Sure, the holidays can be a super enjoyable time for a lot of people. The parties! The trees! The gift-giving! But if you're facing this holiday season completely solo, that can also be anxiety-inducing — especially if there are family events involved.
"There are dynamics within a family that can lead people to feel bad about the fact that they're single," says Kat Van Kirk, PhD, a licensed marriage and sex therapist. "A lot of times, family members will give unsolicited opinions about your dating life — whether or not it's a problem [that you're single], who you should be with, and so on." And this can cause some major mental turmoil. "You don't have backup during these get-togethers when you're single," Dr. Van Kirk says.
Even if a family member isn't coming right out and asking why you're still single, you might feel the need to be on the defensive about your romantic life. This is totally normal. "This is the time of year when everyone seems to want to put their relationships on display, especially on social media," says Megan Stubbs, a certified sexologist. "This can be overwhelming, because it can make you feel like you're expected to also have something to show off." Which could explain why you mentioned your "partner" in casual conversation with your uncle, when really you were talking about a fuck buddy you stopped texting two weeks ago.
But it's important to remember that there's absolutely no need to present a seemingly perfect life to your family members. "Most of the time, people are just saying things to make conversation," Dr. Van Kirk says. "They may not even realize how that dynamic is affecting you." So give them the benefit of the doubt.
If you're still feeling anxious, there are plenty of things to do to soothe your nerves. Dr. Van Kirk suggests going out for a run or gifting yourself something big around the holidays. "Who says it has to be a partner who treats you?" she says. Also, remember that you can totally opt out of holiday invites when you feel like your anxiety is fixing to spike. "You have to decide what these holidays mean to you," Dr. Van Kirk says. "They don't necessarily have to be traditional." Stubbs also suggests a similar tactic. "Surround yourself with people who support you and make you feel good about yourself," she says. Friendsgiving, anyone?
Don't be afraid to unplug for a while, either, especially if the constant updates to your newsfeed of engagements or couples' trips to cozy cabins Upstate are wearing you down. "Don't get caught up in the social media hype," Stubbs says. "Don't compare your life's blooper reel to someone's highlight reel." The holidays will pass, and you'll be fine. And in the meantime, there's always eggnog to get you through.