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Spending Christmas Alone This Year? How to Cope and Boost Your Mood

by Andrea M. Darcy

Yet another Christmas alone this year and dreading it?

How to handle spending Christmas alone

It doesn’t matter if we chose to spend the holidays alone as we can’t bear our dysfunctional family, or it isn’t a choice. If we are living overseas or without any family left. Christmas by ourselves is challenging either way. Here’s how to manage.

1. First off – take an inventory.

Take a moment to get very honest with yourself about what you really feel about Christmas alone. Not what you are telling yourself, not what you want to feel to look ‘strong’. What you truly, deep down, feel about the matter.

Pretending we are fine when we aren’t can protect our pride can work temporarily. But when your real feelings of sadness, rejection, or anger rise, it can result in things like blaming others or pushing them away. You might sabotage connection with the very people you want to be close to, or fall into deep depression.

For some of us, a personal inventory might reveal what we actually feel is guilty. Guilty that you we are happy to spend Christmas alone. If this is the case, give yourself permission to enjoy it. The only person you owe anything to is yourself.


Try some mindfulness (use our free guide to mindfulness). Take a quiet moment to yourself, breathe deeply, get present. Then ask yourself, how do I feel about being alone at Christmas? Sit with the question and notice the changes in your body – is there tension in your stomach, do you feel you can’t breathe? Do you feel angry, or sad? 

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Afterwards, take time to write in a journal about what you experienced. Were your emotions surprising? What new things did you learn here? How can you work through these feelings? Do you need to re-think Christmas alone? 

2. Think environmentally. 

Gestalt therapy is a school of thought that believes we are not separate from the environments we are in, but that they influence us.

It’s an interesting thing to keep in mind if faced with a Christmas alone, especially if you recently experienced a divorce or bereavement.

If you always had Christmas with others you loved in the house you are now in, is this really the right environment to now be alone in?

What would be an ideal environment for you to be in instead? Nature? Parks are open on Christmas day. A crowded place? Think restaurants, churches. A beach? If you have the budget, what is really stopping you from time away in a hot country where perhaps Christmas isn’t even celebrated at all?


Try visualisation, a technique used by some integrative therapists. Close your eyes, relax, and breathe deeply. Concentrate on the idea, ‘happy place’. What images arise? Is it a field of flowers? A beach? A beautiful art gallery? Now form your ‘ideal Christmas day’ in the visualisation, starting from wherever that happy place is, and not worrying about being realistic. How can this feed into your plans for Christmas day? 

3. Commit to one new thing.

If the truth is that you don’t really want to be alone at Christmas? It’s time to give yourself a little push outside your comfort zone and try something new.

Scary? Yes. But so are the weeks of depression that can follow a Christmas spent alone when you really don’t want to be.

Excuses will arrive by the dozen. No, I’ll just stay alone at home that’s what I deserve, the weather will be too bad anyway. How would I find transport to go anywhere?  It will be boring to join others.

These are merely assumptions. The truth is that if you have never tried volunteering on Christmas day,  or having that meal in China town with your Jewish friends? You simply do not know what it will be like.


Borrow a page from CBT therapy and make a thought chart. In one column, put your worst beliefs about trying something new, such as ‘spending Christmas at a potluck’  (they will all be crazy and weird, I will miss my family more).  In a second column write the exact opposite of these negative thoughts (they will be the coolest people I’ve ever met, they might make my family look boring). Now in a third column find a ‘shade of grey’ thought halfway between the two (there will probably be at least one or two nice people I have things in common with, and I can call my family from there if I miss them).

4. Create a reward system if spending Christmas alone.

Loneliness can trigger repressed emotions, often around abandonment and neglect in childhood. That time you were five and your father didn’t show up to get you for Xmas, or the time you were sixteen and your mother decided you were too old for presents.

Counter this by making your inner child happy. Children love feeling rewarded. So how can you reward yourself for bravely getting through Christmas without the usual family and friends?


Write down five things that feel like rewards to you.  What makes you personally feel most appreciated? A spa day at home with some expensive bath salts? Your favourite foods? A chat with an old friend? Hours spent watching old films? Which of these rewards are feasible for Christmas? Can you order or arrange for one of these right now?

5. Get your support system sorted.

This is not just about choosing who you will reach out to over the holidays, but getting very clear on who you will avoid. Spending Christmas alone leaves many of us in an emotionally vulnerable place and we must prioritise our own wellbeing.

A ‘support buddy’ is a wonderful option. Is there someone else you know who might also need emotional support over the holidays? Could you form an agreement now that respects both of your boundaries? Rules can include deciding on the number of calls, emails, and texts that are allowable, the times of day you are happy to be contacted, and tools to include such as using a timer where you are each allowed 5 minutes to rant uninterrupted on your one daily call.

If you don’t have a support buddy, do consider professional support. A few sessions with a counsellor can mean a real difference to the way you see in the New Year. And with the convenience now offered by telephone or online counselling, there really is no reason not to.

Action Tip:

Make your naughty and nice list – people you know leave you upset , and people you like support from. Create an email now for those you don’t want to hear from, perhaps an electronic Christmas card stating you won’t be available during certain dates but wish them well and will see them in the New Year. Then consider calling someone from your nice list and arranging a check in time on Christmas day.

You are not alone in spending Christmas alone!

When we are feeling left out we can start to feel we are the only one suffering such a fate. It can help to mull over that there are others out there just like you.

In 2020 a survey in conjunction with the charity Shelter found that more than eight million British adults expected to be alone during the holidays. 

And if you feel that being alone at Christmas is triggering your mental health issues, again, you are not alone. The Mind Charity website is a great place to read case studies of people just like you navigating Christmas as their BPD or anxiety goes off the charts. They have an online community called “Side by Side” you can join.

If you feel desperate for someone to talk to, please do consider calling a helpline. The Good Samaritans operates a hotline 24-7 here in the UK, even on Christmas Day. You can call them for free at 116 123 (the number will not appear on your phone bill).

We connect you with some of London’s most highly rated and exclusive talk therapists who can help with loneliness, in central locations or online. Not in London or looking for an affordable online therapist? Try our sister site for harleytherapy.com. 


Andrea M. Darcy mental health expertAndrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert and writer. She also runs a consultancy helping people find their perfect therapy and therapist. She’s spent more Christmases alone than anyone she’s ever met, so she knows what she’s talking about!  Follow her on Instagram for useful life tips @am_darcy

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Blog Topics: Depression

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