How to Cope When You Are Alone at Thanksgiving

10 Tips to Beat Loneliness This Thanksgiving

volunteers at soup kitchen
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Thanksgiving is a time of year that many people spend in the company of family and friends. If you suffer with social anxiety disorder (SAD), you might find yourself alone this time of year.

Perhaps you turned down invitations to gatherings because of your anxiety, or maybe your relatives live out of town. Whatever the reason for being alone, there are ways that you can feel less lonely.

In general, there are three ways to cope.

  • First, you can accept that you are alone and make the most of your time.
  • Second, you can find people to spend time with so that you don't feel so lonely.
  • Third, you can spend the holiday making plans so that you will not be alone this time next year.

Below are 10 tips to help you cope with being alone at Thanksgiving.

1. Travel

Traveling can be a way to take your mind off being alone for the holiday. Try visiting one of the cities hosting a Thanksgiving Day parade; for example, the Macy's Day parade is held every Thanksgiving in New York City.

If you want to escape Thanksgiving altogether, choose a country that doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving or where it takes place on a different date, such as Canada. If you don't want to travel alone, join a tour for single travelers.

2. Write Letters

Take the day to write letters or emails to family and friends. Connect with people whom you might not normally contact, and lay the groundwork for possibly reconnecting and having a less lonely Thanksgiving next year.

You could even try writing a letter to yourself. Plan on opening it next year to see what you were thinking and feeling, and observe what changes you have made and how things have improved. 

3. Become a Sports Fan

Thanksgiving is a great day to become a sports fan. Spend the day watching football games, learning the rules of the sport and choosing a favorite team.

Having a little knowledge about sports can also be helpful when making small talk. Next year you might find yourself hosting a Thanksgiving football gathering.

4. Volunteer

Volunteering to help those less fortunate during the holidays will make you feel good and also help minimize your loneliness. If you don't want to go the traditional route of helping out in a soup kitchen or with a food drive, there are still lots of opportunities to donate your time.

Perhaps your local animal shelter needs help taking dogs out for walks or a senior's residence would like visitors for their guests who are also alone at Thanksgiving.

Volunteering is a great way to be thankful for what you have and to realize that your situation could be worse. 

5. Be Productive

Make it a productive day and get your house organized! Clean out closets, get paperwork in order, make to-do lists and generally get control of the little details in your life. You will end the day with a feeling of accomplishment, and the ability to focus on your relationships with others because your life is manageable.

6. Get in Touch With Others Who Are Alone

Thanksgiving does not have to be spent with family. If you know of coworkers or acquaintances who are spending the holiday alone, ask if they would like to spend it together.

Start your own holiday tradition and plan a Thanksgiving gathering to create new friendships. Play card games to stimulate conversation and get to know each other better.

7. Get Outdoors

Depending on your climate, Thanksgiving day can be a great time to head out for a nature walk or hike. Just having a plan to spend some time outdoors can brighten your mood and make you feel less lonely.

You might even cross paths with other nature lovers who are alone on Thanksgiving. If you don't like the idea of walking alone and are an animal lover, plan to adopt a dog to accompany you next year.

8. People Watch

If you can't be in the company of others, you can at least get out and be among people. Although most businesses will be closed on Thanksgiving day, you are likely to find restaurants and coffee shops that are open.

Choose a spot where you can sit and watch people come and go. If you feel self-conscious sitting alone, bring along a newspaper to read or a laptop to check emails or surf the Internet.

9. Plan for Next Year

Perhaps you turned down invitations to dinner this year because of your anxiety. Make a promise to yourself that next year will be different. A year is plenty of time to make an appointment with your doctor, receive a diagnosis and treatment and be well on the road to recovery by next year.

10. Get Through the Day

If all else fails and you still find yourself feeling lonely at Thanksgiving, the best advice is to simply make it through the day! Remember that it is only one day out of the year, and that it will be over before you know it. Make a vow to yourself to get control of your anxiety so that it doesn't interfere with making plans for next Thanksgiving.

If severe social anxiety is preventing you from connecting with others at Thanksgiving or other times of the year, it is best to make an appointment with your doctor. SAD is a highly treatable disorder with good success rates for both therapy and medication.

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