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How to navigate – and celebrate – being single for the holidays

Being grilled about your relationship status can be uncomfortable at any time of the year. But during the holidays, being a single woman can be especially difficult. Family members have prying questions. Romantic comedies and songs like “All I Want for Christmas Is You” are playing nonstop. And there’s the flood of gift guides for your “significant other” on the internet.

All this can take a toll on our mental health. A sizable portion – 30 percent – of Gen Z and millennials told the dating app Bumble that they feel more self-conscious about being single during the holiday season. And 38 percent said their friends and family made them feel bad about not bringing a date to a Christmas event. And a quarter of those surveyed said questions about their dating life made them feel “unvalued” or “unworthy” during the holiday season.

So how do you navigate (and enjoy) this potentially difficult time, single shaming and dear Aunt Margaret’s inevitable question when you’re going to hurry up and get hitched?

Physician and psychiatrist Dr. Sue Varma advised women “[not] to answer any of the questions if [you] don’t feel comfortable. Or [you] can say, ‘Thank you so much for your concern, I’m actually doing fine, or quite well.’”

Dr. Varma added that instead of continuing conversations about your relationship status, it’s important to “speak about the things you’re most proud of, the places you’ve visited and share about your friends… Better yet, turn the conversation back to them. Most people love talking about themselves.”

Being single and the pressure to find a partner is spotlighted in the new romantic comedy, “Holidate,” which tells the story Sloane Benson (played by Emma Roberts) and her quest to please her mother by bringing a boyfriend home for holiday gatherings.

Tiffany Paulsen, the screen writer of “Holidate,” who happens to be a single mom, said Sloane’s character is based significantly on Paulsen’s own experience. “So much of Sloane is me – her viewpoints, her opinions, her ideas on relationships, dating and aging – are basically my belief systems” she said.

In the movie, Sloane focuses on her career but still feels the pressure from her friends and family to settle down.

Paulsen noted, “It’s always the holidays when the absence of a partner is felt in a different way.”

Dr. Varma said there’s so much pressure for women to have it all – a great job, relationship, money, youth and beauty – during this time of year. It can “make your head spin,” she said.

That’s why it’s important to remember that being single isn’t a bad thing, and many women want to be single.

“Own it, embrace it. There is a larger, growing body of single people who are content. Some are looking to be partnered, others aren’t so much,” said Dr. Varma.

Paulsen, meanwhile, described herself as “the proverbial single gal – slightly cynical but always eternally optimistic and hopeful.”

“Don’t let your relationship status dictate how you’re going to feel. Ultimately, you’re in control,” Paulsen said. “Find traditions with friends or solo that give you joy and comfort, regardless of relationship status.”

As many single women do, Paulsen said she sometimes feels lonely during the holidays. She gave this advice: “When I’m feeling down or upset, I go find a little cause and I make a donation to someone who’s got it worse than me. I find it always makes me feel instantly better. Giving back gets me out of my head and opens my heart…”

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