinks or supper round someone’s kitchen table.
The trouble is, although it’s nice to be asked to such occasions, for many single people, going to them can feel like a huge effort. And this year, we’ve already had a lot of very dark evenings, horrid weather and power cuts, so the temptation for many singletons is to stay home.
Is this a good idea? Well, it’s one solution but in terms of good mental health, not the best one. The truth is that keeping ourselves to ourselves can quickly lead to a deterioration in our mood and confidence as well as to loneliness and an obsession with every little ache and pain. Don’t let’s go down that road!
I was discussing this scenario with a client, who’s a widow, and she said that about ten minutes before she’s due to leave the house for some gathering or other, she is full of dread and desperate to invent an excuse for not going. But she makes herself attend for two reasons.
- 1 Norfolk pub gets booked up every Sunday for its roast dinner platters
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- 7 Pressure waves of Hunga Tonga volcanic eruption felt across East Anglia
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One is that she doesn’t want to let other people down, and the other is she knows that in a few hours, she will return home feeling more grounded, normal and upbeat than when she left.
Of course, what single people are dealing with during the festive season is not just a Christmas problem – it’s with us all the time.
When you’ve been in a relationship you’ve been used to having much of your identity and sense of purpose wrapped up in that other person, and when that ends, you often wonder who on earth you are and what, if anything, your purpose is.
Now, the fact is that the vast majority of single people are massively useful, helpful, productive and dynamic.
They get loads done and they’re as vital to society as anyone who is part of a couple. Unfortunately though, when single people are low, or grief stricken, or lonely, they frequently fail to appreciate their own value.
So, what can we do to increase our feelings of happiness, self-worth and purpose? Start by remembering one word, which is ‘connection’. At any time of the year, but particularly in the festive season, we need to feel a sense of connection to others. And we must work on that, even if it’s hard.
Now for various reasons – like the palaver of PCR tests, cancelled flights, Covid rates here and abroad and so on – a lot of us will not be doing what we’d really like to do on Christmas Day. And so, like last year, many individuals will spend it alone. I know this isn’t ideal but it’s going to be the reality for many of us.
However, with Zoom, WhatsApp etc we can easily connect with a brother in Canada, a son in Northumberland or whatever. A loving chat with people who matter will give us a much-needed sense of belonging.
Next, we need to ensure that even if we have a solitary December 25 this doesn’t extend into a whole run of isolated days.
So, we all need to plan to see different friends and family before and after Christmas when we can. We need real contact with people, and we need it now, and regularly. It might only entail small events – coffee with a friend, brunch another day with a cousin, a movie evening with a neighbour, or a walk with a group of active mates.
And if family or friends are too far away for that, try and find half-way halts where you can meet up, albeit briefly, to have a cuppa, exchange gifts as well as a laugh and hug, before driving home again. All these arrangements will help us feel connected and more content – even though they are hard work to arrange.
Every single person knows that at any time of year if we’re to have an active social life with lots of variety, high spots and a generous number of friends, we have to be much more proactive than when we lived with a partner. That’s just how it is. And it applies right now more than ever.
So, let’s make the effort to connect this Christmas. And to enjoy it.
Seasons’ greetings to you all!