Student Wellness

How to Survive the Holidays Solo

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There's a stigma that says spending the holidays alone is a bad thing. But it's not — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when getting home may be tricky or even a safety risk.

If you're spending the holidays solo, consider this an opportunity to do what you want when you want. You could binge Netflix all day — and that's nothing to feel guilty about! — but you might also want to have a gameplan. Set a daily schedule for yourself or make a list of things you're interested in doing but haven't had time for because of school.

If you're having trouble coming up with something to do or just worried about feeling lonely, we have you covered. Here are our tips for spending holidays alone.

Find Connection, Even if It's Virtual

You may be physically alone, but texting, video calls, and virtual watch parties can keep you from feeling isolated. Send pictures of your Thanksgiving meal to your family, then hop on a video call to find out what they're eating. You could also schedule a chat on Christmas to see how decorations are going.

Netflix's Teleparty allows you to watch movies and television shows with friends remotely. You can even invite up to 100 people to Amazon's Prime Video Watch Party for the same purpose. Other streaming services include Watch2Gether, Gaze, and Metastream.

Uplifting conversations, funny movies, and TV binges with parents or friends might be all you need to boost your spirits during the holidays.

Start a New Holiday Tradition

Because this year is so unique, you probably can't engage in all your usual holiday traditions. Rather than view this as a bad thing, consider it an opportunity to come up with new activities. Maybe you'll start a new holiday tradition that you can keep going for years to come.

Here are a few quarantine-friendly ideas:

Instead of this ➤ Try this ➤
Attend a holiday event or party Stay home for a remote game night with holiday treats
Host your annual holiday gathering Host a festive holiday Zoom event (craft ornaments, wear an ugly Christmas sweater, caroling Karaoke, etc.)
Shop at the mall for gift-giving Buy a streaming package, gift card, or specialized face mask as a gift
Exchange holiday cookies Order individually wrapped cookie delivery to their doorstep

Carry on Old Traditions

Maybe the old stand-bys — home cooking by Mom or Dad; a game of Monopoly around the dinner table; a "Friendsgiving" — aren't in store for you this holiday season. However, you can still engage with classic holiday traditions.

You can stream modern or old holiday classics like "A Christmas Story," "Home Alone," and "Elf" pretty much anywhere. You could also replicate your parents' favorite dishes or try baking holiday cookies. Many classic games, including Gin Rummy, Solitaire, and Hearts, are free to download on smartphones.

If you're looking for something with a faster pace, there are also plenty of free multiplayer game apps you can play with friends. Mario Kart Tour, Sky: Children of the Light (the iPhone's Game of the Year in 2019), and Psych! are among the most popular choices.

Enroll in a Fun Online Class

The holidays are a welcome break from school, but what are some practical ways to spend that downtime? You might consider taking a short-term class that only lasts a few days, or you could pursue a more in-depth course that becomes your new favorite hobby.

There are tons of fun online classes you can take right now, including writing workshops, vegetable gardening, and kitchen improv. Many of them are free, while others won't break the bank. Here are a few recommendations:

Khan Academy's free Imagineering in a Box class explores different aspects of theme park design, such as characters, ride development, and storytelling.

Nikon School offers 10 courses that cover a variety of photography skills and sell for $14.95-$49.95 each.

A free Science and Cooking class from Harvard University delves into how specific cooking techniques demonstrate basic chemistry, physics, and engineering principles.

Whatever your new hobbies or interests are, you'll likely be able to find a related class. The holiday break is an excellent opportunity to improve your skills or learn something new.

Tune Into Interactive Events

While we can't attend music festivals, movie nights, or literary events in person like we did before the pandemic, that doesn't mean live events aren't happening — even during the holidays.

Famous musicians, music festivals, opera houses, and local venues near you often live-stream concerts for fans to enjoy from home. Literary festivals have also shifted to the web and often invite famous authors to speak about their work. Virtual movie-watching groups also meet for much-needed entertainment.

Although quarantine concerts and lockdown literary events are not quite the same as attending in person, you can still find a sense of camaraderie with other music and book lovers. Most streaming platforms, such as Twitch, Instagram Live Stories, and YouTube, allow you to comment and interact with other people who are watching. Bonus points: You don't even have to yell in someone's ear to be heard or sit next to strangers when you don't feel like it.

Be Mindful of Your Mood

Taking care of mental health during this holiday season will be crucial. The "holiday blues" — a feeling of anxiety or depression — can last for weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's due to loneliness, stress, and financial pressures. According to the National Institutes of Health, 14% of Americans experience seasonal depression in the winter.

Social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic won't help. Social isolation can cause mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and overeating.

But feeling blue is no way to spend the holidays. Instead, health experts encourage people to keep their own well-being in mind and use these tips for overcoming negative feelings.

Limit alcohol intake to one or two drinks. Drinking too much alcohol can harm your health, affect your mood, and worsen any negative feelings you're experiencing.

Get plenty of sleep. A full night's rest can improve your mood and maximize your energy for the following day.

Exercise regularly. It doesn't have to be a full workout; a quick, 10-minute walk will increase your heart rate and release mood-boosting endorphins.

Final Word

It's perfectly normal to feel stressed out or weird if you're spending the holiday season alone this year, but your solo time can be a blessing in disguise. Take the opportunity to learn something new or build on an old hobby. Remember that spending the holidays alone isn't a bad thing. Plus, you get to do your civic duty by social distancing during a pandemic.

Evan Thompson is a Washington-based writer for TBS covering higher education. He has bylines in the Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, and others from his past life as a newspaper reporter.

Header Image Credit: Ross Helen | Getty Images