Monday, December 10, 2007

SURVIVING A SOLO YULETIDE...

Well I am gearing up for yet another holiday period alone. While I can't say I am "looking forward to the holidays" at least I don't dread them like I once did...Below is an article I wrote soon after launching SYBD and it gets a bit of an update every year. Hope you find it useful - particularly if, like me, you're going to be on your own...

And for any of my Scotland-based friends who may be reading this - stop by for a cuppa and some cookies, I'll be here!

BE A SEASON SURVIVOR

Six months before the turn of the century, I was relieved of my girlfriend duties (read: dumped). Due to work commitments and extortionate peak-time airfares, I was forced to spend my first holidays, ever, alone. The threat of a solo yuletide filled me with dread, so to combat those doom-filled worries, I drew up a festive survival strategy of my own.

Now, it has to be said, that most of you won't be totally alone for the holidays like I was (and have been over the past several years), but you may find my tips on how I made it through useful…I survived, so can you!

PREPARE A FEAST

Just prior to that first solo Christmas, I went to the supermarket and picked out a selection of all of my favourite foods. Naturally, unable to eat a whole turkey on my own, I opted for a turkey joint for one. That was plenty for the holiday dinner and lunch the next day too! I also chose my favourite bread, potatoes, salad, munchies, and sensuous desserts. I made sure that everything I chose was something that I really loved and looked forward to both preparing and eating.

Of course, when you are adjusting to solo life, cooking (let alone eating) may just be the last thing you fee like doing, but don't punish your body - it needs healthy nourishment to flourish. So even if it's a feast for one, be sure you have a feast.

DECORATE YOUR SPACE

As a child growing up, my family would always drive out to a local tree farm to cut down our own Christmas tree on the day after Thanksgiving. To this day, I still love to decorate my home at the same time of year - even though it is just going to be me who enjoys it. I'm worth it and so are you.

If you normally like to decorate, but can't quite get into the holiday spirit this year, then force yourself to do it anyway. Pick yourself up a little tree (real or plastic it doesn't really matter) or simply opt to buy a string of fairy lights and put them in your window.

Buy some new ornaments or if you're crafty, make your own. Pour some eggnog or mulled wine, whack on some Bing Crosby and decorate to your heart's content.

If you have don't have a place of your own, then simply decorate your bedroom or one of your windows.

LET THERE BE LIGHT

If you like ambient lighting, then make sure you have plenty of festive scented candles on hand for the cold, dark winter nights. Decorating your home in a cheery festive manner with those candles, or some fairy lights, will let you discover how tranquil a room, lit only by candles and Christmas tree lights, can be. Don't delay. (Note: Listening to Christmas carols is optional)

SHOP ONLINE

I don't know about you, but I sometimes find that the high streets and malls are not only over-crowded with holiday shoppers, but also they're swarming with couples. So to avoid prevalence of "happy couple syndrome", do the bulk of your shopping online. It is predominantly secure (do your research first though) and utterly convenient! Many sites offer gift-wrapping and will send the purchases straight to your family and friends for you. This is particularly handy for those who are geographically dispersed. It will not only save you time but may also money on postage!

ORGANISE YOUR TIME

I recommend strategically planning your free days to avoid boredom and worse still, over-thinking. Those of you without family or friends to spend time with, who are dreading the solitude, may find that it is amplified over a holiday period.

Break your days down into small blocks, as having something positive to look forward to each day will help you through the yuletide more smoothly and give you something constructive to focus on.

Your schedule might involve arranging nights out with friends and colleagues, booking time to visit people, DIY projects, studying, writing, goal-setting, gardening, shopping, taking in some movies, buying and preparing scrumptious meals, sorting out clothes to donate to charity, painting, drawing, creating or revamping a website - anything that you enjoy doing.

To avoid being overwhelmed by loneliness and emotions, be productive. In a nutshell, my template for Christmas Day often looks like this: wake up, maybe have a nice long bath, watch a movie, start cooking, take a walk/run, shower, put on PJs, eat a festive feast, read some magazines or a good book, watch another movie and call family/friends and go to sleep.

DEVELOP NEW TRADITIONS

Each year, without fail, I schedule time to watch a plethora of festive films - like Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life. Additionally, I always watch my childhood favourites too, such as, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, The Year Without a Santa Claus and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. These are my traditions and are the same every year.

Another of my traditions carried over from childhood is that I keep every present that I receive for Christmas day - opening just one special one on Christmas Eve. Sometimes if the present has been sent, I try to call the person up and open it over the phone to share the excitement and give thanks. Sometimes, I wait until my friends are visiting on Christmas day to open all of my presents so that I don't have to open them all alone.

Something new that has come from my solo seasons is that come rain or shine, sleet or snow - I take a walk or a run in the afternoon on Christmas day. The roads are always quiet which makes me feel like the world is my own. I am alone with my thoughts about my life and my future.

And if I take a walk instead of a run, I bring along the camera and shoot the wintry scenery. I find it incredibly relaxing knowing that I am not forced to spend a holiday with anyone I don't want to be with.

Why not think about what traditions you've got or can instigate for your first solo yuletide. If you don't have any traditions, there is no time like the present to start some.

TREAT YOURSELF

Is there a little something that you have had your eye on this year? Perhaps a new mobile phone or a spiffy new jacket? Maybe you need a new computer or want to buy a new DVD? Whatever it is, treat yourself to something special. You deserve it. Everybody's budget varies and only you can know what little pick-me-up will do just the trick.

If you can find something that will entertain you over the break, so much the better. For instance, this year, I have a hankering for an Apple - which stores several thousand tunes in one tiny handheld player! That is a gift that keeps on giving and will no doubt provide me hours of enjoyment.

WORK!

It's not actually as silly as it sounds. When I was a working singleton and facing the prospect of filling up two weeks of holiday time on my own, it made perfect sense to work the days that the office was open. It was usually quite quiet over the break, the atmosphere always festive, and the extra cash went a long way to replenish my depleting holiday funds.

It helped to be around people and away from my empty flat - even just for a few hours during the day. Also working has the added advantage of showing a good worth ethic to superiors. I can't say it ever worked for me but who knows, you might even get a promotion after your boss sees your dedication!

INVITE PEOPLE OVER

Living abroad, my friends have become my surrogate family. Though many of them offered to have me join them for Christmas the past few years, I felt it would actually make me feel more homesick and lonely to be around a family that was not my own.

It is now a tradition, however, that certain friends come to visit me on Christmas day just to open presents. I love having some company in the afternoon for a chat, some munchies and some present opening. The same goes for Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

VOLUNTEER

Helping other people is good for the soul. Hearing other their troubles can give us perspective about our own problems. Now matter how painful our experience feels to us, the fact is that a broken heart (and indeed singledom) is only a temporary thing. There are always people out there who have more permanent pain or who have it worse than you -- even when it doesn't feel like it.

So, if you think you might have too much time on your hands over the holidays, why not pull out the yellow pages and find a shelter to serve some food in, volunteer to read the paper at a local old folks home, or find a kid's charity needing support? Helping, old, young, ill or infirm will take you out of your own heartbreak and make you (and them) feel better. Win/win.

EXPRESS YOURSELF

Regardless of whether you are male or female, don't be afraid to cry. Holidays are stressful times in the best of situations, so don't be embarrassed if you have crippling moments of loneliness hit you. When we are alone and thinking over Christmas's past, it's unavoidable to feel nostalgic and longing. Don't keep it all in ore be embarrassed when it all comes pouring out. It is healthy. My mother used to say having a big cry added seven years to your life! If she's right, I should be here until 157.

Write down in a notebook, diary or journal how you feel and how you want you future to be. Set some goals of things you wish to accomplish in the coming year. Not only is it therapeutic but it's enlightening to read previous thoughts, feelings, and emotions on down the line.

Historically, I spend a lot of time over the holidays (particularly New Years) writing about how I want my future to look and feel. As one year closes and a new one begins, I look to my future and day dream a little.

Visualisation is proven to work, so why not picture yourself on down the road - say at next year's holidays - and write down and describe how you look, who you are with and where you'd like to be spending your future festive period.

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!

If you have some spare time, you may choose to go on holiday to get away from it all. Maybe you fancy a winter break to the sun or to head for the slopes? The choice is all yours.

If you can afford it, a change of scenery is a fabulous way to create new memories, and will stop you from staring at your own four walls wishing your ex would call.

If you are unable, due to time or money, to go away on holiday, perhaps you can take a break for even a day or two and visit friends or family members? Even a short day trip or break can prove beneficial, as being surrounded by those who love and care for us is a healthy way to spend holidays.

Breaks benefit us in a few ways. Firstly it's good for us to have something to plan and look forward to. Secondly, the busier we are the less we're likely to be sitting idly around wondering what your ex is getting up to this year without us.

REACH OUT AND TOUCH SOMEONE!


Make a list of people you want to call over the holidays. Every year, I have a long list of family and friends whom I like to call throughout the Christmas and New Years period.

So if you've lost touch with some old friends or family members, who not take this opportunity to reconnect.

CONCLUSION

So treat this festive yuletide not as a daunting time but rather as an exciting time to make new traditions, catch up with old friends, travel and sort out any home or work projects needing completion.

Whether you choose to be with people or alone, be sure to schedule your time wisely. Only you know the way that you want to spend your break, so figure it out and then do it.

Remember, the busier you are, the less time you will have to wonder what your ex is getting up to this year without you.

If you start to get blue, imagine all the stress and squabbles your family and friends may be going through and think of how grateful you are for this year's peace.

At the end of the day, it's your break, you are in charge of exactly how you spend your time and who with - that's empowering not depressing!

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