As the nation continues to face the novel coronavirus pandemic, many people are changing up their holiday plans. In a year where a lot of norms have already shifted dramatically, not seeing friends or family for the holiday season may feel especially tough to deal with. If you’re spending the holidays solo, or only with the people you live with and not the extended bunch, it’s totally okay and normal to grieve the loss of those experiences. But there are plenty of ways to try and have a good day while still staying safe amid the pandemic. Let’s check out some ideas and resources below.
1. Host a virtual dinner
While some people are (understandably) burned out on video meetings, hosting a virtual dinner or get-together can be a nice balm for spending the holidays without all of your favorite people. Depending on what part of the traditional celebration you miss the most, it can be fun to still dress up, decorate your space, or cook some family/friend favorites. Scheduling a few hours to come together—even just virtually—is also a pleasant way to put aside some big-picture stress with so much happening in the world.
2. Catch up on some reading
When was the last time you got to embrace the quiet and read? Spending the holidays solo can be an excellent time to sit back and deep dive into a book, graphic novel, comic, long-form essay, or whatever number of articles you’ve kept in your browser tabs for weeks on end. Buying texts from marginalized creators can be a great way to give back over the holidays, but if you’re on a budget, renting e-books (or audiobooks) from your local library is also a great move.
3. Lean into the streaming binge
The other low-key, low-effort, but generally enjoyable pastime? Watching some TV. There are a number of streaming services available, as well as YouTube, where you can watch TV shows, movies, documentaries, interviews, and more. Living amid a literal global pandemic is far from easy; if you want to curl up and watch some TV, don’t beat yourself up over it.
4. Do some journaling
Journaling is a great way to get in touch with your feelings, goals, and desires. Though people typically talk about reflecting around New Year’s Day, there’s no reason you can’t sit down and meditate on your life over the holidays. If you’re lucky enough to not need to work, you can use a little of that free time to do some self-work and get honest with yourself about where you’re at in life. Writing letters (whether you send them or not) to important people in your life (or from your past) can also be a healing practice when spending some time alone with your thoughts.
5. Get into nature (if it’s safe in your area)
Throughout the pandemic, plenty of people have tried to take advantage of the great outdoors. Whether or not that’s safe, unfortunately, depends on a lot of factors, including where you live, how many tourists have rushed there, and what local and state guidance is about masks, capacity limits, and so on. If it’s safe for you to spend some (isolated, masked) time in nature, some nice walking, hiking, picnicking, or even camping can be an excellent way to celebrate the holidays solo or with your pod. Just make sure that your plans are within the area’s guidelines. And if you’re willing to get up really early (which also means you might miss out on the crowds), trying your hand (or ahem, your eye) at birding can also be pretty fun.
6. Deep clean your home
Okay, so, cleaning tends to be the least fun way one can imagine spending time off. But! Sometimes self-care means doing less than exciting tasks, and sometimes deep cleaning your home is one of those tasks. Cleaning, organizing, or even redecorating your home can leave you feeling accomplished and even invigorated. If you live with others—especially if they’re older, have child care obligations, or live with disabilities—doing a deep clean might be a real gift, too.
7. Cook (or bake) for one
For many of us, the holidays bring up images of big, homecooked, family meals. If you’re celebrating alone, or with a smaller crowd than usual, you might wonder whether or not it’s really worth it to treat yourself to a nice meal. If you’re in the mood to cook, why not? You can get creative with what’s in your pantry, or give yourself the whole day to cook a more elaborate recipe than you usually tackle. While there are plenty of resources on how to cook for one (to avoid food waste), you can give your future self a gift by cooking for two, so you have plenty of leftovers. You can also freeze many baked goods and put them aside for when you do get a chance to share them.
8. Order in from a local restaurant
If you don’t want to do another dish (and who could blame you?), consider treating yourself to a holiday meal from a local restaurant. We all know small businesses are seriously hurting. Many restaurants offer special holiday menus that are well worth checking out. Or you could order a dish from a place that isn’t catering to the holiday but is open and filled with employees working hard to make ends meet while missing their families. If you order in, consider supporting a local establishment instead of a big chain. Especially if you can support a POC-owned business!
9. Turn your phone silent and log off
When was the last time you truly went off the grid, even for just one day? What about even just one hour? If you’re off the clock and don’t have plans with anyone, consider signing off and giving yourself some unobstructed mental freedom. Whether you want to lean into reading, cooking, or just taking a nice nap, not being interrupted by notifications or requests can be liberating. Of course, if you decide to do this over the holidays and you do have people you think might reach out to you and connect, it can be nice to give them a heads up that you probably won’t make the group’s phone call check-in.
10. Virtually connect with other solo people
On the other hand, if you’re craving connection, do a little digging and find out who is also going the holidays alone. You can reach out to people individually and inquire about their holiday plans, send emails, or check in on social media. It can be nice to plan time to chat or video with people who are also spending the day alone, whether you plan a full virtual celebration or not.
If you, or a loved one, are in need of mental health support, don’t hesitate to check out our round-up of five free mental health services. And, as always, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7, free, confidential, and can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. Even if you’re spending the holidays solo, you are never alone!