In this episode, Dr. Keoshia Worthy offers support and tools for those who are struggling with loneliness during the holidays.
Script for Episode 6
WorthyTherapy explores the intersection of mental health and identity in the Black, Queer, and athletic communities. Dr. Keoshia Worthy, a Licensed Psychologist, uses her humaneness to relate to the listeners by targeting an audience she identifies with. And she answers the question, “How do I know if and when therapy is needed?”
Hi! And welcome back to Worthy Therapy. I am your host Dr. Keoshia Worthy. In today’s episode, we will review the topic of holiday blues; the loneliness people experience during this season. As usual, we will use storytelling to help bring awareness to how lonely and maybe even depressing the holidays can be to some. We will look at the life of Gabriela Martinez, a fictional character I created for educational purposes; the story is not based on actual events.
Dr. Worthy (01:02)
Gabriela Martinez is a 38 y/o Latina lesbian female who has been estranged from her family since coming out at the age of 27. Before she came out, she had a close relationship with her family. They spent almost every holiday together. This is the 10th year she has been separated from her family for Christmas. In the past, she remembers everyone, including extended family, going to her parent’s home to exchange gifts and for dinner on Christmas Eve. They laughed, shared stories, and then packed themselves into cars, vans, and trucks to attend midnight Mass. Following Mass, a huge celebration would be filled with more food, drinks, and gift exchanges. Now, she spends it alone or occasionally with friends.
Dr. Worthy (01:49)
Society’s representation of the holidays
Society and social media portray the holidays as a happy, loving time. And as you can see, for Gabriela and many people, this is simply untrue. An estimated 55% of Americans struggle with holiday loneliness, and 76% of LGBTQ+ report loneliness, according to ValuePenguin. Holiday seasons are supposed to represent a time of togetherness, tradition, gratitude, giving, and above all, time spent with family. But what about those without family? Those who are in conflict with family? Or who are estranged?
Dr. Worthy (02:25)
Holidays without family
Every holiday season has been the same for Gabriela, whether with a lover, a friend, or alone. She notices a significant shift as the season changes and days are shorter and nights become longer. It’s sometimes difficult for her to hear her friends discuss their family traditions and excitement about being with their families. Her friends are supportive, but to Gabriela, nothing is like being with her family. She’s angry that they chose their beliefs and religion over her and, simultaneously, wants acceptance and to be included. She misses them, and this is who she is; she wishes they could see that she’s still her, despite whom she goes to bed with or loves.
Dr. Worthy (03:08)
Strategies to cope with the holiday blues
Many people can relate to Gabriela’s story regardless of race, sexual orientation, or the reason she is estranged from her family. It doesn’t matter what the cause of the estrangement is; it’s about the feeling of not having, feeling rejected, misunderstood, or even being triggered by family (for those of you who needed to separate from family for your mental wellness).
Family fills a void in our hearts that friends, lovers, work, hobbies, or passions can’t fill. This is why many people (including those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community) have a chosen family. Having a chosen family is one way to decrease and combat the holiday blues. A chosen family is a group of non-biological friends and maybe lovers that offer emotional support, understanding, connection, and love and fully accept you for you. If you are experiencing the holiday blues and have a chosen family, it’s okay to rely on them, ask for reassurance, to create new traditions and rituals with them.
Dr. Worthy (04:11)
Unfortunately, others have no one. Who are entirely alone. I send warm wishes to those who are alone this holiday season. For those who fall into this category, I encourage you to consider doing activities that bring you an ounce of joy; I know it may not be the same as being around others, but remember, an ounce of joy goes a long way when you feel empty. It can motivate you to get out of the house, if even for a few minutes; it can encourage you to reach out to an old friend; it can be the ounce you need to get to the next day. An ounce can offer hope; without it, there’s emptiness.
I’ve encouraged clients to volunteer during the holiday season to set one realistic goal for themselves each week (e.g., take yourself to dinner, take a class, exercise, walk around the block). All of the examples above are what we call behavioral activation strategies. Sometimes our thoughts and feelings take the best of us; instead, we have to activate our bodies. Eventually, our thoughts and feelings will follow.
Finally, I hope this episode not only offers support for those experiencing the holiday blues but also brings awareness to those who are not. If you are a part of the latter, try to connect with a distant or quiet co-worker, check in on friends during this time, and offer a space for connection to show them that you see them. Loneliness leads to depression, which can be accompanied by suicidal ideation. Imagine how far a simple hey, or how was your day, can go for someone who feels isolated or rejected from the world.
I send love and well wishes to all who are grieving and lonely this holiday season. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.
Dr. Worthy (05:56)
As we close today’s episode, I want to remind you that individual therapy is available and can be helpful for those struggling with loneliness, estrangement, and despair during this time of year. This service can be provided by licensed psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and master’s level therapists.
Please stay tuned, as the next session will focus on bringing in the new year. In that episode, I will offer tips on how to be more reflective of past successes and shortcomings, how to set realistic goals, and how to bring positivity as you bring in 2023. Happy holidays to all!
Thank you all for tuning in to today’s episode, and remember that you are worthy, and so is your story!
Linda A. (06:41)
WorthyTherapy thanks you for taking time out for yourself today. The path to mental wellness comes with multiple challenges, and Dr. Worthy hopes that this week’s episode made life feel more manageable and hopeful.Please remember that this podcast is not a replacement for psychotherapy. If you are interested in seeking mental health support, please follow up with your healthcare insurance or visit the links in the podcast's description.
For more self-improvement and mental wellness tips, please visit Instagram and search @WorthyTherapy. Be well and until next time.