The reality for millions of expats around the world is that major holidays and festivals, such as Christmas, are often spent away from the embrace of family and close friends. These times can (obviously, and understandably!) amplify feelings of isolation, homesickness, longing and loneliness. So, how do you cope when circumstances keep you away from the traditional family gathering at holiday time?
1.Acknowledge the significance
Missing out on special events is an inherent part of expat life, and it can be easy to dismiss the impact of not being there for a significant holiday, and to downplay the intensity of your emotions. It’s wiser to acknowledge that the influence of distance is greater at this time of year, and to understand that you’ll need to take extra care to keep your emotional equilibrium.
2. Get active!
Public holidays can be a great time to catch up on much-needed rest and relaxation – except when you’re celebrating a major event away from home. A long day of “nothingness” can only increase the likelihood of feeling lonely and broody. So, be prepared. Fill your day with pre-organised activities and events. In this way, you will wake with a sense of purpose, spend the day in delightful distraction and, hopefully, fall into bed exhausted.
3. Don’t emulate; formulate
Resist the temptation to recreate hometown traditions. Trying to follow the same schedule, adhere to the same traditions or cook the same food will only amplify the inevitable differences in climate, culture, available ingredients and so on, and highlight the divide between “there” and “here”. Instead, use the opportunity to invent new, more achievable celebrations that are fun, fulfilling and location-friendly. You’ll not only negate the constant reminder that you’re far from home, but you’ll create life-long memories and fun anecdotes for the future. (“Do you remember our Singapore Christmas when we…?”)
4. Create connection
Loneliness is always the result of disconnection: a sense of being apart from others, or not belonging. Therefore, make meaningful connection an important part of your day. Celebrate with good friends, or socialise with people you would like to know better. Spend time with the underprivileged of Singapore, bond with your immediate family or simply get outdoors and consciously connect with nature.
5. Choose happiness
No external factor can ever “make” you feel good about the day; nobody around you is responsible for your happiness or enjoyment. Therefore, it’s vital for your own wellbeing that you practise acceptance and gratitude to the best of your ability. Sure, you may experience moments of sadness or isolation over the holiday period, but if you make a conscious effort to be grateful for what you have (however small or insignificant) you’ll find you always have a foundation of happiness to return to. These special holidays are about celebration – so choose to celebrate the day, your life, those around you and your amazing self.
This article first appeared in the December edition of Expat Living Singapore magazine.
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