The holidays carry expectations of happiness, joy, love, and togetherness, but that’s not the case for everyone. Being alone in a new city, coming out with a long-held secret to family, or a recent breakup or death, can all cause you to be or feel alone. Empty nesters and the elderly are often alone. Loneliness doesn’t have one single cause, nor is it the same for everyone.

Holiday movies and music are a constant reminder of the blissful happiness we are missing. It looks like love is all around us. Holiday parties and family gatherings are on everyone’s calendar, but yours. For many people, it’s a cruel illusion. Social media, with its staged selfies and filters, only add to your envy. Comparing yourself to other people will only increase your unhappiness and isolation. It looks like everyone is happy and celebrating, But the holiday season can be a time of extreme loneliness.

Loneliness can be acute and environmental. It can be linked to old history and pain carried from childhood. Unhealthy family patterns make the wounds feel worse. Loneliness can get the best of you, leading to stress, depression, memory problems, and even heart problems. It may begin as a vague longing that leads to more destructive patterns of habit, behavior or toxic people. In fact, there is an increase in drinking, binge eating and over stressing and overspending over the holiday season.

So what can you do to ease the loneliness and eek out a little joy?

1. Take care of yourself. Stop beating yourself up. Turn your attention to self-care. Take a luxurious bath or go for a massage. It’s a great time of year to take up yoga or join a gym. You’ll feel good and you may meet some like-minded people.

2. Rethink your expectations. You’re not really alone. There are people out there feeling exactly the same as youths time of year. Get together with some friends and binge watch some movie anthologies or have a marathon board game night.

3. Take a look at your options. Be mindful of your inner critic. Use positive, affirming self talk to remind yourself of the good things in your life. What can you do to add some excitement or joy to your life?

4. Fight your urge to isolate. Having more friends may not completely heal the feeling of loneliness but it’s important to connect with other people. Meetup groups are a great way to meet people with similar interests. If religions are more your thing, try an interfaith church service.

5. Look for things to appreciate. It’s a nice time of year to hit local outdoor markets. Take in the lights. Enjoy some hot cocoa while you browse. Be your own best friend and be grateful for all the beautiful things the season brings.

6. Make time to feel your feelings but don’t dwell. Pushing feelings aside isn’t kind. It’s important to acknowledge and then create an action plan. You’ll feel better once you’re feeling more in control of the situation.