Spending time away from family and loved ones is always a tricky situation to cope with. As expats, we navigate this as we can, often by traveling home or being visited by our friends or family for the holidays.
But with our current travel climate, it could be possible you are stuck in your host country (or somewhere else) due to the “C” word. This is an uncertain and stressful moment for everyone in the world.
Spending Holidays Away From Your Family.
The holidays are a time where expats usually can spend time with family and celebrate. So when we are unable to spend them with our loved ones, we may feel guilty or that as if we were disappointing them. We might also be worried about not see them again (if they are older). These worries are entirely valid and understandable.
Unfortunately, this year, this is going to be a problem for many people throughout the world. The current pandemic has affected all forms of travel and might make it difficult or even impossible to make it to your family. Luckily there are still some ways you can connect with your loved ones!
7 Ideas to make the best of the Holidays away from your Family
1.- Coordinate group video chat or phone calls.
Of course, this will not be the same as physically being there. But if you can video chat with your family, you can be a part of the conversation and activities from afar. If you cannot video chat, even getting to talk to family members on the holidays can be a great way to make it feel like you are still spending some time with them during the special day.
2.- Send them a letter or a care package.
Especially for the holiday season, sending a written letter (yes, like the ones from the last century! hehe) or a care package can be incredibly thoughtful and personalized. This is a great way to connect with loved ones because it will show how much you care about them even if you cannot physically be there.
3.- Try to find someone where you are to celebrate with.
Odds are if you have been residing in the place you are in for some time, you have made some connections with other people. Try to talk with them and find out what they are doing for the holidays. They might even invite you to spend time with their families, which could be a unique experience for you. It will be comforting to see a friendly face on a difficult day.
4.- Do something you can only do in your current location.
Try doing something festive on the holiday or the days surrounding. You can try to find an activity available in that location and create a fun memory for yourself for years to come. For example, if you live somewhere where hiking is available, but you don’t usually hike at home, take part in the holiday to do this. This will help you to appreciate being in a different place this holiday season.
5.- Engage in voluntary work.
Like I explain in this article, performing acts of kindness towards others – loved one and strangers- triggers the release of oxytocin, also called “the love hormone,” and serotonin – a mood regulator-. That gives us a boost of energy and makes us feel good. I’m sure there are places near you in need of volunteers during the holiday season. This would be a great way to help others, meet new people, and tackle loneliness!
6.- Do something pleasant and mindful for yourself.
You know that massage or spa day you have wanted to do? Go do it! Treating yourself and taking care of yourself is a great way to cope when you’re feeling sad about missing loved ones. Self-care is always important, but it is crucial when you are trying to cope with a difficult period of being away from family. Some other self-care activities can be journaling your thoughts and feelings, taking a long walk, watching an enjoyable movie, or treating yourself to a nice dinner.
7.- Remember, this is not forever.
It’s important to remember that you will not be away from friends and family for all holidays in the future. Being away from them is temporary, and you have many years of holidays to look forward to with them. If you can remind yourself of this, it will give you some comfort to get through the day.
Don’t forget that it’s okay to be sad. This year has been a hard one for almost everyone in very different ways. Let yourself feel whatever feelings come with missing your family for the holidays. Bottling up your emotions will only make the time more difficult to deal with. Consider working with a mental health professional to cope with this difficult time. Talking with someone can be one of the most powerful tools for accepting your circumstances how they are. Even if they aren’t how you wish they were.
I am not saying that it will be easy to be away from friends and family by any stretch. It probably will be challenging. But using the tips I mentioned above can help you cope with the day without it taking away all the joy from the holiday season. You are doing the very best you can with the circumstances you are in.
Don’t worry; I’m here to support you. You have all of the tools within to get through this emotionally strenuous time. Let’s uncovered them together.
I have a a brand new course where you can learn, among many many things,to feel deeply connected with yourself and the ones you love, even if you are away and can’t be there for the holidays.
Your Journey to Expat Resilience- 21 days to feel Strong, Confident, and Comfortable in Your Life Abroad.
Go to the link and learn how to kick homesickness in the butt!
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By your side,
Gabriela Encina is an online psychologist specialized in expat women and supports them with the guidance and tools they need to feel confident, make the best decisions for their lives, build and maintain meaningful relationships and prioritize their well-being.
Her approach is practical, solution-oriented and focused on the present.
Gabriela offers counseling to expat women in Spanish, English and German.