Families face empty chairs at Thanksgiving 3:23
Thanksgiving is here and Christmas and New Years are coming up.
And this year will be a season to stay home and stay safe.
That means no more raucous family reunions, no longer relegated to the children's table, or figuring out how to politely decline Grandma's shortcake.
We know that spending the end of the year holidays alone will keep our loved ones healthy.
However that does not make it easier.
But there is joy in loneliness.
We spoke with stress and connection experts who told us how to navigate the complicated emotions associated with spending the holidays alone.
It may not be easy or ideal, but humans are capable of putting up with more than we realize, including lonely festivities.
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Accept your feelings and loneliness during the holidays
First: the holidays will feel different this year.
And if passing only causes you pain, relief or something that you did not expect, you should lean on those emotions.
It is healthy to feel them instead of wanting to ignore them.
But if you lean deeply towards negativity, you can stay in it for longer than you want.
"We need to acknowledge what our feelings are and what they tell us," says Lynn Bufka, associate executive director of the American Psychological Association for Practice and Policy Research.
But staying in them won't help.
So try some positive distractions: reading a good book, going for a walk, or undertaking a cooking project - all of these put your mind and body to work.
If you're still feeling bad, that's okay too, says Jonathan Kanter, a psychologist who runs the Center for the Science of Social Connection at the University of Washington.
There is no right or wrong way to feel right now.
Self-compassion is key.
And if all else fails, he says, you can wake up the next morning and try again.
Celebrate a special day just for you
If you're alone this year, it's time to play by your own rules.
Bufka says that doing whatever you want this holiday season will make everything a little more fun.
"Think of it as an opportunity to slow down and do the things you want to do," he says.
You may not be able to eat a whole turkey, so have a pizza.
You won't have to face sleet and snow on the way to your parents' house this year, so change your typical winter celebration to July.
And instead of watching your family members open gifts for hours, you can watch hours and hours of low-rated reality TV.
Judith Moskowitz, a social psychologist and professor at Northwestern University, says her family will try a virtual room at Zoom this year.
How it will work is still unknown.
But to cope with the distance, she continues with her "normal Christmas traditions: a thousand potencies."
"It's not necessarily going to be terrible," he says of the end of the year holidays.
There are chances of something good.
It could even be better!
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There is no reason for small talk this year.
Instead, use this time apart to "go back to the basic steps of relationships," Kanter recommends.
That means expressing our love for those closest to us in new and slightly uncomfortable ways.
Be more vulnerable than you normally would be on this date, he says.
Have meaningful conversations and tell the people you love why you love them.
Physical contact is forbidden for now, so wrap someone in a warm hug of excitement: Kanter says you'll emerge from the pandemic with stronger relationships.
If you're fed up with Zoom calls, consider writing letters to your loved ones, Bufka recommends.
Let your pen wander, remember, now we are expressing our love in a big way, and you can surprise someone with a handwritten thank you note.
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Focus on the good
If you're slipping into an unpleasant mood, train your mind to focus on some of the good things along the way, Moskowitz recommends.
Here's a sampling of some good things: Promising covid-19 vaccines will soon be available, and Dolly Parton helped fund one of them.
A little owl was found in the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and will soon be sent back to the wild.
Cookies do exist and you can bake some at home.
Small, tangible moments of joy or reminders of good things to come can help you get through a difficult day, she says.
Find the Christmas spirit
Much has changed this year, but it is still the season to give.
So give what you have, says Kanter, it will almost certainly make you feel better.
"When we engage in acts of altruism, we help the person we are helping, but research shows that it also has mental benefits for the donor," he says.
Happiness researchers have found that people who volunteer often leave with better mental well-being, having done something nice for others in the process.
"It's the cliché of the holiday season: take care of and be inclusive of others," says Kanter.
"But I think that what the pandemic has taught us, more than anything, is that it is important to go back to basics, to what really matters."
Taking care of people and causes close to you, in a safe and aware way of the new coronavirus, will eliminate some of the negativity that you may feel.
And if you want to help, but don't know where to start, CNN's Impact Your World compiled a comprehensive list of causes and organizations helping people during the pandemic.
Remember the "why"
It won't be easy to decline an invitation from the people you love this holiday season.
You are probably just sad.
But when you're feeling down, Bufka advises, remember why you made that difficult decision in the first place: to keep those people safe.
And while it may not seem like it, stressful situations like this holiday season (and really, 2020 as a whole) is what humans are made for.
We're tougher than we think, says Moskowitz, who studies how people find positivity during periods of extreme stress.
There is still light to be found, even if our festivities are a little quieter than we are used to.
You can find that light in volunteering, in a heartfelt phone call, or in a plate of cookies.