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Surviving the Holidays When You’re 40 and Single

A woman in her 40s, hugging her dog in front of her Christmas tree.

It’s that time of year again when those of us over 40 start to think about Thanksgiving and all the other holidays that follow. For most, our first reaction is a positive one, thinking of all the things we’re thankful for. For others, thoughts immediately turn to the amount of preparation and events that we need to get through alone, added to an already loaded schedule. Then the positive thoughts immediately turn to negative ones as we envision endless to-do lists, trying to shop without setting ourselves up for credit card trauma come January, and attending all sorts of holiday social gatherings without a plus one.

If you’re single over 40 it can be hard to get through the tough, lonely parts of the holidays without losing the joy that the holidays represent. After some research and thought, I have prepared some ways to get through the holidays with a smile.

Keep your regular routine intact.
We all have our daily routine that keeps us grounded and moving forward. If we steer too far away from that routine, our stress levels increase. This year, try to keep wake-up times, meal times, and bed times as close to normal as possible. If most of your days are routine, the ones that aren’t won’t affect you so drastically.

Sit down with your calendar and try to schedule shopping, cleaning, decorating, and food preparation time blocks around your normal tasks, leaving some flexibility for dating and unknown events that occur. If you have children, make sure to write down dates and times of their holiday events at school, church, etc. And if you need to prepare and bring any food or grab-bag gifts to them.  Try to avoid the surprises and stress that they bring.  Planning ahead is key!

Don’t drive yourself crazy reaching for perfection.
We all have visions of the perfect holiday season, which are created from holidays of our past as well as photos and stories we see in magazines and on television and social media. We need to realize that holidays are celebrated differently depending on your current situation in life. For those of us who are single and over 40, we may choose to celebrate holidays in ways that are different from the our married friends.

Sit down and figure out what parties and events are non-negotiable, and what can be considered for another time. Remember you’re single and you really should try to get out there and go to as many parties as you can. The holiday spirit is in the air and it’s a great time to mingle. Plan time to do simple things with friends like watching the local tree lighting in your town or driving around the neighborhood to see the lights and decorations. You never know who you could meet standing outside sipping a hot chocolate.

Surround yourself with friends and other singles.
The holidays can bring on many mixed emotions. Many people feel lonely because they’re single, don’t have family nearby, or have gone through a recent divorce or loss. Combat that loneliness by asking friends over for a Friendsgiving or holiday party. Tell all your friends to bring their single friends. You never know who you’ll meet. Donating some time to help out at a soup kitchen or other volunteer work is a great way to alleviate feelings of sadness by helping others in need and again, you may meet someone new who is there doing the same thing.

Avoid blind dates at large events.
Attending the endless stream of holiday events when you’re single can be daunting. Especially when it seems like you’re surrounded by happy couples. If you’re invited with a plus one and have a single friend that you enjoy, by all means ask them to join you. However, this is not the time to bring a blind date.  Since you’re need to be socializing with family, friends, or co-workers, you won’t be able to focus your attention on a new person. It’s better to wait until you can have a date and spend your time getting to know them to see if there is a spark.

When you’re at a party have fun!
If you attend that holiday party alone, don’t be a wallflower. Get out of your chair and mingle. It will help you from feeling bored or depressed, and may present an opportunity to meet someone new there. Also, a friend or coworker may have the perfect person they want to introduce you to. If you absolutely aren’t in the mood to attend a party, it’s ok to decline an invitation or attend briefly, stating that you have several overlapping events. Remember this is your holiday too, and you can spend it in a way that makes you happy.

Practice self-care.
It’s absolutely essential to take special care of yourself this time of year. If you’re feeling blue, pamper yourself with a mani/pedi, spa treatment, a 15 minute nap, a walk outside, or just curl up with a cup of hot chocolate and a good read. These are all ways to disconnect and give yourself some pleasure. Getting run down from lack of sleep, rich and fatty foods, and being around crowds for hours in hot stores can make you feel sick and miserable. And that’s certainly not how you want to spend your holidays. Be mindful of yourself. After all, it’s your holiday too.

The holidays are only a few weeks out of the year. In the famous words of the Grinch in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss, “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”

Spend your holidays on your terms and find the joy, hope, happiness, and little bit more that makes this time of year so very special.

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