How To Get Through Christmas If You're Spending It Alone This Year

Make your own traditions. Eat your favourite food. Focus on what (and who) you love. Here's how to make it more bearable.

Christmas 2020 is going to be very different for a lot of people this year – especially those in tier 4 areas where socialising is basically forbidden.

But that doesn’t mean the day has to be a total write-off.

In a now-viral thread, Twitter user @MittenDAmour shared how to actually enjoy spending Christmas alone with advice such as eating whatever you want (“nothing but pigs in blankets? Just cake? Pot Noodle? Get that!”), and giving your day structure (“doesn’t have to be a rigorous agenda, but ‘wake up whenever, hot buttery toast and tea for breakfast, bubble bath, watch films, go for walk’ will give you a structure to enjoy”).

The heartwarming responses to her thread prove having a solo Christmas doesn’t have to be as bad as you might expect.

Here’s how to make the best of the situation if you’ll be alone this Christmas.

Make your own traditions

When we spend Christmas with others, we often end up going along with what they’d like to do during the day. So, have a think about how you’d like the day to pan out – and make a plan so you don’t drift through it without a purpose.

If there are certain traditions you love, keep them and adapt them to suit your day. Likewise, if there are traditions you’d like to drop, don’t feel guilty about it. If you hate waiting until 3pm to open presents, open them first thing. If you don’t actually like turkey, opt for a nice steak instead. If you want to stay in your epic festive PJs, do it!

It’s your day to enjoy – so do what you want and create your own traditions.

Lift your mood with decorations

Christmas decs can make us happier. Fact. Psychoanalyst Steve McKeown previously told UniLad: “In a world full of stress and anxiety, people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood. Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement.”

If you avoided getting a tree because you were planning to be somewhere else, now’s your time to get one. It doesn’t have to be fancy – you can get small letterbox Christmas trees delivered to your front door via services like Bloom & Wild, or head to your local garden centre and see what they have left.

You might think getting a tree is a faff. Instead, you could hang fairy lights around your living room or make your own wreath using branches (holly, fir, etc) foraged from your local park.

Stay connected with others

Don’t switch off from the outside world because you’re alone. Some might find it helpful to schedule in a few video or phone calls throughout the day with friends or family members – you could watch each other open presents, or eat Christmas dinner together while video calling. It’s not the same, of course, but it’s the best of a bad situation.

If there isn’t anyone you’d like to call on Christmas Day, there are other ways to stay connected. Comedian Sarah Millican runs #JoinIn on Twitter each year where strangers join an online chat and check in on each other – many of those who take part are also spending Christmas alone.

Useful helplines for connecting this Christmas:

  • Switchboard, a charity which operates a confidential helpline for LGBTQ+ communities across the UK, will be open over Christmas. Call 0300 330 0630 between 10am–10pm.
  • If you need help accessing food, medicines or social connection over Christmas, contact NHS Volunteer Responders on 0808 196 3646. (England only.)
  • The Samaritans helpline runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 116 123 for free.
  • If you prefer contacting someone via text, text SHOUT on 85258, which is a confidential 24/7 text service offering support if you are in crisis and need immediate help.
  • Eating disorder charity Beat’s helplines will be open 4pm–9pm from 24 December to 1 January. Call 0808 801 0677 for the adult helpline; 0808 801 0711 for the youthline; and 0808 801 0811 for the studentline.
  • Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) runs a mental health helpline 365 days a year (5pm-midnight). Call 0800 58 58 58.
  • Cruse Bereavement Care’s helpline, for those who are bereaved, will be open from 10am-2pm on Christmas Day. Call 0808 808 1677 for support.
  • The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0808 2000 247.
  • The Silver Line provides support and friendship for those aged 55 and over. It’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0800 470 8090.

Eat like the king or queen you are

It might be tempting to snack your way through the day with whatever’s in the cupboard – but it’s been a shitty year and you truly deserve a treat. If you enjoy cooking, why not buy a small chicken you can roast? Choose some of your favourite veggies and get roasties (or mash) and gravy on the go, and you’ve got yourself a hearty meal – plus any leftover chicken can be used in curries or sandwiches the next day.

Hate cooking? Treat yourself to a takeaway. Almost half of Brits plan to order a takeaway on Christmas Day, according to Foodhub. Four in 10 are doing it to save prep time (we feel you) and 35% say it will save time on the washing up.

Binge-watch your favourite Christmas telly

One of the best things about Christmas is all the shows and films on TV – add streaming sites like Netflix and Disney+ into the mix and you can’t go wrong. Need inspiration? Check out these 18 Netflix picks from the HuffPost UK Entertainment team that’ll get you well and truly in the festive spirit, or the best Christmas films and TV specials streaming on Disney+ right now.

For Strictly fans, there’s a show on BBC One at 4:45pm on Christmas Day which will reveal the 25 most memorable dances of all time, as voted by viewers. There will also be a Call the Midwife Christmas Special which airs at 7.40pm on BBC One and a Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special (BBC One) airing at 10pm on Christmas Day.

Let your body rest if it needs it

The best thing about Christmas is you can eat to your heart’s content, watch loads of films, nap at various points throughout the day – and nobody will judge you for it. If you want to pass a bit more time with a kip: do it.

Sleep expert James Wilson, also known as The Sleep Geek, has some tips for getting the most out of your nap. Firstly, research shows 10-20 minutes is the right amount of time to get the benefits of a nap – any more than that and you may wake up feeling groggy.

Secondly, the time of your nap is important. “Earlier in the day you are more likely to have light sleep or REM sleep, whilst later in the day you may fall into deep or slow wave sleep which makes it more likely the nap will impact our sleep at night,” he says. “Try not to nap after 2pm.”

Clear your head by getting outside

Going outdoors is a good way to break up the day – plus, you’ll get some vitamin D and you might even connect with others. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll meet other people on their festive walk who you can smile at, or say hello to from afar. You could also consider meeting a friend or family member who lives nearby, and is spending Christmas alone, for a socially distanced walk.

Some people also swear by a Christmas Day run for their mental health. Around 53,000 people in the UK logged a run on the app Strava on Dec 25 in 2017, with the most popular time to go being 9am. “There’s a special feeling about it,” Ben Sheppard, from South Wales, previously told HuffPost UK. “It doesn’t feel like a normal run. I’ll always go in the morning, clear my head and reflect on the year.”

Is there somewhere in your neighbourhood that you haven’t yet explored on foot? Or perhaps there’s a nearby beach you could drive to? Don’t do your normal pandemic/lockdown walk, shake things up.

Appreciate the small things like the robin in the hedgerow, the vibrant red berries cropping up among holly, or even the Christmas light displays in your area. Paying attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and the world around you – can help improve your mental wellbeing. You can also keep an eye out for dogs donning festive jumpers (very important).

Focus on you

What is it that you love? It could be having a relaxing bath, reading a book, or enjoying a hobby – like knitting, drawing, bread-making or even golf.

Or if you can’t think of any hobbies off the top of your head, why not think back to Christmases you enjoyed as a child and the things you did – was there singing? Colouring? Gaming? Give them a go once more!

Whatever is it, think about how you can bring the things you love into your Christmas Day celebrations.

Help others

Have you considered volunteering? Covid has thrown a bit of a spanner into the works for physical volunteering, but there are still things you can do to help others. And helping others will, in turn, give you a mental boost, while also giving you purpose and helping you feel part of your community.

From making phone calls to people who are isolated this Christmas to volunteering as a driver to ferry food around, there are lots of ways you can still give back, even during the pandemic. If you can’t volunteer for whatever reason, why not call or write a letter to a special someone to tell them why they are wonderful, or leave your favourite restaurant or shop a lovely review online?