COVID is still here and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. The pandemic has turned our world upside down – socializing and traveling are things of memories. As we enter the 10th month of this pandemic with holidays around the corner, there’s a question we might be asking ourselves: will we be spending the holidays alone?
As much of an inconvenience as it is, staying home and limiting traveling is the safest option. Some individuals might choose to travel, and do it as safely as possible, the truth is that many of us will not for safety reasons. You should consider skipping your holiday travel, especially if your are thinking about visiting older relatives.
This unfortunately leaves many of us in a sad position: spending the holidays alone. For the many of us who are in recovery and sober, this can be a vulnerable position
Even though the CDC does offer their advice on holiday gatherings during COVID-19, the safest thing to do is have a gathering of only the people who already live in your home. For those of us that live alone, this is easier said than done. If you told me back in March we would still be here in December and into 2021 I’d be floored; I think most people can agree. Regretfully, we are at maybe the most dangerous part of the journey. Cases are rising more than ever; it is not time to throw caution into the wind.
So if you play it safe (as we all should), read further on our guide to coping with spending the holidays alone; along with some unique things to do!
Being Alone In Recovery During Holidays
Numbers have dropped significantly during the summer months. This is less about the ability of the virus to survive, but more a result from us spending more time outdoors allowing us to distance ourselves. As the colder months approach, we will have the urge to spend our times socializing indoors. The CDC points out the fact that doing anything indoors carries a bigger risk.
So, what do you do when it’s cold and you want to spend time with some friends and family? Well, here are some good options.
- Secret Santa: Secret Santa is a great way for everyone in your social group to gather, give and receive presents, but also stay socially distant. With Secret Santa, all you have to do is send out one gift instead of a bunch of small gifts to everyone; and with shipping costs these days it’s rarely worth it. Opening gifts over zoom can be a great way to gather and socialize safely!
- Zoom Gingerbread House Contest: This has always been a family tradition, but the beauty is that it can be fun for the whole family. For people who have never made a gingerbread house, it can be fun to learn. For the experienced few, it can be a fun time to teach. Plus at the end, who doesn’t love to snack on some icing and cookies?!
- Christmas Light Drive-Bys: Another magical event during the holidays are the christmas decorations. I’m sure you know of a particular neighborhood infamous for such decorations. So, grab some friends and each take your own car to drive through these magical streets.
- Friendly Online Poker: This is a family classic. There are a variety of free internet services that not only allow you to easily play cards with your family, but provide video as well!
For Those Of Us Without A Partner
I don’t have to tell you how much it stinks to be single during the holidays. Buy hey, it is cuffing-season and COVID shouldn’t stop you from finding a loved-one. I understand that dating now might be a little different considering the circumstances, however there are still ways.
Online dating! Online dating has become the norm before the pandemic, but now there’s no reason not to. Here are some suggestions on what to do during the date. These suggestions are meant to be done over zoom. Even socializing with one person could be dangerous as most people dating often tend to mingle with a variety of people.
- Cozy Night: Yes, you can have a cozy night even without being in the same place. How? Turn on the fireplace app on youtube through your TV, make some hot cocoa, wear your comfiest clothes, light a candle, and chat over zoom.
- Netflix and Chilli: There’s a Chrome Extension called Netflix Party that allows two separate people to watch a movie together. So kick back, make some chilli for the cold night, and watch a funny holiday movie together.
- Holiday Cooky Bake-Off: If this sounds lame to you then skip it, but I highly recommend giving it a shot. It’s actually a lot more fun than it sounds. Bake your favorite christmas cookies and see whose turn out better.
- Have a Mocktail Party: Since we’re having a sober holiday, sharing how to make mocktails is always a fun time. Even for people who do drink from time to time might want a drink but necessarily something with alcohol. This is where things like @Mocktail.Life can help!
If you suffer from seasonal depression, you are far from alone. According to Psychology Today, over 10 million americans also have seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and even more may suffer from a milder version of SAD. Adding the stress of a pandemic it is important to do your best to find the best help.
Of course, talking to a therapist will be beneficial in all areas, but also keeping in contact with your friends and family is also very helpful. Talking to loved-ones will provide joy to both parties involved. However, you can also do a variety of things during the dark winter months to help keep SAD at bay.
- Develop a Green Thumb: If you are a black thumb, start with a beginner plant like a snake plant or a philodendron. There is a psychological effect called the biophilia effect that states our emotions are affected by the inclusion of greenery. This stems from our primal instincts to be connected and home around nature. With even just pictures of plants, we feel more relaxed and can actually focus better!
- Take a Bath with Epsom Salt: Relaxation is the answer to SAD. A bath with Epsom salt will help you psychologically and physically relax. The magnesium in the salt is actually intended for just this purpose. My favorite is the lavender as it smells amazing- candles not necessary!
- Buy a Light Therapy Box: Chances are, if you have been struggling with seasonal depressive disorder you know about light therapy boxes. If not, here is a helpful review of the best light therapy lamps.
- Take Vitamin D: Vitamin D is one the most common vitamin deficiencies. This is especially common during the winter months. We normally obtain Vitamin D from the sun outside, but when it’s cold and dark for 4 months we become severely deficient. Vitamin D directly effect our mood and how we regulate our emotions. By taking this supplement, you can help maintain your peak mental health.
- Spend Time Outside: Getting some fresh air and vitamin D always helps! It might be cold but getting your body up and moving, sightseeing, and fresh air can help ground you and bring your spirits up.
- Create Your Hygge Corner: Cleaning, organizing, and cozying up your home can help you feel more at home in your house. Your corner could include a light therapy lamp, a comfortable chair, a throw pillow, plush pillow, and a nightstand with a stack of books.
- Dive Into a Novel: Speaking of books, this can be a great way to travel while stuck at home. When we feel depressed, we might turn to entertainment to alleviate our blues. Oftentimes this turns into hours and hours of TV and social media. When we read, we still obtain the same satisfaction of entertainment, but it also stimulates our brain and creativity which can directly affect our overall mood.
For the Lonely
Even before the pandemic, loneliness has always been a large problem for many of us. Unfortunately, with our current situation, it has become even worse. Loneliness is a very dangerous situation for individuals in recovery, but when you combine that with the stress of a pandemic and the holiday season…not a good recipe.
Therefore, it might seem impossible to do something about this. For instance, coming to terms with our loneliness might mean admitting something shameful about However, it is essential to be honest about your emotions; not doing so could jeopardize your recovery. That being said, if you are feeling really lonely during these holidays, attempt one of these:
- Send Postcards to Family & Friends: It doesn’t take much time at all, but buying a bulk order of cards, writing a personal message, and sending them out can mean a lot for your loved ones. These personal notes will help you feel better and will make the recipient’s day.
- Treat Yo Self: Self-indulgence isn’t always the answer, and might not help every time; but moderation is key. Maybe this means getting a message or perhaps a manicure. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Perhaps its as simple as going to bed early and getting that much needed beauty sleep. Whatever works for you.
- Say Hello: We are all lonely during these times. Maybe someone you haven’t talked to in a while feels the same way you do and could use someone to talk to. So, send something as simple as a “thinking of you” text. This can mean a lot to them and even spark up on old conversation.
- Schedule Your Month: Try to stay busy if you are feeling lonely. Fill up your calendar with daily activities, and if possible even plan out your days by the hour. You can spend your hours with zoom calls, taking an online class, hiking, or tackling a home project. Anything to help keep you busy.
Volunteer: Volunteering at places like the animal shelter, homeless shelter, boys and girls club, or the United Nations can help bring purpose to your day. Doing something for others without anything in return is extremely rewarding and has proven to make you happier. There are also online options too!
If You Are Struggling to Stay Sober
If you’ve been through the holiday season in recovery you know the struggle. Not having social gatherings is not ideal, however this also means liss temptations this year. However, not having friends and loved ones to socialize during these times can be just as hard. If this is your first time going into the holidays sober, it can be even more difficult.
Good news is you CAN make it through this. There is no need to drink and you can help bring yourself out of funks when the emerge. Other than connecting with your loved ones over zoom, text, letters, or text, there are a variety of things you can do to boost your mental strength against cravings.
- Attend Online Meetings: Group meetings are now available online! No matter who you are, whether you are a black woman or a mmeber of the LGBTQ community there are groups out there for you. These do not have to be limited to just AA or NA meetings. Check our the recovery support around you, here.
- Talk To Your Therapist: Therapy is always a great choice to keep your mind on track; especially during the holiday season. Start today and be proactive by scheduling a few extra sessions around this time. If you do not have a therapist, now could be a good time to find one who specializes in addiction recovery
- Create A Gratitude List: If you’ve ever attended a group therapy session, chances are you are familiar with this exercise. While it might be a tad cliche, it works. For instance, if you feel sad about being quarantined, make a list of things you are grateful for like a home, the things in your home, your health, and your cherished relationships. Too often we take for granted the things we’ve earned over the years. Try to stop thinking about the “next thing I need” and remember that we have everything we need already.
Remember Your Health Routine: When we feel down or are struggling in our recovery, we might supplement our cravings with other unhealthy habits like junk food, TV, and sleeping. Find the health routine that works for you. If it isn’t fun, you won’t be able to stick to it. Find a recipe that is both healthy and fun to make. Join a sports league (that is socially conscious). Whatever it might be, try to align being healthy with also having a good time.
Immerse Yourself in Recovery Content: In recovery we are always learning new techniques and life skills. Recovery blogs and podcasts are a great way to focus and learn from the recovery mindset. Hearing others tell their story and listening to their experiences can be greatly beneficial. For some starters, check out these podcasts.
Holidays can be bittersweet in recovery. The temptations are always there as we associate these times with when we were using or drinking. Loneliness during these times can be just as vulnerable to recovery. Hopefully, this guide has helped you spark some ideas on how you can prepare for these times and overcome all the sadness of dark days and isolation.
One thing I’d like to emphasize is that it is ok to let yourself grieve. Being sad is a normal human emotion that is only natural when we are unable to see our friends and family. It is ok to miss them and long for human contact. Give yourself the time to grieve, but to not lament in it. Get proactive and start making your unusual 2020 holiday plans. This year may not be one the the best, but at least we will be able to come out ahead without a drink.