Not going home for the holidays? You’re not alone.
I know I’m not the only one feeling sad, lonely and anxious right now. In fact, many international students who study abroad just simply can’t see their loved ones as much as they want to. Airplane tickets are expensive when your family doesn’t live in America.
Holidays are a time of joy and celebration and when you feel sad and lonely you’re made to feel guilty about it.
I thought I would write a blog post sharing my experience on how I deal with the holidays and how I overcome the sadness and guilt for not being with my family. This is not the first Thanksgiving break without my family. I’ve probably gone through this season for 4 years without having family and I’m doing ok.
The holiday season often invites unwelcome guests.
For me, the holiday season triggers many emotions. I call it emotional overload because for some reason many of the big changes in my life occurred during the holidays and that’s why I can’t help but look back and reflect on it.And when you live alone all that voice in your head just amplifies up and it feels like you can’t escape! 🙁
But I want to let you know that you can overcome the holiday blues and be thankful for what you have. Don’t compare your holidays with the one on TV where you see that big family eating together and buying nice gifts for each other.
Just don’t compare yourself to other families! All families have their own problems even if they look like they’ve got everything.
I don’t know how many times I’ve cried in the past wishing that my holiday sadness and grief would go away only to see it pop up again during this time of year. It can be hard when your friends are with their loved ones and you are left to spend thanksgiving break alone.
My first thanksgiving was with a vending machine in the basement of my dorm room in New York City. I didn’t even know it was thanksgiving and I was supposed to do something. Most of the students were away and I felt like I was the only student on campus. That day wasn’t a good day and to make matters worse, I got into an argument with my father because I had to drop out of Sarah Lawrence college.
Every year I’m reminded of that incident and all the other not so happy memories that happened to me. Sure, it could be the weather because the days are getting shorter and it’s getting colder outside. The weather has such a big influence on your mood. It may seem like I’m victimizing myself but I am not. I still haven’t forgiven my father and I’m just trying the best that I can each day to get by and process those unresolved feelings. Thankfully LA has great therapists 😉
Each year it doesn’t get easier but I get better at handling the holiday blues. I know what to do when a bad feeling comes up. And I am proud of myself that I can do this all alone. Calling my parents and talking about my “feelings” is not an option so I came up with ways to combat it on my own.
So how do you find joy and comfort in the holidays when you’re studying abroad and living alone?
Here is a list of things you could do to help you overcome the holiday blues while living alone.
Remember you cannot get rid of the unwelcome feelings because that’s just not realistic. But you can learn to cope with the negative feelings and get better at it each year. Being prepared is everything and will save you from the unexpected sad feelings.
#1 Acknowledge that the holiday blues is a real thing. This is normal and many people get triggered easily during this time of year. You are not alone. It may be tempting to go on social media to look at everyone being happy but remind yourself that it’s not what it all seems to be. Right now I’m grieving the loss of someone that just passed away in my family, but you wouldn’t have known that if you went on my social media right? Again don’t compare your holiday to someone else’s. Make your own holiday special. You don’t need to post everything on social media nor do you need to get validation from others. Create your own holiday memories and cherish those memories close to your heart.
#2 Keep your expectations real. The holidays is not the perfect time of the year. In fact, it is a time of year that many things can happen and can go wrong. Remember that your break doesn’t have to be perfect in order to have a good time. You don’t need the most expensive turkey, the nice dining table and x,y,z of things to make it a good time. Be realistic with what you have and live within your means. I can’t imagine having a good time when you’re buried in debt because you bought unnecessary things. Keep it real and don’t worry about the things that are out of your control 🙂
#3 Don’t overspend and don’t try to do so much. Again! Do not overspend! I know what it feels like to be alone and to buy so many things just to numb up the pain or block out the negative feelings. It’s nice to go shopping and get that high from buying nice stuff but if you’re out of money to begin with then that is not a good idea. You will end up feeling more miserable and stressed out when you overspend. Stick to a budget! Create a budget always every month to see what you can save, spend or splurge on. I always update my excel budget sheet religiously each month. Without it I’d be lost.
And you know what would be nice to do for the holidays? Just don’t try to do so much. Easier said than done if you’ve got the people pleaser in you (me) but you can learn to say no. The last thing you want is to take on too many tasks that end up dampening your spirit and health. Why not just use this special time of the year to stay home, maybe re-organize your closet? Reconnect with your old friend and call them up?
There are plenty of things you can do at home with your laptop and internet! Maybe even make a blog? That’s what I did 🙂
#4 Watch your diet and get some sunlight. The one thing I really dislike about the holidays is that it’s all about the food and excess amount if it; who has the best turkey, who has the best drinks, who ate what and blah blah blah. I just think it’s unnecessary. My coach said this to me and it really resonated with me: “It’s not about eating with you, but it’s about being with you.” The holidays is a time to be with one another right? But nowadays, everyone is more concerned about the product, the presentation versus connecting with the people you’re with. You don’t have to eat in order to have a conversation with someone.
It’s simple, if you eat more fats and sugar then don’t expect to have more energy. You can learn to say no and it’s ok. Or you can remove yourself from situations that make you feel stressed out. I’ve politely declined a couple of dinner invitations because I rather stay at home and eat what I’ve prepared and stay on track. Sure it’s not sexy but it makes me happy and I’m not complaining about it. I also make sure to get up a little early to get some sunlight because the days are getting shorter now. I just got gum surgery on Monday and I can’t lift for a week so I take some light walks and get some fresh air. It really changes my mood and makes me feel more positive!
#5 Learn to forgive and accept. This one is a hard one and I’m not an expert on it so I’m going to refer you the expert on all things heartbreaks, exes and pain. My friend who I get to call a sister, Natasha has a wonderful blog and she just posted this. It is worth a read here
It will take time and you will get stronger each year. You will find ways that work for you and you will become better at dealing with the holiday blues. If you feel sad again, come back to my blog or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Everything you share with me remains confidential. I enjoy helping people because when I came to America I didn’t get a lot of help from anyone so that’s why I started a blog to help people with all the questions that they might have when they come to a new country.
Happy Thanksgiving from me to you! Wherever you are in the world.
Be proud of yourself and look at how far you’ve come. We all are so tough on ourselves but if you take a minute to just look back on how much you’ve gone through to be where you are, you should be very proud of yourself.
I’m going to ice my face again. It’s so swollen from gum surgery. And I’m going to eat some more beef stew that I made. Delicious, warm and so much protein and veggies I’m loving every bite of it. Wish you could be here and give it a try. I love to cook and have others try my cooking hehe.
Goodnight from LA!
I’m making a luxury haul this Sunday! Super excited to share it with you 🙂